Red Kettle campaign nears end
by Sherrie Norris
Few shoppers this time of year miss the familiar sights and sounds of bell ringers standing by their red kettles, which serves as an important reminder of a simple way to make life easier for the less fortunate.
From the time the jingles began on Friday before Thanksgiving, until they are silenced on Christmas Eve, tens of thousands of dollars will be dropped into the local kettles to fund ongoing services provided by one of the world's most recognized charitable organizations.
According to Salvation Army Captain Michal J. Chapman, High Country Service Center Director, local collections are down this year, but there's still time to make the local goal of $ 46,500.
"Last year we raised $44,796, but we really need to at least meet, if not exceed, our goal for 2012," she said.
While there have been no silver dollars found in the bottom of the kettles, so far, one generous donor did drop in five one-hundred dollar bills, Chapman said. "A lady's ring has also made its way into a kettle, although we are not sure if was meant to be there. It probably has more sentimental value than it does monetary, but if it got there by accident, we would be happy to return it to its owner."
In the Boone area this year, 12 bell ringers were hired by the Salvation Army for the seasonal fundraising project, joining several volunteers who jump on board the same time every year.
"It's very important to us that we are able to offer employment to these individuals," Chapman said. "And we are very thankful to our partners -- Walmart, KMart, Walgreen's, Belk, JC Penney, Harris Teeter, Ingle's and Lowes Food in Boone and Banner Elk -- for allowing us to place a kettle outside of their establishment.
Among the bell ringers, Robin Prussat, who at 49, currently resides at the Hospitality House in Boone, said she is "extremely grateful" for even the short-term opportunity "to make a little money."
"I'm already looking for another job after this one ends next week," she said. "I love to cook and would like to find a job as someone's personal chef."
Why do you do this, we asked?
"I want to help people, like me, who are not having the best of luck," she said. "I enjoy this and it gives me a good feeling inside to know that I am helping someone."
A widow who relocated from Florida nine years ago, Prussat has multiple health concerns, which, she said, have prevented her from fulfilling her scheduled ringing shifts.
"I've been pretty sick and have missed about four days," she said, "but I'm bundled up good and trying to stay warm. I hope I can finish it out, so I can do my Christmas shopping. I want to buy something special for the kids at the shelter."
When asked what she wanted for Christmas, her answer was simple: "Snow, so we can get the kids out and let them go sleigh-riding," she said.
"Robin has been a delight to have as a bell ringer," Chapman said. "She's he kind (of ringer) that I wish I could move into a year-round position."
Unlike the larger towns in which red kettle imposters have made headlines recently, Boone is a great place with a lot of generous donors, Chapman said.
"But, we did have one incident in which a young woman came up to a bell ringer and said that she was there to give her a break," Chapman added. "The ringer was smart and asked the young woman, 'Where is your apron and name badge?' Just then, a Boone Police Officer was patrolling the area and the girl ran off when she saw him."
Fortunately, she said, that was a rare occurrence.
Chapman will be joining a small group from the High Country Community Band for a performance at the Boone Mall on Saturday at 1 p.m.
"We will be there with our red kettle and will appreciate any last-minute donations before the Christmas bell-ringing season comes to an end," she said.
Chapman expressed appreciation to all those who have already given their gift, this year, as well as those who participated in donating to the "Fill the Truck" event that was held at Walmart on December 8. "Their generosity was overwhelming and exciting since this was a first time event," she said.