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Wanted: Bell ringers

Salvation Army using new system to recruit volunteers

The Salvation Army has implemented a new online system to make it easier on the nonprofit and on volunteers looking to ring bells this holiday season.

Those looking to man the iconic red kettles at five sites in Fort Dodge this year can now sign up at RegisterToRing.com, the new website launched in September.

Maj. Rick Hamelund said that the organization is hoping it will help fill a deficit of bell ringers that’s gotten increasingly difficult to fill in recent years.

“We’ve done everything we can,” he said, from service club visits and letters and media outreach. Last year, many kettle sites went unmanned early in the season. Kettles cannot be set outside without an attendant — meaning donations took a hit.

“It’s really, really difficult to find anybody that’ll just stand and ring the bell a couple hours,” he said.

With the new website, volunteers can see first-hand which days and times are available at each site by typing in their zip code, signing up as an “individual” and confirming the time they prefer. Volunteers will receive a confirmation text message two hours before their scheduled shift. Individuals can also sign up with multiple people, simply by indicating how many ringers will be there for the shift.

“In the past, we had issues of double bookings and frustrated people trying to sign up,” said Hamelund. “This will eliminate that and other issues.”

Hamelund said the new website will also free up other employees and volunteers that used to spend a substantial chunk of time making phone calls to schedule ringers.

Kettle season runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 24, excluding Sundays and Thanksgiving, at Fareway, Hobby Lobby and Hy-Vee. Walmart will be available for ringers starting Nov. 29. Shifts are available each day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., per contractual rules with each corporation.

The Salvation Army has a $50,000 fundraising goal this year.

Its annual Thanksgiving feed will happen this year from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving at 126 N. Seventh St. The meal is open and free to all attendees.