Bell ringing a tradition of season

Published 9:30 am Friday, December 9, 2016

Outside grocery and department stores across Vicksburg and the country, businesses, organizations and individuals are volunteering hours of their time to ring a bell for the Salvation Army.

The red kettle campaign kicked off Nov. 12 and since then 15 clients at Midd-West Industries, an employment agency and workshop for people with disabilities, have been volunteering from 9 a.m. to noon two days a week at Corner Market.

“They are so good with the crowd. They just love doing it,” said Joan Farish, case manager and marketer at Midd-West.

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The volunteers switch out throughout the morning, working in one-hour shifts with two people each shift. The group typically mans the kettle located under the awning outside of Corner Market.

“We really love it here. They’re well received, and it’s kind of covered for them,” Farish said. “The staff inside is wonderful, and it’s just a good place for them to be.”

This is the third year Midd-West volunteers have taken time to supervise a red kettle. Bell ringing is something the group looks forward to every year, and Farish said she starts getting requests from her volunteers to head outside to the kettles as early as September.

“They truly have loved doing this,” Farish said. “This is one of their favorite things they do each year. They start asking me in September, ‘Are we ringing the bell?’ They look forward to this.”

Thursday morning Willie J. Brown and A.J. Wells were taking their turn at the kettle and talking about what they enjoy about their time ringing the bell.

“It lifts people’s spirits,” Brown said. “It makes people smile, makes them look happy.”

“Like the spirit of Christmas,” Wells said. “Like a big happy smile.”

Both of the volunteers said they personally get a lot out of their volunteer time, but they are really in it to brighten other people’s day.

“We’re getting blessed. God is blessing us,” Brown said. “The store, they’re loving it too. They’re having a great time with the Christmas spirit.”

“And we’re friends with everybody,” Wells said. “Spreading a little cheer.”

By contributing to the community and volunteering their time to ring the bell for the Salvation Army, Farish said clients from Midd-West are learning valuable lessons, meeting people and giving back.

“One of the things we teach at Midd-West is learning how to be an effective part of the community and that is giving back,” Farish said.

She said in prior years the Midd-West volunteers were told they did very well in their fundraising efforts and garnered a high number of donations, but the amount of money raised is not what is most important for the volunteers.

“A lot of it is not what they raise, to me, it’s teaching them, and I’m so proud of them,” Farish said. “I’m so proud of them when they say every little bit helps. They’re learning it’s not about how much, it’s how we give it from our hearts.”

She said the volunteers help spread joy to everyone they come in contact with at the kettle. The mutual giving and receiving of kindness is what she thinks has her clients ready to come back for more every year.

“It’s a warm feeling,” Farish said. “We’ll do it again next year.”

Red kettles are located at Wal-Mart, Kroger, Belk, Dillard’s, Hobby Lobby, Corner Market, Walgreens, Piggly Wiggly and Dressbarn. To volunteer as a ringer, call 601-415-2994.