Volunteers ring bells for needy - Catholic Courier

Volunteers ring bells for needy

More than 125 members of St. Mary’s Parish in Canandaigua took to the streets Dec. 18 to help the Salvation Army conduct its annual Red Kettle Campaign.

This marks the fourth year the parish has provided volunteer bell-ringers for the campaign, according to Deacon Claude Lester, who organizes parish volunteers each year. The effort brings together families, individuals, clergy and religious-education students from the parish for a good cause, and it’s usually a fun event, he said.

“It’s one of the ways that we help to share in the faith community and the larger civic community,” Deacon Lester said.

“The bell ringing gives us an opportunity to put a public face on our faith and our belief that, little by little, we can change the face of the earth. It also allows us to experience the cold, the rain and the snow, and realize how fortunate we are to have warm homes, warm clothes and warm hearts,” St. Mary’s pastor, Father Thomas Mull, noted in a Dec. 12 bulletin column.

The Canandaigua branch of the Salvation Army uses most of the proceeds from the Red Kettle Campaign to fund Christmas gifts and food baskets for the area’s needy, according to Donna Ginter, one of the branch’s captains. Each basket contains the fixings for a Christmas meal, as well as peanut butter, jelly, macaroni and cheese, milk, bread and spaghetti, she said. About 185 families received baskets this year, up from 140 families last year, Ginter said.

Campaign proceeds also are used to fund an emergency food pantry, vouchers for thrift stores and some of the branch’s other programs, including a six-week summer program for children, Ginter said.

This year, the volunteers from St. Mary’s took turns manning eight stations in front of stores around Canandaigua from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parishioners Scott and Lynn Gillmor and their three children stood outside T.J. Maxx for an hour, ringing the Salvation Army bell and a set of old sleigh bells that belonged to Scott’s grandparents. Scott thinks the kids — Kyle, 16; Justin, 13; and Kaitlyn, 11 — enjoyed the experience as much as he and Lynn did.

“It’s for a good cause, and it gives us something to do together,” said Scott. “Some people aren’t as fortunate as others, and an hour is not a lot of time to take out of your schedule.”

This is the third year the Gillmor family has volunteered for this event, and it’s become an annual tradition, Scott said. He added that it’s important for his children to see the importance their parents place on volunteering, since children learn from example.

Fellow parishioners Donna Patrick and her husband, Harry, also were volunteering for the third time with the parish and Salvation Army.

“We like to support the Salvation Army and what they do,” Donna said. While ringing her bell and greeting the people who walk into the stores behind her, Donna has found that “if you just extend a little bit of courtesy and a little bit of friendship, people are very generous.”

Donna and Harry enjoy both the annual experience and the knowledge that they’re helping those in need.

“There are a lot of people that need the help, and with the various services from the government being cut in one form or another, the agencies that are helping people need assistance,” Harry said.

The Canandaigua branch of the Salvation Army is one such organizations, according to Ginter. This year, for the first time ever, the branch had to pay several bell ringers in order to cover all of its stations, she said. About 80 percent of the bell ringers — or about 1,000 — were volunteers, she added.

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