This year’s total of money donated to the Grundy County Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive has topped last year’s breakthrough record by another $3,300, according to We Care of Grundy County.
Although the final tally is not complete yet, the ringing, which took place at Jewel and Wal-Mart from Friday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Dec. 23, is done. During that time, bell ringers collected a total of at least $30,071, which is up 12 percent over last year’s total of $26,700.
The total includes the three gold coins that were donated during the first week of the collection, which contributed $2,700 to the total. The total, however, does not include the diamond engagement ring that was donated during the very last hours of bell ringing while Coal City United Methodist Church was ringing the bells on Sunday, Dec. 23. The ring has an estimated value of $1,200. The diamond ring will be sold to the highest bidder. The dollar amount it brings will be added to the final tally. Those interested in seeing the ring and/or bidding on it can stop by We Care during business hours.
“We are thrilled and overwhelmed at the response to our Red Kettle Campaign this year,” said Denise Gaska, We Care’s executive director and Red Kettle Drive coordinator for the Salvation Army. “We had great weather again this year — very warm and mild, which makes it easier on our bastion of bell ringing volunteers.”
Not only were the dollars contributed higher this year, but the participation among organizations that assist in the bell ringing effort was easier to coordinate than in past years.
“While some years it has been difficult to fill all the slots, this year, they filled quickly and we had some groups that wanted to ring on a weekend, but all those dates were full,” Gaska said. “Despite the fact we normally would have stopped ringing on a Friday, we added the 22 and 23 to our schedule in order to give those groups a chance to help out. Those extra days helped us get over the $30,000 mark, so we are very pleased that they wanted to fill those days.
“I do find it very heartwarming that for so many people in our area, ringing the Salvation Army bells during the Christmas season is now part of their holiday traditions. And, in those few cases when they’ve been too late to help, I’ve often heard great disappointment on the other end of the line. We don’t like to let that happen, though, so we try to find any way we can to fit them in.”
Thanks to the three gold coins donated during their watch, which were sold for $2,700, the First United Methodist Church of Morris attained the largest collection of any organization participating in the campaign at $4,047. The First United Methodist Church in Morris rang bells every Monday night during the campaign.
The biggest one-day collection was Saturday, Dec. 1 for a total of $1,474. The bells that day were manned by Immaculate Conception Church.
The largest Sunday collection went to Peace Lutheran Church Youth at $1,072.70 — far outpacing any other Sunday collection by more than $300.
The largest collection on a weeknight went to Cub Scout Pack #480 when they brought in $648.
Many groups volunteered to ring bells this holiday season, but We Care also gets offers to help ring the bells from many individuals who fill in gaps that organizations are unable to fill. We Care’s Individual Bell Ringing Volunteers this year collected $3,523. Those individuals were: Meredith Barnes, Dave Bell, Doug Benson, Kim Bordner, Theresa and Pete Butler, Sue Castanier, Christina Chapman, Richard Chapman, Colleen Dickinson, Bob Elleson, Paulina Eisenhower, Carol Marie Gaska, Rick Gaska, Sophie Gaska, Debbie Hennigan, Stephanie Kessler, Sandy and Ray Lisy, Karen Lovellette, Marie McNelis, Sue Morse, Jacob O’Marrah, Char and Gary Orndorff, Julie Peden and Travis Peden, Jennifer and Mike Perry, Cindy Perryman, Leann Rankovich, Carmen Rodgers, Marlene and Don Ryder, Darlene Schneider, Jennifer and Brian Shell, Debbie Sinnott, Stephanie Sizemore, Julie Sorden, Jen and Don Surber, Annette Tackett, Becky Tollefson, Barbara and Vance Vaksdall, Dan Werden, Diane Wilhelmsen, and John Wolfer and Kimberly Wolfer.
Gaska also acknowledges the following members of We Care’s Board of Directors and staff who assisted in the bell-ringing effort by helping collect the kettles at the end of the night: Dave Bzdill, Kelly Dransfeldt, Marion Gore, Debbie Hennigan, Cathy Milne, Chuck Richardson, Lori Sandgren, Andy Womack, and Mike Wright and Tracy Zabel.
While the Red Kettle Campaign is a time-consuming effort, the hard work pays off in a big way. We Care coordinates this campaign in Grundy County on behalf of the Salvation Army, therefore 80 percent of the money raised stays right here for We Care to use to assist families in need throughout the year with rent, mortgage and utility payments. This year, that total is $24,056. The other $6,015 will go to the Salvation Army regional office in Peoria to be available to those in need in rural counties throughout Illinois and to cover administrative costs for the bell-ringing effort.
If Salvation Army orchestrated the effort in Grundy County, only 65 percent of the funds raised would stay here. In addition, We Care’s bell ringers have always been and will always be volunteers, which helps to ensure as many dollars as possible go to help those in need. In other areas, Salvation Army bell ringers are often paid staff.
“We Care and the Salvation Army have a long history of working together,” Ed Dutton, service extension director for Salvation Army in Peoria says. “Since 2001, however, when We Care began coordinating the bell ringing effort for Grundy County, we’ve raised over $218,700, which means over $174,960 has been spent right here in Grundy County.”
The collection for 2001 totaled $10,318. The first gold coins were donated in 2003.
If any groups or individuals are interested in participating in the Kettle Campaign next year, it’s never too early to call We Care at 942-6389 to volunteer.
The following is a list of all the groups that volunteered to ring bells this holiday season with the total amount of money raised during their bell ringing assignments.
• Boy Scout Troop 471 — $763.29
• Brian Zabel & Associates — $425.42
• Calvary Baptist — $581.73
• Century 21 — $1528.07
• Christian Youth Center — $501.50
• City of Morris Employees — $425.28
• Coal City United Methodist Church — $1,111.80
• Corleone’s — $422.67
• Cub Scout Pack #480 — $648.99
• District 54 Teachers and Staff — $807.79
• First Baptist Church — $569.15
• First Christian Church — $1,409.81
• First Midwest Bank — $689.44
• First United Methodist Church — $4,047.81
• Friends in Christ Lutheran Church — $380.13
• Friends in Christ Lutheran Church Small Group — $500.81
• Gardner South-Wilmington High School NHS — $763.30
• Girl Scout Troops #70175 & #70660 — $701.30
• Grundy Bank — $366.00
• Immaculate Conception Church — $1,474.15
• Kiwanis Club of Morris — $577.77
• Living Water Church of the Nazarene — $485.49
• Morris Community High School NHS — $763.29
• MCHS - Staff — $481.42
• Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District — $345.73
• Morris Hospital — $360.02
• Morris Rotary — $1,041.99
• Morris Theater Guild — $291.79
• New Community Christian Church — $1,435.77
• Peace Lutheran Confirmation & Youth — $1,072.70
• Re-Max Top Properties — $308.30
• Seneca High School NHS — $909.88
• Standard Bank — $389.55
• We Care Ringers — $3,523.49
• West Lisbon Church — $255.21