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Salvation Army bells ring throughout Johnson County ahead of Thanksgiving

BY STACEY MURRAY | NOVEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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While Christmas has not yet arrived, bells are ringing throughout Johnson County.

But they’re not Christmas bells — they’re Salvation Army bells.

The Salvation Army launched its Christmas campaign Nov. 9 at the Coral Ridge Mall, with spokesman Tim Dwight, a former Hawkeye and NFL football player, leading the campaign to earn $350,000 — a $50,000 jump over last year’s total.

Even in the current economic state, officials are confident they can meet this year’s goal.

“We have a really giving community,” said Lia Pontarelli, the director of development and communications for the Salvation Army.  “Despite us raising our goals, I think we’ll still be able to make it.”

Pontarelli’s peer, Lt. Larisha Richardson, who joined the Iowa City chapter in July, finds the Johnson County area generous and capable of the undertaking.

“I’ve seen nothing but amazement with the community and how it supports all organizations,” Richardson said.  “I definitely think it’s feasible.”

The $350,000 will account for half of the organization’s budget for the next year.  With the funds, the Salvation Army will provide dinner for those in need, free of charge and registration, along with youth programs in the area.

The ones driving the campaign are the ones ringing the bells often associated with holiday charity.
The bell ringers will work until Christmas Eve gathering donations at 20 locations in Johnson County.  Roughly 300 to 500 volunteers will lead the campaign, working in two-hour shifts to make the goal.

Other Salvation Army volunteers spend time packing and distributing donations.  Roughly 17 to 25 percent of those working on behalf of the organization volunteer their time.

Iowa City resident Hugh Laird braved the chilly weather to stand in front of the Walgreens, 2214 Muscatine Ave., to encourage donations for the cause.  It was his seventh time as a bell ringer for the organization. 

With the increase in natural disasters and overall need, Laird notes that Johnson County remains consistent with donations, focusing on the greater picture of recipients.

“If it affects one area, it affects a lot of people,” he said.

Laird’s insight leads directly to the Salvation Army’s goals, with the website’s main page stating, “We combat natural disasters with acts of God.”

With the current disaster following Hurricane Sandy, benefactors are able to donate online via PayPal to aid in the efforts.

The traditional givers still give their spare change to the red kettles around the county on wintery nights with bells ringing.

“I try to give every time I go to a store,” said Richard Klein, a Salvation Army supporter.  “It goes to a worthy cause — children.”


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