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Why do you think the Salvation Army is having trouble finding bell ringers this year?

Asked at Borders, 700 N.H. on November 17, 2004

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Photo of Sarah Sharma

“I think that more people may not agree with some of the Salvation Army’s political views.”

Photo of Shelby Conrad

“I think that people are more cynical about charities now, and they don’t want to collect money for organizations if they are not sure where it is going.”

Photo of George Laurence

“Answering for myself, I’m simply too busy. I think that when people are worried about jobs and their income, a lot less people are going to volunteer.”

Photo of Telemate Sokari

“I think people are changing the way they give to charities. They would rather write a check than give cash. People don’t want to stand out there and ring a bell if everyone just walks by without giving anything.”


badger 13 years, 6 months ago

Actually, coldsplice, I was just witness to the harrassing. I am a rather tall, solidly built individual, and I spent some time in my younger years in the sorts of places where you learn to look like no one wants to tangle with you. I'm rarely harrassed by strangers. She took one look at me; I met her eye and softly said, "I gave elsewhere, ma'am." She didn't say anything to me. I just don't particularly appreciate seeing college kids, young mothers, my neighbors (whom I know had seven people living in a two-bedroom apartment) getting deliberately guilted.

Thank you, though, for being the first person to comment on my Salvation Navy joke. I thought no one appreciated me!

See, the thing, though, about the 'mean looks' kind of thing is that there are people in this world who really, seriously never feel, deep inside, that they've done enough. They could give their last dollar to a homeless man, hand the keys of their house over to a father of five who's just lost his job, and give all their blankets to street people, and they'd still be haunted by the fear that they hadn't done enough. I used to be one of them, until someone once taught me the wise doctrine of, "If you aren't standing on your own feet, you cannot help anyone else to his. Meet your needs first, then the needs of others, then your wants, and so on." Not everyone knows this, and until you do, you're taught by various facets of society to feel guilty for considering your own needs first.

It's unkind to assume that just because a bellringer makes someone feel guilty that that person hasn't done enough. It may be something deeper. I'd ask you not to sling around assumptions quite so casually among what are, essentially, faceless people you know nothing about.

Fangorn, nice to see you today! I figured we were to be Ent-deficient, and I'm happy to see it's not so!

Richard Heckler 13 years, 6 months ago

The Salvation Army is not as poor as they appear. Locally they seem to have access to millions as they plan the unwanted shelter to the east putting them further from the people who utilize the organization daily. They have zero concrete plans for these individuals. Their board of directors has been very pushy. Salvation Army has abandon what some consider as the original intent.

What the organization was 50-60 years ago might not be what they are today. Political views might well be part of the problem as was stated above.

ive_got_my_ascot_n_my_dickie 13 years, 6 months ago

I don't feel comfortable giving money to religious-based organizations because I'm not entirely certain how the money will be spent. According to the Salvation Army website, "The Salvation Army is a Christian organisation and part of the universal Christian Church." I'm not opposed to religion, but how much of my dollar will be used to buy houses or cars for their leaders? (High-ranking Salvation Army officials do get those things). In the past, I've volunteered my time at soup kitchens and building homes for Habitat for Humanity. I feel better making that kind of contribution.

mrcairo 13 years, 6 months ago

Charity begins at home. Literally. With millions of people still out of work, and scraping the bottom of the barrel, who has time to stand around and ring a bell. Besides, they've had their cover blown for some time now, and people believe it or not, are not as willing to give money to organizations who claim to be 'Christian', yet judge and discriminate against people.

acg 13 years, 6 months ago

I'm probably going to get reamed for this, but maybe there is a shortage of bell ringers because bell ringers are annoying as h*ll. I'm sorry but it drives me crazy that every single store that I go into there it is, the clanging of that bell, the morose face of the ringer, who looks like he/she really wants to be somewhere else, anywhere else but there, standing in the freezing cold, begging for pennies and nickels from strangers. I've never seen a cheerful, happy bell ringer, and I've lived in 23 different states.

badger 13 years, 6 months ago

I think it's because the Salvation Navy keeps beating them at football. How can you get recruits if you can't run a passing game?

Redneckgal 13 years, 6 months ago

acg...I agree its annoying as heck. I live in Ottawa and they are always at Wal-Mart and half the time if you don't put any money they'll give you a dirty look or something.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 6 months ago

The other night I walked into a local supermarket and there was this guy standing by the entrance right next to a familiar-looking red pot and he was ringing a rather familiar-sounding bell as people walked past him.

After 15 minutes of shopping, I walked out of the store. As I walked out, there was no sound of a bell ringing--and no bell ringer anywhere to be seen! "Gee", I thought, "I hope nothing has happened to him! I hope he wasn't kidnapped or mugged or something like that!" Then it occurred to me......"Say, who's watching that red kettle (presumably full of coins and small bills) if he's not here??!!"

