I rang Salvation Army bells yesterday at HyVee in Faribault.  I can't remember when I started ringing bells on Christmas Eve but I've been doing it since the first time the Nelson's Food Store was here.  That I believe was followed by Rainbow Foods.  Then it became Nelson's again before the current Fareway Foods started.

I did ring bells a few years ago in Lonsdale also.  This is the first year I was at HyVee because a terrific company signed up to fill all the Christmas Eve time slots at Fareway.  HyVee had openings so I told Ed Little, Co-Chair of the Rice County Salvation Army Board of Directors I would gladly go there.

When I arrived after getting off work there was a man ringing the bell and greeting people.  He never signed up.  He just picked up the bell, put on the apron and rang.  He had a radio with him and told me how much he appreciated my ringing on Christmas Eve.  I explained it was no big deal because I no longer have any family visits around Christmas and it really helps keep me from being lonely.

What a nice guy. To make a short story longer I asked the man if he would mind me grabbing a bite to eat in the restaurant before taking over.  He said no problem.  About 15 minutes later I was able to take over.

I honestly enjoy greeting everyone that comes by.  Most people returned my greeting, very few acted like I wasn't there.  At HyVee the Salvation Army Bell Ringers greet people at the entrance.  At Fareway it's the exit door.  HyVee has many people go in and out in the same area.  Believe it or not several people gave when coming in AND when going out.

Every year I have done this someone has shared a story of why the Salvation Army has made a difference in their lives and this year was no exception.

A woman stopped to tell me a friend's daughter was being abused by her husband and was afraid he would kill her or their children.  One night he was very upset and called her into the bathroom for a beating.  Their 4 year old son stood outside the door pleading with his dad not to hurt "mommy."

That was the last straw.  The next day while he was at work she packed their bags and went to a shelter in Mankato.  The local Salvation Army unit helped her set up a new life with furniture for an apartment and money for food and the first month of rent.

This woman told me that's why she would give when she could to the Salvation Army.

Sad, yet powerful story.  I asked Ed when he picked up the kettle as HyVee was closing if this year the local Rice County unit would be able to hit their goal.  Sadly he told me they would not even come close.  The goal was $50,000 and he told me going into Christmas Eve they had raised just over $30,000.

Unless someone put a large check in one of the kettles the goal will not be reached.  The goal is not a number they pluck out of the air.  There is definitely a need for that amount.  Last year the Rice County Salvation Army Unit was unable to assist a number of people due to a lack of funds.

The U.S Census estimated population of Rice County in 2018 was 66,523.  If every household in Rice County were to donate a dollar for each person in their household the $50,000 goal would be blown away.

Many people stuffed $20 bills in the kettle.  One woman completely emptied her purse of all it's change.  It certainly touched my heart.  I'm sure we can still give to the Rice County Salvation Army.  I have confidence this county could raise the approximately $20,000 needed.

It would be a tragedy if another woman in an abusive relationship had to be turned away because of a lack of funds locally.

I know there are scores of other worthy causes.  A sign on the kettle stated 88 percent of the money stays local.  A donor told me it should be 100 percent.  I understand her desire but Ed tells me that 12 percent sent to the state helps set up a fund for natural disasters.

When the tornado struck Rice County in September of 2018 a number of people were able to get supplies from the Salvation Army free of charge.  They provided food and water for cleanup crews set up by Rice County Emergency Management for the cities of Faribault and Northfield.

Christmas comes once a year.  There is no reason why we can't live in the giving Christmas spirit all year.

Rice County Salvation Army Red Kettle Sign. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
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