Bell Ringers Get a Big Boost This Season; Local Civic Organizations, Churches Have Friendly Competition to Raise Most Funds

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS - Jolene Haney admitted she was tight fisted when she dropped some money in the Salvation Army's red bucket in front of a St. Marys store last weekend.

"I told the person I can give a little bit of money, but not all of it," Haney said.

It's not the economy that prevented Haney from making a more generous donation, but the person ringing the bell, she said.

Haney, president of the St. Marys Kiwanis Club, said the bell ringer was from a local Rotary Club and she wants her civic organization to raise more money for the Salvation Army than any other group in Camden County.

"The Kiwanis Club is going to raise the most money this year," she said.

The strategy includes encouraging members to show up on the days fellow Kiwanians stand by the Salvation Army's buckets to ring the bells. It also means actively soliciting donations when friends walk in or out of the store, she said.

But Bert Guy, president of the Camden/Kings Bay chapter of the Rotary Club, said his organization is also intent on raising the most money.

"It is a competition among the civic clubs," he said. "We don't intend to lose."

The big winner in the competition won't be either group, said Nanette Hamilton, executive director for the Salvation Army's chapter in St. Marys.

Hamilton said her organization was concerned donations would be low this year because of the failing economy so she asked civic groups, businesses and churches to help ring the bells at area businesses. In past years, Hamilton said most of the bell ringers were paid employees earning $7 an hour.

"We had a lot of problems keeping them," she said of the paid bell ringers.

The big surprise, Hamilton said, is the volunteers are soliciting more money than the paid employees by a big margin. This year, donations are up more than 21 percent over last year, she said.

Churches and businesses are also competing to raise the most money, Hamilton said. …