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GUEST COLUMN: ‘Tis the season to give, support charities like Salvation Army

Bob Rinearson

It’s that time of year as you step out of your car that you hear the familiar chimes of the bells.

Then as you approach the entrance of your favorite Kroger or Walmart, or any other establishment that welcomes them, you see the bell ringers. They are of every race, stature and gender. These brave souls will stand for hours, bundled up accordingly to the weather. Always ringing the bells.

But wait, some are entertainers. I’ve seen bell ringers playing Dixieland on a trumpet, strumming ukuleles, and jamming on a harmonica. I heard a bell ringer’s deep bass voice sing Hark, the Herald Angels Sing! And I’ve seen what seemed to be a soft shoe dance while the dancer held a clangor in each hand. But always from every bell ringer, there was the smile and most often a hearty ‘Merry Christmas’, even as a cold snow or icy rain came lofting down.

And always, in an almost unassuming position is the red kettle. Held aloft by a tri-pod so that those who feel charitable can slip their bills or coins in. Such are the images of the Salvation Army

As far as benevolent organizations go, the Salvation Army ranks high. On The Forbes Top 100 Charities, the Salvation Army is ranked fifth. According to a 2015 NBC News Report, in 2014 over $144 million had been raised by personal donations placed in red kettles. According to the same report, “82 cents of every dollar donated goes toward program services”, meaning that seventy-five percent of the Army’s budget is spent on programs. Programs that ultimately are “Used year round to provide food for the hungry, disaster relief, assistance for disabled people, outreach to elderly and ill people, shelter and necessities for the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children.”

For 154 years, the Salvation Army has served those people who needed its offerings most. Founded in 1865 by the Reverend William Booth and his wife Catherine in England on what he took as his Christian Mission to bring the gospel to the hungry and destitute, the Salvation Army has thrived to where it now serves populations in over 100 countries. In their condemning of Christianity, the cynics often refuse to acknowledge what our churches and the Christian community does for those in need. And perhaps no other organization better exemplifies the true mission of what Christianity is intended for, as does the Salvation Army.

For years now, it has been my own personal practice that every time I enter a store that has the red kettle and a bell ringer out front, I stop and make sure I drop in a dollar or two. Yes, I am aware that in all things considered, it’s probably the least I can do.

However, a few days ago after I had already dropped my customary donation into the kettle, I came out of the store and got into my car. But I did not immediately head home. Instead I just watched the bell ringer as well as all those people retracing my earlier steps into the store and out again. I was disappointed by those who did not acknowledge the bell ringer or the kettle. So many who couldn’t even stop for a moment to drop in the spare change in their pockets. So many people in a hurry. Yet the bell ringer himself continued to ring his bell, greeting everyone with the same positivity.

I decided that I will continue to give whenever I pass one of those red kettles. I also decided that when the bell ringer thanks me for my small donation, I’m going to make sure I thank him or her for their time and commitment.

I will also ask that more of us give to the Salvation Army this Christmas season. Or for that matter any other established charity committed to helping those who cannot help themselves. It will make someone’s holiday a bit brighter. Maybe even your own.

Bob Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne and worked 38 years in both educational and correctional settings in areas of student management and security.

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