More Salvation Army bell ringers needed to 'rescue Christmas'

Landon Strasbourg and Olivia Miller rang the bell for the Salvation Army at Ace Hardware in 2019. Due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, Salvation Army bell ringers this year will be wearing masks and gloves and staying six feet apart. Bell ringers are needed. Donations by check or online are also encouraged this year. (Submitted photo)

Salvation Army bell ringers will be out this year, in spite of the pandemic.

In the past, many of the bell ringers have been retired people who are in a high-risk category for the disease and may not choose to participate this year, even with the extra safety precautions the organization is taking.

“So far, I don't have anybody signed up for the Thanksgiving weekend, and that is usually the biggest collection of the drive,” coordinator Eric Haugland said. “We plan on starting ringing Friday, Nov. 27. But a lot of our ringers are older and they’re concerned about COVID. The Lions Clubs in Park Rapids, Nevis and Osage are trying to work out a schedule to ring now, but more ringers are needed.”

Salvation Army guidelines will have bell ringers six feet away from other people this season, as well as wearing masks and gloves.

Each store has its own policies for the Salvation Army to follow. “The corporate office at Coborn’s has a standard that if there are two people at a kettle they have to be family members,” he said.


In 2019, the Hubbard County Salvation Army Kettle Drive collected $17,673 during the holiday season.

“I think people will be very generous this year because of everything with COVID,” Haugland said. “Hubbard County Social Services handles finding those who need our help.”

Donna Ortendahl is a field representative with the Salvation Army.

“We need to raise awareness and raise the funds we need to help rescue Christmas for those in need,” she said. “The funds raised through the organization’s red kettles are at risk this year due to COVID-19 concerns, while at the same time requests for services are at an all-time high.”

Based on the increase in services already provided in response to the pandemic, the organization could serve up to 155 percent more people with Christmas assistance this year, including putting food on the table, paying bills, providing shelter and helping place gifts under the tree.

Within the Salvation’s northern division, which includes Minnesota and North Dakota, the Salvation Army served nearly 325,000 people last year.

“At the current level of increased requests for assistance, that would mean over 825,000 people will need the Salvation Army’s help by the end of this holiday season,” Ortendahl said.

However, due to the closing of retail stores, consumers carrying less cash and doing more shopping online, she said the Salvation Army could see up to a 50 percent decrease in funds raised through the red kettles.


“That would limit our capability to provide services for the most vulnerable since our division raised $8.5 million last year through about 900 red kettles,” she said.

Since March, the northern division has provided 3 million meals, as well as emotional and spiritual care to 29,000 people. In addition, 90,000 nights of safe shelter have been provided through Salvation Army shelters and other partnerships.

“Now more than ever we want to make it safe and easy to donate in order to support the most vulnerable people in Minnesota and North Dakota,” he said. “Every donation provides help and hope to those in need, and all gifts stay within the community in which they are given.”

Checks payable to the Hubbard County Salvation Army may be dropped off or mailed to TruStar Federal Credit Union, Attn: Diane O’Hern, PO Box 729, Park Rapids, MN.

Donations can also be made online at with a one-time gift or a monthly sustaining gift of $25, by asking Amazon Alexa to donate by saying, “Alexa, donate to the Salvation Army,” then specifying the amount, or by texting KETTLES to 91999.

Anyone interested in ringing the bell this season can contact Haugland at 732-3910 (home), 252-7151 (cell) or

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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