A call for bell ringers

Salvation Army seeks recruits to man area kettles

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Local Salvation Army committee members Pam Graham, left, and Susan Mizen pose with a donation kettle Wednesday at LIFT-UP of Routt County. Volunteers are needed to ring bells at several Steamboat locations this holiday season.

— The sound of ringing bells outside grocery and department stores from hearty Salvation Army volunteers has become as much a part of the holidays as Christmas carols.

The jingling begins the countdown to Christmas Eve, and the local effort kicks off at 10 a.m. this morning. Volunteers still are needed to work the kettle stations that raise donations for the Salvation Army.

"There are only one-hour shifts, so it's not so difficult to get people to do it, but having said that, we always need more," said Susan Mizen, a Salvation Army volunteer. Kettles are returning to the downtown location next to the Masonic Lodge as well as in front of Safeway, City Market and Wal-Mart.

Katherine Hartley, who has volunteered the past four years with her daughters Meghan, 16, and Maura, 14, said enduring the cold for more than an hour isn't challenging when experiencing the kindness of neighbors and strangers.

"People are really generous - more so than I would have believed," she said. "We do it to help out the Salvation Army at this time of year, but my daughter said her favorite memory is last year at City Market, Starbucks donated a hot chocolate to each of the girls."

Last holiday season, Mizen said 226 volunteer bell-ringers volunteered in Steamboat for a total of 204 hours.

"We raised $18,576, so that's an average of $91 an hour," she said. "So, if someone is willing to give up one hour of their time to ring the bell, this county will benefit as much as $90. You will know you are making a significant contribution."

Being a small community, Steamboat does not have an official Salvation Army office in town. Instead, LIFT-UP of Routt County houses the Steamboat Springs Extension Unit of the Salvation Army. The office is staffed by LIFT-UP's director and its food bank coordinator.

"Ninety percent of what we raise stays in Routt County," Mizen said. "We send 10 percent of what we raise to Denver, but at any point in the year, if we run out of money, we can ask for it back. If the need exists, we could use 100 percent of what we raise."

Mizen urged local business and community groups to volunteer for an entire day of bell-ringing as a way to give back to the community.

"A good example of that is (this) Sunday at Safeway, (when) the whole day is covered by the Steamboat Springs High School leadership class," she said. "The kids scheduled to ring the bell for a six-hour day."

Other groups scheduling daylong blocks include the Routt County Department of Human Services and Colorado Group Realty.

For more information on how to volunteer as a bell ringer, call Pat Zabel at 879-0233.

- To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com

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