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Complaints silence bells at Unity shopping center

Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review - Salvation Army volunteer Albert Smith of Latrobe stands stands quietly near the Salvation Army kettle at the Big Lots store after a business owner in the Unity Shopping Plaza complained that he was disturbed by the constant ringing.  Lt. Andrew Spooner of the Salvation Army-Latrobe Corps says he hopes to talk to the business owner who complained about the bell ringing today in an attempt to resolve differences.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Sean Stipp  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Salvation Army volunteer Albert Smith of Latrobe stands stands quietly near the Salvation Army kettle at the Big Lots store after a business owner in the Unity Shopping Plaza complained that he was disturbed by the constant ringing.  Lt. Andrew Spooner of the Salvation Army-Latrobe Corps says he hopes to talk to the business owner who complained about the bell ringing today in an attempt to resolve differences.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review - The bell of Salvation Army volunteer Albert Smith of Latrobe rests quietly on Salvation Army kettle at the Big Lots store after a business owner in the Unity Shopping Plaza complained that he was disturbed by the constant ringing.  Lt. Andrew Spooner of the Salvation Army-Latrobe Corps says he hopes to talk to the business owner who complained about the bell ringing today in an attempt to resolve differences.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Sean Stipp  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The bell of Salvation Army volunteer Albert Smith of Latrobe rests quietly on Salvation Army kettle at the Big Lots store after a business owner in the Unity Shopping Plaza complained that he was disturbed by the constant ringing.  Lt. Andrew Spooner of the Salvation Army-Latrobe Corps says he hopes to talk to the business owner who complained about the bell ringing today in an attempt to resolve differences.
Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

An angel won't get its wings at a Unity shopping center — at least until a noise issue is resolved between The Salvation Army and an office where the nonstop bell-ringing is just outside its windows.

The jingle of the bell was too much for the Entact Environmental Services office in Unity Plaza along Route 30, which silenced the bell Wednesday at the red kettle in front of the neighboring Big Lots store.

Salvation Army Latrobe Corps Lt. Andrew Spooner said he was notified by the Big Lots store about a complaint from Entact after the charity began the season's Red Kettle Campaign on Monday.

“We don't want to cause any conflict,” Spooner said. “They're a part of the community, just like us.”

Chelsea Koontz, office manager at Enact, said the small office has between two and 15 employees on a given day and little foot traffic, so it's usually very quiet. “When this place is like a library, you can't help but hear the bell,” she said.

The environmental remediation business, which has eight offices nationwide that “clean up messes” of major corporations, moved from Monroeville into the plaza two years ago.

Because the office is fronted with large windows, Entact employees often hear the sound of sirens, airplanes, even fights, Koontz said.

“We're not against what (bell-ringers) do, it's just the noise,” she said.

Through the office manager, the president of Entact said he had no comment.

A smaller bell, singing or limiting the bell-ringing to after-office and weekend hours are possible compromises that Spooner plans to discuss with the office employees.

“At this point, we're still working through (a solution),” he said.

Spooner stopped by the kettle Wednesday afternoon to speak with Entact employees, but they had left for the day.

Volunteer Terri Derck is ringing the bell for the first time this year in front of the Unity store.

“They have done so much for me and my family. I just wanted to try and repay what they've given me,” she said.

Derck of Unity said that after getting food assistance from the nonprofit in August she enrolled her children, ages 8, 9 and 11, in vacation Bible school at the worship and service center in Latrobe. Now, she attends Sunday services and helps clean, cook and lead other volunteer programs.

She said the kettles are a major fundraiser to help programs throughout the year to benefit the Latrobe area.

“This is how we help keep helping families throughout the year,” Derck said. “I'm willing to sing songs if I have to, because we've got to get attention to that kettle.”

Volunteers historically have collected between $8,000 and $12,000 at that kettle.

Spooner said it might be more difficult to get people's attention without the well-known jingle of the bell.

“Certainly, if you're not ringing a bell, it's going to have some impact; you blend in more,” he said.

Koontz said the bell rang all through the holiday season last year, but The Salvation Army didn't offer a compromise.

Spooner said he started in his position in July and couldn't address any previous complaints.

Spooner said he hopes the sides reach a resolution on the way to the Latrobe Corps' goal of $65,000 for the season, which ends Dec. 24.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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