Well, I just kept walking to my car. As I made a right turn around the side of the building in the direction of where my car was parked........There I saw him!! The bell ringer guy! He appeared safe and sound!! Whew! Thank heavens!

Of course, he also appeared to be talking on a cell phone and puffing away on a cigarette, and he didn't seem to be at all concerned about the very real possiblity that some punk kids might pull up in front of the building and one kid gets out of the car, grabs the kettle, and they all drive away laughing!

But, hey, at least he was all right!

remember_username 13 years, 6 months ago

Are the bell ringers volunteers, or are they paid? Anyone know?

I usually don't have a problem wrestling with donation as I don't carry cash. I just smile at them and say "sorry I only have plastic". The day is coming though, when a bell ringer will reach into the bucket and pull out a credit card machine and then I'll be in trouble.

pike 13 years, 6 months ago

The funny thing is they are not giving you a dirty look ITS WINTER! THEIR COLD!! And You feel guilty.

lunacydetector 13 years, 6 months ago

everyone is too self absorbed in themselves to volunteer because they are: concerned how it will 'appear' to others, if they are caught ringing a little bell in front of a store; or they are afraid the gobs of money they collect will go to some church leader- so he can buy a car; or they will be out looking for work on a Saturday; or they don't want to give to a religion and prefer something environ'mental'; OR THEY ARE TOO DAMN LAZY etc. etc... because EVERYONE IS TOO SELF ABSORBED!

badger 13 years, 6 months ago

The only reason you should feel guilty for not giving to the bell ringers is if you think you should be doing more for charity than you are.

I know that I've donated my time and money to charities I support and endorse, so I walk right by them, smile at them, and wish them a happy night. If you feel you're doing enough for your community, just refuse to feel guilty because you're not doing it on someone else's terms or in someone else's view.

I seem to remember something in the Christian tenets about the difference between being a good person out where everyone can see you for display, or being a good person at home when it's just you and God watching, and why you should be more focused on the latter than the former. If your charity is sufficient to you, should it matter if others think you're charitable?

lunacydetector 13 years, 6 months ago

why should people get rewarded for volunteering? i know this might sound harsh, but getting rewarded for charity work kind of defeats the purpose. that is too self absorbing. it is the me, me, me first attitude.

also, someone said religious organizations' leaders pilfer donations. that is not true at all. the biggies allocate far more to putting the funds towards charity than say, the United Way - remember the leaders of that organization were making millions?

Libcon 13 years, 6 months ago

The LJWorld has reached an all-time low. Who cares? I believe people will give without those idiotic, annoying bells ringing. People should not need them to donate.

Personally, I think the Salvation Army puts off they are poor when really the money they get with the bells mysteriosuly dissapears into the pockets of the higher ups.

craigers 13 years, 6 months ago

remember_username, most of the bell-ringers are volunteers. However, they do hire some people to ring the bells and I believe they look at homeless shelters and other sites where a person might be in need of some sort of income.

Savage 13 years, 6 months ago

Sorry to say...but if you want the real inside scoop please read what I have to say. In fact what most people don't realize (secrets) is that volunteers don't make up the bell ringers. Homeless familes are the ones put to work. They pretty much(with pressure) require that those who stay there and cannot find jobs become bell ringers for minimum wage and if there lucky they might get 25-30 hours per week. since their restrictions for staying have been increased that = less people.

lunacydetector 13 years, 6 months ago

i have donated my time and rang the bells and it wasn't a big deal at all. Sure it was chilly, but i racked up a lot of money just by smiling and saying, "hello." i couldn't believe how easy it was. i think a lot of times, the people doing the collecting are kinda scary looking. i made sure i had a shower and shave and i dressed a little nicer than typical.

acg 13 years, 6 months ago

Just so ya'll know, I've known the Director of the Do. Co. United Way, Jo Bryant for years. She does not drive a new fancy car, wear fancy clothes, live in a mansion or eat out every day with U. Way $$. I'm not saying that nationally, there hasn't been some misappropriated $ that was donated to the U. Way, I can honestly say I don't remember hearing that, but it could've happened but locally, it is a sound organization. I know people on the board of the local U. Way also. They are also decent, honest people, as is their Director, Jo. Don't judge all of the chapters by the actions of a few, please. That's all I'm saying. Also, I'd like to amend my earlier statement. I had forgotten I did meet a really cheerful bell ringer about 5 years ago outside the Dillons on 6th. She was this wonderful black lady who praised the people and told them Jesus loved them and stuff, and she always threw in a hearty "Merry Christmas" or "God bless you child". She had spirit and soul and she actually made you want to donate to her bucket. We need more like her.

badger 13 years, 6 months ago

Wow, lunacy, that's really great! It's so fabulous to see someone back up words with action, you know?

I bet they're ecstatic to have a bellringer like you back, given that they're so shorthanded.

