Group seeks a few good bell ringers

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— People outfitted with a bell, kettle and some warm clothes are hitting popular shopping areas in town to raise money for needy people in the community.

The bell ringing 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.

Wal-Mart's 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.

Penny Lucas, LIFT-UP community resource case manager, distributes Salvation Army funds 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 Springs can get its 10 percent back if need depletes Christmas Kettle funds before the year ends.

All of the money Steamboat raised last holiday season was used up last month, Steamboat campaign coordinator Susan Mizen said, so Denver sent $500 to cover the need through December.

"We're hoping that it will last," she said.

But less than $300 remains and some of that money has already been vouched to people, Lucas said.

Mizen said about $40 to $60 is raised in one hour of bell ringing. Bells rang for 136 hours last year and raised $6,800. Mizen is hoping the bells ring 200 hours this Christmas season. If 200 hours are reached, she said, the kettle campaign could realistically raise $10,000.

"That would be so wonderful," she said.

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

Mizen said she has received some phone calls from people who have never before rung the bell.

Many of the early spots have been filled, but many slots still remain in the last few weeks leading up to Christmas. Mizen tries to get enough volunteers to stand by the kettle all day Saturday and Sunday and late afternoons on Thursday and Friday.

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.

"They ring the bell as much as they can," Mizen said.

To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4203

or e-mail dharrelson@steamboatpilot.com

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