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Ringing bells for support

‘We are still helping people, it’s just a little different’; Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign starts Thursday

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Maj. Rick Hamelund poses with a kettle stand at the Salvation Army on Tuesday. Bell ringing begins on Thursday. The annual fundraising effort accounts for about one-third of the operational costs for the Salvation Army, 126 N. Seventh St.

Volunteers, although socially distanced, will once again ring bells near red kettles for the Salvation Army this year.

The Red Kettle Campaign will start on Thursday at Hobby Lobby, Hy-Vee and Fareway. Bell ringers will be at Walmart starting on Nov. 21.

“Our bell ringers have been instructed to stay 6 feet away from the stand so people can drop money off there,” said Maj. Rick Hamelund, of the Salvation Army.

Hamelund, who has been at the Fort Dodge post since 2016, said the kettle will be placed 10 to 15 feet from the door. Masks will be strongly encouraged.

Oh, and those red aprons typically worn by volunteers have gone out of style, at least for this year.

“No aprons this year,” Hamelund said. “We are doing stickers.”

Hand sanitizer will be on the stands and all bells will be wiped down.

Donors will also have an alternative way to give.

New this year is the option for people to make donations through Google Pay or Apple Pay. To accomplish that, donors can use the QR code on the sign posted on top of the kettle. The QR code is Fort Dodge specific, which means the money donated will benefit people in Fort Dodge.

“There’s a sticker on there that has the indicator that people are familiar with,” Hamelund said. “People can make a donation that way if they would like and that money will stay here locally.”

Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the mission to feed the less fortunate has not diminished.

The Salvation Army fed 60 people on Tuesday, according to Hamelund.

“That’s about an average day for us,” he said. “Feeding has been steady.”

Hamelund said the Salvation Army is serving new people quite often.

“During COVID we have seen several new people,” Hamelund said. “And a lot of people we were seeing are now working or have moved out of the area.”

He added, “There’s an absolute need for our feeding program. Sometimes we are people’s only meal for that day. We see the working poor get the meal so they can save $5 for something else.”

Throughout the pandemic, meals have been made to-go.

“Nothing has stopped,” Hamelund said. “We are still helping people, it’s just a little different.”

He said to-go meals are more expensive to prepare than in-person meals.

“COVID has affected us financially, too,” Hamelund said. “So we want to do what we can to help as many people as we can. It’s an important time for us. To make our goal is very important for us.”

In 2019, the Salvation Army met its goal of raising $51,500.

This year, the organization is hoping to do better than that.

“We bumped it up $1,000,” Hamelund said. “Things are not cheap anymore.”

Hamelund estimates it costs about $120,000 to keep the Salvation Army operational every year.

Volunteers will be ringing bells through Dec. 24.

Those interested in volunteering to bell ring can go to registertoring.com to schedule a time.

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