By Jacob Mathias
The bell are back in town.
Veterans Day marked the kickoff of the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign fundraiser, this year themed “Share Your Blessings, Be Blessed.” Bob Quam, Stevens Point Salvation Army Director of Operations announced this year’s fundraising goal was $150,000, exceeding last year’s total contributions of about $130,000.
“Many families are still finding it very hard to stay afloat, and we’ve seen it firsthand in the numbers of people coming to us for help,” said Quam. “It’s especially hard during the holiday season, when so many of our neighbors don’t know how they’ll have the means to provide for their families.”
The highlight of the kickoff was the presentation of a $10,000 donation by Travel Guard. Each year the Travel Guard employees vote for a charity to support, and the Salvation Army topped this year’s ballot. Travel Guard employees also manned the bells throughout the first day of the campaign.
“Our employees will also be ringing through the entire campaign,” said Jim Koziol, Executive Vice President of Operations at Travel Guard.
Over 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through social services ranging from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter for the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children.
The event began with the singing of Christmas carols led by popular bell ringer Fred Ellis.
In attendance on Friday were a slew of local officials, to include Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza, Village of Plover Administrator Dan Mahoney, Plover Police Chief Dan Ault, Stevens Point Police Chief Marty Skibba and Portage County Chief Deputy Dan Kontos.
“This is the time of year we really need to be thinking about those folks who need assistance,” said Mahoney. “We look forward to everybody’s support.”
Mahoney, Wiza and Portage County Executive Patty Dreier will be teaming up to ring the bell in the coming weeks.
State Assembly Representative Katrina Shankland was also present for the kickoff.
“I’m so confident in our community and the strength of it,” said Shankland. “And it really has a lot to do with the people here today.”
Barbs were shared between law enforcement and fire departments — who battle each year over which can raise the most money. The fire departments won last year, and are scheduled to ring bells at various locations on December 10.
“That’s a lot of big talk,” joked Ault. “And I think somebody cheated last year.”
Quam said volunteers are needed for this year’s campaign. Anyone interested can go to www.ringbells.org or call 715-341-2437. The campaign runs from November 11 to December 24 with shifts from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Saturday at almost a dozen locations in Portage County.
If you see an unattended kettle and bell, Quam said, you’re encouraged to begin ringing yourself.