By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
The Salvation Army kicked off the holiday bell ringing season Saturday morning at the VFW post with an informational meeting.
Volunteers will man red Salvation Army kettles at Fareway, Hy-Vee and Wal-Mart for the next six weeks.
This past year, the Salvation Army raised about $50,000. The year before that, they raised $39,000.
Salvation Army Chairman Jerry Morrison said the Salvation Army helps people in need with things such as rental assistance, utility bills, motel stays, medical needs and backpacks filled with school supplies.
"You are helping people in Mahaska County," Morrison told the audience of volunteers gathered at the VFW post. "The funds stay here."
University Park Mayor George Toubekis was the keynote speaker for the meeting.
Toubekis told of his experience as a National Guard soldier who was deployed to Bay of St. Louis, Miss., in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Toubekis said his unit helped set up a hospital and water purification equipment. Within five days of the disaster, the Red Cross and Salvation Army had set up stations to help people. The Salvation Army provided clothes while the Red Cross provided meals.
The Salvation Army and Red Cross "brought life back to the people," he said.
Toubekis, a soldier who returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan four months ago, said nations such as Afghanistan do not have anything that compares to the work the Salvation Army and Red Cross does.
"You don't see that over there. They always call us," he said.
Toubekis told the volunteers that when they are ringing the bell to always say to contributors "Merry Christmas."
"Remember where the money is going," he said. "It's the spirt of giving — it's the spirit of Christmas."
The Salvation Army needs more bell ringer volunteers.
If you want to volunteer, you can call (641) 295-0942, (641) 660-0173 or 672-2187. Bell ringers work shifts during the hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Volunteers can pick their hours, according to a Salvation Army flier. If you want to ring the bell for an hour or two, there will be a kettle, bell and red apron at the service desk at Hy-Vee, Fareway or Wal-Mart, according to the flier.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at email@example.com