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Bell ringers: 'We're there because of need'

| Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 10:38 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Bonnie Krout, left, of Harrison and Kevin Bresuciak of Tarentum accept a donation and share a brief conversation with Gavin Virag of Harrison and Gina Smith of Sarver at the Pittsburgh Mills mall on Friday, November 15, 2013.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Bonnie Krout of Harrison has been volunteering as a Salvation Army bell-ringer for five years, while Kevin Bresuciak of Tarentum is starting his first year. Both were at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.

In some parts of the Alle-Kiski Valley, shoppers can already hear the familiar holiday sound of Salvation Army workers ringing their bell. But that sound might be heard a little less often this year.

The charity's annual “Red Christmas Kettle Campaign” won't be in full swing until after Thanksgiving, but Salvation Army Allegheny Valley and Salvation Army New Kensington already have some kettles out.

The Brackenridge Corps' commanding officer, Cpt. Rickie Armour, said his location's goal this holiday season is $153,500.

Armour said that number will be hard to hit because certain businesses are trimming the number of days bell ringers can raise money outside their stores.

Local stores have cut back about 28 total days that bell ringers can accept donations outside their stores, Armour said.

He estimates the cutbacks will cost his branch about $25,000 in donations.

As a result, Armour said, “We need the people to dig a little deeper this year.

“The need (in the community) is bigger than ever, and the time we have out there is shorter,” he said. “We're really afraid. We hit our goal last year, but we had a lot more days to do it.”

Armour said his branch will have about 20 workers out from Monday to Saturday, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m, starting the day after Thanksgiving.

About 14 locations will host bell ringers throughout the New Kensington-Lower Burrell area and the Kiski Valley, according to Cpt. Elvie Carter, the commanding officer for The Salvation Army New Kensington Corps and the Kiski Valley Service Center.

Carter said the goal for the New Kensington location is $66,000. The goal for the Kiski Valley is $45,000, he said.

“We're hoping to reach that by Dec. 24; last year, we had to go over until Dec. 31,” he said recalling when his group extended the kettle drive by about a week in 2012 to meet is goal. “We're really aiming and hoping that we can meet the goal as early as possible.”

Carter said he hope people realize just how important the kettle drive is not only for the Christmas season.

“It's essential to the people,” he said. “What we bring in not only helps for Christmas, but it allows us to provide services all year.

“When there's a fire victim, we can help them,” he said. “When there's someone who is hungry, or children need youth programs throughout the year — it's not just during Christmas.”

Ginny Knor, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania, said the kettle drive makes up about 30 percent of local Salvation Army budgets for the whole year.

“What we raise in the kettle campaign goes well beyond the first quarter of they year,” she said.

Knor said that the charity serves many needs people often don't think of when donating.

“We serve people on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “If it means we can help with the utility bill, we will.

“We might not be able to spend a lot of money on a family, but we can certainly ease a struggle.”

Armour and Carter couldn't thank their communities enough for the support they've gotten.

“The community has really been generous in my five years here,” Armour said. “They've been really generous, and we've been able to do a lot with the money.”

“People know how important it is for us to be out there,” he said. “We're not out there because of greed.

“We're there because of need.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance reporter for Trib Total Media.

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