The Christmas season has officially begun for the bell-ringers of the Salvation Army. Led by Richard Brown, regional coordinator for the Salvation Army in Blaine County, the bell-ringers with their iconic red bells were stationed at their traditional spot outside of Atkinsons’ Market in Ketchum starting Friday, Nov. 22, and will be out every night raising money for local charities until Christmas Eve. There is also a stand-alone kettle without a volunteer at Starbucks/the Visitor’s Center in Ketchum.
Five years ago, Brown saw a need for the Salvation Army in Ketchum and took the steps to bring it to town. Brown had previously been chairman of the board for Salvation Army stores and a men’s facility in Houston before moving to Ketchum with his wife.
Each year, between 30 and 40 volunteers help bell-ring for the Salvation Army. Last year, the local organization brought in $25,000, $11,000 of which came from a grant and the other $14,000 from the month-long bell-ringing period.
“The kettle and the bell has a lot of brand recognition,” Brown said. “Even in big cities, 75 percent of the money raised during the year comes from the kettle/holiday period.”
The $11,000 grant came from local organization 100 Men Who Care, composed of 100 local men who meet quarterly to donate to local charities. Local charities and social services present to the men and the recipient of the grant is picked that night. Each man contributes $100 at each quarterly meeting.
Money raised between bell-ringing and grants is allocated to organizations, families and individuals in need throughout the year. Organizations might include the Senior Center, the St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation and local churches, while individuals and families in need are typically heard about through word of mouth.
“Recently, there’s been a housing crisis, and there are a lot of families that are struggling not to lose their apartments,” Brown said. “We can provide one-time rental assistance. In the last three to five months, we probably prevented five or six families from being evicted.”
The Salvation Army can help individuals and families in other ways, including chipping in on utilities and providing firewood, medicine, dental work and glasses. Donations typically range from $100 to $600, but each of those small donations makes a big impact.
“We seldom say no,” Brown said.
There is a vetting process to ensure that the need is legitimate. Brown also noted that money is not given directly to the person in need but rather to a vendor or landlord or on the Salvation Army’s account at Atkinsons’ for those in need of groceries.
“We’re small in regard to local charities, but we fill a niche,” Brown said.