Do you anticipate the same level of donations this year? I know a lot of people are curtailing their giving because of financial concerns. Do you expect to have to work harder to do as well this year as you have in the past.

lunacydetector 13 years, 6 months ago

i cannot ring this year as i have an infant to take care of. at first, i was kind of pressured into doing the ring the bell ringing deal, but after i did it, i did it again the next year. i thought i might embarrass myself by doing it, but it was pretty cool and the people donating were real nice. i'd do it again this year but i can't :(

italianprincess 13 years, 6 months ago

When we drove up to the store last night and my son noticed the man ringing the bell, the first thing he said to me was " Mom can I have some change for him ?"

He knows what the money is for and he felt very proud to put the change I gave hin in the bucket. The man smiled at him, and said thank you little man.

Its for a good cause, so why not spare some change if you have it.

coldsplice 13 years, 6 months ago

1-Give if you want, don't if you don't. If you just gave, say so and move on. I've never been strong-armed by a bell ringer. Please, this isn't the mob we're talking about here.

2-no one can make you feel guilt if isn't there to begin with so stop leaning on all these other people posting with you who are outraged that people have the gaul to ask for your help (while you walk out of the store with a few hundred dollars worth of junk you're kids probably don't need to begin with, I might add).

3-more importantly, listen to ourselves. Going on and on about people who are standing out in the freezing cold, asking if you could spare some change. Skip your soy chai half-caff latte for a day if you can and help them out. If we feel our government shouldn't do it with our taxes, then we're going to have to do it with the $ in the ashtrays of our Ford Expeditions. Better yet, hire them so we don't have to worry about it next year.

4-this is one of my better days!

terri 13 years, 6 months ago

According to the Lawrence Journal World, Bell ringers are either volunteers or earn $6.50 an hour. It doesn't surprise me that the Salvation Army is having trouble finding volunteers

badger 13 years, 6 months ago


  1. You may never have encountered an aggressive bell ringer. I have. I listened to a woman outside a grocery store in KC say things like, "What? You got money for Pop-Tarts, and no money for the homeless? I guess you're too fancy to eat toast!" or "I guess your O-re-o cookies there are more important that kids sleeping on the street." When I complained, I was told, "She's a volunteer. We don't control how the volunteers encourage people to donate, but she's one of our best volunteers."

  2. No one's leaning on anyone here. Some people are talking pretty big about giving to their fellow man and being taken on faith that they actually do so, and a lot of other people are saying they choose to give elsewhere because they don't like SA's politics, methods, or reputation.

  3. There is no such thing as a soy chai half-caf latte. At least, I hope not. That would taste awful. Yeah, they're standing in the cold. I shouldn't HAVE to say, "Sorry, I gave elsewhere" to them, because they shouldn't assume (and neither should anyone else) that just because I don't drop fifteen cents into the kettle that I never would, that I'm lazy, that I'm selfish, or that I'm only thinking of myself. No one should ever assume anything about anyone's patterns of giving. I understand the temptation to give in to the idea of the thoughtless Johnson County yuppie laughing past the kettles, sipping on his Starbucks while his SUV blows a cloud of exhaust into the bellringer's face, but stereotypes aren't generally helpful.

  4. Uh, I have no more points. hums whistles

Larry 13 years, 6 months ago

Fangorn - I posted a response to your post from yesterday. I'd be curious to read your response.

jonas 13 years, 6 months ago

I refuse to acknowledge Christmas until after Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time.

coldsplice 13 years, 6 months ago

badger-you're right about one long as Army continues to run the wishbone, Navys 3-4 defense will eat them alive. I hear Nebraska has a west coast offense they'd be willing to part with for cheap.

Sorry you were harassed by the bell ringer lady. I smell a class action lawsuit vs. the Sal-apparently they are loaded. That lady misses the point as much as any of the "leaners" i mentioned earlier. I do take honest issue though with the attitude that says that these volunteers and the people they serve infringe on our lives. It's pretty self absorbed to think that someone can "ruin" your holiday shopping trip by ringing a bell and asking for loose change (see consumer1, pywacket, and redneckgal).

Sorry "acg" but you deserve to get reamed. You're complaining that the look on the guy's face is too much of a bummer for you? That they guy isn't peppy enough for you? You're right, he doesn't want to be there but he is which is more than many of us can say. Get over yourself.

Fangorn 13 years, 6 months ago

Larry- Check out my remarks at the end of yesterday's discussion. More later.

Jonas- I'm with you, my good man. One holiday at a time. I really despise the commercialization of Christmas, especially when it begins before the Halloween costumes are even put away. It says something unfortunate about our nation that we can't pause one day to be thankful. (I know that probably wasn't the point of your post; that's just my thought on the matter.)

Coldsplice- As a Husker fan and a traditionalist, it made me sick to see Nebraska abandon the ground game that has been their hallmark for so long. But it makes me sicker to see mediocre play (and non-winning records). Bill Callahan is a proven coach whose personality fits Nebraska's program, even if his offensive scheme is a radical change. The transition will take another year or two. Hopefully the program won't completely implode in the meantime!

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