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Jean Albertson rings bells for the Salvation Army kettle stationed at the main entrance of the West Acres mall in Fargo as she collects a donation Monday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Support rings out for red kettle goal in F-M area

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With only 10 days left in the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign, the group has reached the halfway mark in funds raised but is still behind compared to last year.

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As of Monday, the Salvation Army was about $18,000 behind what was raised last year by Dec. 13, said Gerri Leach, the Salvation Army's community relations director. But she is confident the $650,000 goal will be met by 3 p.m. Dec. 24.

The annual campaign generally known for red aprons, smiling faces and the ringing of gold bells was the focus of debate after a November letter to the editor appeared in The Forum calling the bell ringers "noisy" and "beggars."

The criticism has seemingly not deterred either the Salvation Army from its goals or the giving public.

Bill Mealy, captain of the bell-ringing campaign, said donations actually increased after the letter was printed in The Forum.

James Bowles, a Fargo resident who braved Monday's bitter temps to ring bells in Moorhead, said he heard about the letter through those who stopped to drop money in his kettle earlier in the month.

"I think it was a good thing when that happened," he said. "I had a few people say something to me about (the letter) and I think it made people realize we're here to help people."

On Friday, the single-day total was shattered when F-M Realtors rang bells. Realtors staffed 32 red kettles, raising $26,000 in one day.

Mealy said donations and bell ringers are still needed.

Anyone can sign up to volunteer at any one of the 34 sites in Fargo and Moorhead.

Mealy and Leach say they are confident the F-M area will come through in raising the needed $325,000 in the next 10 days.

"The community has always been there for us, and we want to say 'thank you' for that, but we also trust that they will help us in our time of need," Mealy said.

In 2009, 30,988 people were served by the Salvation Army. That does not include 84,000 meals served during the 2009 flood and 950 cleanup kits that were distributed.

"I hope people get it that (the Salvation Army) is here to help people;

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