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Salvation Army officer in Latrobe unit may ring bell to set national record

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Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Ray Knous will be hearing bells this week — and maybe longer.

Knous, a worship and commanding officer of the Latrobe unit of The Salvation Army, will vie with other officers nationwide in a marathon bell-ringing competition next to the group's trademark red kettles.

Knous will start ringing at 9 a.m. Tuesday outside the Wal-Mart on Route 30 in Unity.

“They start ringing and ring for as long as they can,” he said. “My main purpose is to raise exposure for our local Salvation Army and raise money.”

Last year's winner rang a kettle bell for about 60 consecutive hours, Knous said.

“If I can last that long, great. But my goal is 18 to 36 hours,” Knous said.

This year, 10 to 15 people affiliated with the charity have signed up to take part in the national ringing marathon, Knous said.

He said he might be the first Salvation Army person from Westmoreland or Fayette counties to take part in the competition.

His Latrobe unit is behind in meeting its goal of $64,000 as part of the 2012 Red Kettle Campaign, Knous said.

“I wouldn't say we're worried yet, but we're concerned,” he said.

The Salvation Army's 28-county Western Pennsylvania division is behind in its effort to raise slightly more than $2.8 million, Knous said.

As part of the kettle campaign, more than 25,000 workers and volunteers spread out across the country to ring bells daily and solicit spare-change donations while standing beside the kettles.

Last year, the campaign collected a record $147 million nationwide to help those in need of food or other essentials and to fund after-school programs for children.

The charity helped 30 million people in the communities where the money was raised, according to the Western Pennsylvania office.

Knous wants to raise $3,000 to $5,000 during his bell-ringing efforts this week.

He believes he is the only participant ringing in the Northeast in December, when it typically is cold.

“Most are out West or the South, where it's warm,” Knous said. “They're smart.”

Contestants compete while using an “honor system,” and they get 15-minute breaks every four hours. He can drink liquids at his discretion.

His wife, Nicole, who like Knous holds the rank of lieutenant and shares service commanding officer responsibilities in the Latrobe unit, will be encouraging him.

“She'll be coming to give me coffee and some company,” he said.

Knous didn't doubt that he will continue to hear bells when the competition is over.

“I'm sure I'll be hearing it in my dreams for a few days,” he joked.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622or

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