The Salvation Army bell ringers are part of the holiday tradition for St. Louis area shoppers. Right after Thanksgiving each year, the bell ringers make their way to their posts outside of department stores, drugstores and supermarkets.
They bundle up and brave the cold, warmly greeting passersby and collecting donations for the Salvation Army’s Tree of Lights Program, which is a 12-week fundraiser the charity organization runs each year to help finance its work.
“Once a year, The Salvation Army has the opportunity to take center stage for our cause, which is an incredibly important one, especially for the St. Louis region where we provide much-needed services for hundreds of thousands of individuals each year,” said Danni Eikenhorst, a communications specialist with the Salvation Army’s St. Louis office. “Our bell ringers have a unique opportunity to spread Christmas cheer and to tell the story of the work that we do—youth programs, homeless services, disaster relief, social services, ministry and more.”
Eikenhorst said the bell-ringing campaign first began in San Francisco in 1891.
“It is one that we proudly carry on,” she said. “The red kettle campaign is a critical fundraising effort that helps us gather a great deal of the funds necessary to carry out this work in the year to come.”
She said that the bell-ringer program provides seasonal work to those who want and need it, and that bell ringers tend to come from a variety of backgrounds.
“Some are struggling and this is their one shot at employment during a very difficult season,” Eikenhorst said. “But others are senior citizens looking to supplement their income, or people looking for part time work or extra money for the holidays who choose to give their time to an organization that does loads of good for their community.”
The money donated to the red kettle charity is used to aid needy families, seniors and the homeless, according to the Salvation Army’s website.
“Donations provide Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need,” the website states. “Financial assistance also helps with basic necessities, along with seasonal aid. Families of prisoners often are included.”
The website also said that many families will receive help over a period of months after the holiday season, especially those who struggle with difficult family, emotional or employment problems.