A staple that marks the holiday season, The Salvation Army red kettles and bell ringers, are soon to grace local storefronts again.
Husband and wife team, Bill and Kathy Grier, Bell Ringing Co-Chairs of the Pulaski County Salvation Army Unit, are excited to kick off the 2017 Tree of Lights Campaign and bell ringing season.
Passionate about the work they do with the Salvation Army, the Grier’s started as bell ringers themselves, after being inspired by Kathy’s mom’s story as well as attracted to the faith based aspect.
“My mom always talked about how the Salvation Army helped her family in need, and she rang the bell for years,” said Kathy Grier.
It has since come full circle as they now serve on the board and dedicate their time to coordinating the bell ringing campaign for St. Robert and Waynesville directly.
The Tree of Lights Campaign is the Salvation Army’s annual fundraiser running from Thanksgiving to Christmas, which has two parts, sending mailers, and bell ringing.
Bill Grier said, “Last year an excess of $80,000 was donated, [half coming from bell ringing] and that is our goal again this year.”
Bell ringing season is paramount in the ability to serve the county. Donations to the Salvation Army have a clearly focused purpose, to help those in need in Pulaski County.
The areas of service the organization concentrates on includes Christmas baskets, nursing home baskets, homeless help and a collaboration with Good Samaritan of the Ozarks to assist in accomplishing food missions and emergency help for families in need, day to day welfare work, helping prevent eviction and utility bill assistance.
“Those dollars are going to stay here to help those in need, because we have no overhead,” said Bill.
Salvation Army Pulaski County Unit does not have a building to maintain and all of its mission efforts are done with 100 percent volunteer support.
Eighty-five percent of the monies donated stays local and the remaining 15% goes to the regional headquarters.
That 15% helps deploy EDS (Emergency Disaster Service) trained responders like Bill Grier to areas affected by national disasters, such as hurricanes.
Bill was one of the members deployed to Rockport, Texas to work with other organizations in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Bill described Rockport as having every home damaged or destroyed by the hurricane.
He goes on to explain that, “those funds have also come back to this county, when there were three floods in the last four years here, a lot of dollars came back.”
Bill and Kathy Grier are proud of the system in place to manage and distribute the funds raised to carry out the Salvation Army’s mission and ministry, following the credo, “Help those in need, in Jesus’ name, without discrimination of any kind.”
“So that means, if you’re in need, we’re going to do what we can to help you. It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist or Hindu, or black, white, green, or blue, we’re going to help you, if you are truly in need,” said Bill.
The track record of giving monetary donations and volunteer time speaks to the support of and belief in the organization’s work.
Thirty-three people serve on the board, over 300 bell ringers volunteered last year, and volunteers for this year have already committed to 470 hours.
Volunteers include, but are not limited to, church groups, schools, civic groups, and businesses.
“This is such a generous community, seventy-six percent of our calendar from Thanksgiving to Christmas has already been filled,” Kathy said. “There are still 150 hours left to be filled with bell ringers,” she added.
“We’re really proud,” said Bill.
Where to find the red kettles and bell ringers Starting Friday, November 24:
St. Roberts – Wal-Mart
Waynesville – Price Cutters
Crocker – Supermarket
Dixon – Supermarket
Richland – Supermarket
To volunteer as a bell ringer this holiday season visit http://www.pulaskicountysalvationarmy.com and click Bell Ringing to access the calendar of available slots. Interested parties may also contact Bill and Kathy Grier directly at (573) 337-1098. The calendar is updated daily. You can also connect with the Pulaski County Salvation Army on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SalvationArmyPulaskiCountyMO . Those interested in bellringing in Crocker can call Matt Schroer – 573-694-4944, Dixon bellringing is a call to Helen Beydler - 573-759-6519, and Richland is Shane Kardosz – 573-855-4794