By JULIE A. WAGNER
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- The familiar ring of bells and sight of red kettles are back in the Mahoning Valley this year thanks to many local volunteers.
But the Salvation Army could still use more help for their annual fund-raising campaign, which kicked off recently, said Dr. David Ritchie, the SA's resource development manager. In Trumbull County, the Salvation Army also would welcome more help, said Capt. Robert Kramer.
"We've had a fair response," he said. "We can always use more."
The kettles are manned up to 11 hours a day at about 40 locations throughout Mahoning County, he said. The campaign raised $190,000 last year. The money is used to provide Christmastime assistance and give year-round help, Ritchie said.
"We're supplying more families and children this year," he said. The aid can include things such as emergency help with heating bills.
Some of the bell ringers are paid either minimum wage or a food allowance, but many are volunteers from churches, schools and businesses.
"With volunteers, this allows us to enhance our bottom line," he said.
Help for days or weeks
Some of the volunteer groups take over responsibility for days or a week, he said.
For example, one local company, Infocision Management Corp., mans one site at a local store for a week not only ringing the bell, but also planning the schedules and setting up. There also are churches that will do the same thing at a site for two or three days at a time. Those include Trinity United Methodist Church in Youngstown and Wickliffe Presbyterian Church in Austintown.
Other organizations have set up giving trees to get gifts for children, he said.
Ghafari-ESG LLC, a firm involved in the building of the paint shop at General Motors in Lordstown, has partnered with the Salvation Army to gather toys and gifts for 100 children. The company, which will be here through 2005, has helped the Salvation Army all three years it has been here.
Volunteers also lend a hand at the 21 kettle sites in Trumbull County, Capt. Parker said. They began ringing bells Nov. 1. The campaign raises about $90,000 and makes up one-third of the Salvation Army's budget, he said.
Trumbull County's SA also uses some paid bell ringers.
Among the volunteers are members of the Rotary Club of Howland, who stand at a kettle at the Giant Eagle in Howland for eight hours every Friday and Saturday in December.
"They're fantastic," Capt. Parker said.
In Niles, the Key Club and the Kiwanis Club have a friendly competition to see who can raise the most money. This will be their third year, Capt. Parker said, and they are tied.
Church groups, families and businesses such as Ohio Edison also help, he said.
"We're always in need of volunteers," Capt. Parker said, adding that the Salvation Army also sponsors giving trees and needs help gathering the donated toys and clothes, and preparing and delivering them to the families.
Anyone interested in volunteering in Mahoning County may call Ritchie at (330) 270-5999. In Trumbull County, those interested in helping may call (330) 392-1573 and ask for Candy Fritsch.