Steamboat couple shares tradition with residents

Haveners spend Christmas Eve ringing bells for Christmas Kettle Campaign

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— Most families have Christmas traditions.

Scott and Tami Havener's Christmas tradition has a little ring to it. The couple spends Christmas Eve outfitted with a bell, kettle and some warm clothes in front of Wal-Mart.

The Haveners are one of many families and individuals who participate in the Salvation Army's annual Christmas Kettle Campaign.

It's a tradition that began about seven years ago when the Denver branch of the Salvation Army encouraged the members of its service extension unit in Steamboat Springs to hold their own Christmas Kettle Campaign.

"The people in charge asked if anybody would be willing to help ring the bell," Tami Havener said. "What ended up happening was ... the only time we had was on Christmas Eve."

The Christmas Eve shift has stuck and the couple now intentionally chooses the final shift of the Christmas Kettle campaign.

"It's kind of evolved," Tami Havener said.

The couple has no problem striking up conversations with passersbys.

Strangers and friends were out Tuesday for a bit of last minute shopping.

"You get to see and talk to tons of people," Tami Havener said.

Some shifts, like Tuesday, have been colder than others. The couple takes turns going inside the storefront to get warm or fetch some hot chocolate.

"More than anything, it's the look on people's faces when they do donate," Scott Havener said. "That's what stands out the most."

Children especially embody the spirit of Christmas, he said. Children aren't so concerned with how much they drop in the kettle, he said. They just want to give.

"People feel a bit more generous," Tami Havener said. "It helps to remind you about the gift that we have received on Christmas -- the birth of Jesus."

The couple offers passersbys their own Carol of the Bells. They each have a bell in their hand and try to outdo each other's knack for ringing out familiar Christmas tunes.

"We have a little contest with the bells," Tami Havener said.

After their shift, the Haveners headed home to be with family and friends.

Volunteers rang the bell 136 hours last year and raised $6,800. About $40 to $60 is raised in one hour of bell ringing. Steamboat campaign coordinator Susan Mizen hopes to raise about $10,000 this year.

Christmas Kettle funds are distributed when other funds can't completely cover a request.

Most of the money dropped in the kettles stays in Routt County, and no more than $200 goes to one family.

The community benefits from 90 percent of the proceeds, and the remaining 10 percent goes to the Salvation Army office in Denver.

Steamboat can get its 10 percent back if need depletes Christmas Kettle funds before the year ends.

Area organizations, such as Horizons, the Girl and Boy Scouts, Discovery Learning Center, Steamboat Springs Ski and Resort Corp., GrandKids and high school students stand by the kettles for a few hours or a whole day.

Wal-Mart and City Market's storefronts host the bell ringers. Volunteers hold no special qualifications, aside from a willingness to assist people they do not know.

In the last few days before Christmas, the Salvation Army removes its kettle from City Market and leaves one kettle at Wal-Mart.

The second kettle moves to the ski mountain, where ski corp. employees ring the bell.

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