Hoping to ring out a good year

Published 5:25 pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

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Salvation Army kicks off 2012 kettle drive

Bells are ringing out all over Austin as the annual Salvation Army kettle drive kicks off another season.

Bell ringers first took up their posts at locations like Oak Park Mall and Walgreens today to begin raising funds following yesterday’s kickoff event. A crowd of about 30 people gathered near the Veteran’s Memorial Thursday morning as it began.

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“We appreciate your assistance every year,” Lt. David Amick of the Salvation Army told those in attendance at the kickoff.

The Salvation Army’s progress will be shown throughout the kettle drive on a display near the Veteran’s Memorial. Every red light that pops on signifies another $3,000 has been raised.

“Hopefully we’ll meet our goal this season,” said Lt. Laura Amick.

At the kickoff, Norm Hecimovich presented David with a $200 check from the Oriental Band, and another $200 check from the Austin Area Shriners Club.

“It’s a great honor for us to be able to do this as Shriners and Masons,” he said.

Afterward, Austin High School a cappella choral group The Austinaires performed several Christmas songs to mark the occasion.

The kettle drive is a vital part of keeping the Salvation Army going, Laura said, including helping fill the food shelves and cover utilities costs. Austin residents have been enthusiastic about showing their support.

“We always go over budget every year,” she said. “We can’t speak highly enough of this community.”

Last year, donors answered the call, giving $56,500 to the kettle drive, which was about $16,000 more than 2010, as well. The organization also surpassed its overall campaign goal of $125,000 last year, hitting the $139,000 mark. This year’s overall goal is now $150,000.

There are about 43 people who will help ring bells this year, and combined with volunteers helping in other ways, more than 100 people will be involved, said Kristine Maier, Salvation Army volunteer and kettle coordinator.

The majority of bell ringers are volunteers, Laura said, and will stand at one of eight locations around Austin to take donations. People who want to help in other ways can participate in the feed-a-family program at Hy-Vee, or the toy shop, where they buy a gift for a category of recipient, such as an 8- to 10-year-old girl, and bring it to a dropoff point around town. Parents of the children who get those gifts can then pick them out of a collection on Dec. 19.

“It’s better for the parents,” Laura said, adding that children don’t get toys they already have that way.

Those looking to get involved with any aspect of the drive can call Maier at 507-437-4566.

The kettle drive will go until 3 p.m. on Dec. 24, Christmas eve. Between now and then, there will be a variety of challenges to encourage bell ringers to bring in more donations. One is a Christmas food distribution day at Hy-Vee on Dec. 19. On that day, prominent guest ringers from around the city will be present, including Austin City Council Member Steve King, Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Austin Public Library Executive Director Ann Hokanson.

—Matt Peterson contributed to this report.

Challenges scheduled for Bell Ringers

Dec. 1 — Tuba Day at the Mall

Dec. 1 — Viking vs. Packer challenge at entrance to Wal-Mart

Dec. 7 — National Realtors Bell Ringing Day

Dec. 8 — Brownsdale Fire Dept. vs. Grand Meadow Fire Dept. at Hy-Vee, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dec. 15 — Austin Police vs. Austin Fire Dept at Wal-Mart, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dec. 19 — Christmas food distribution day at Hy-Vee.