The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

December 5, 2012

Community lifted by bell-ringing volunteers

Staff Writer

TARBORO — “When you hear that little bell ringing, you know what it is,” said Libby Todd, volunteer coordinator for the Salvation Army’s bell ringing effort in Tarboro this Christmas season.

The sound of the ringing bell can be heard throughout the parking lot at the Wal-Mart in Tarboro. The bell is a reminder to shoppers to stop and drop some change in the bucket to help a community member in need.

“Every little bit helps,” Lt. Matt Trantham, Corps Officer for the Salvation Army of Edgecombe/ Nash Counties, reminds those passing by the kettles, even if it’s just a “pocket full of change.”

“It gives you that warm fuzzy feeling to know that you’re at least trying to help the community, because you never know when you might need it [help],” Todd said.

“You see people that look like, How are they going to pay for their groceries? And they put money in,” said Penny Hoard, who is working with Todd to head up the volunteer efforts. They have ringers stationed at both doors from 12 p.m. until 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We have 96 volunteers on our list for both doors,” Todd said. “A little over 40 of them are Keihin Carolina Systems Technologies (KCST) employees.”

Todd and Hoard’s volunteers are enthusiastic.

One of those volunteers is Jason Mirabito, a six-year employee of KCST who rang the bell Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s a way to give back more than just money. I can give some of my time. I feel like I can make more of an impact if I put forth action,” he said. “You can definitely tell everyone’s in a giving mood today,” he adding, holding up an almost-full bucket that had been empty 20 minutes earlier.

Gene Harrell of Scotland Neck dropped some money in the bucket as he passed.

“I don’t have a lot, but I have enough to share,” Harrell said. “The Lord has blessed me … When you give, you receive.”

Hoard described the volunteer bell ringers as “loyal to the community and wanting to do something to help others.” She said many of the bell ringers have been on the roster since she and Todd took over volunteer coordination three years ago and some call about going out to ring the bell before they even receive a call.

“We’ve had young people as young as 14 call to volunteer, and then we’ve had them with canes,” Todd said.  

The need is great for Salvation Army donations this holiday season, and kettle ringers are stepping up to meet those needs. The Golden K Kiwanis coordinates the volunteer efforts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and has a roster of 48 bell ringers. The Golden K is the only civic club that mans the kettles as part of a group effort.

“The fact that all of our kettle ringing efforts in Tarboro are volunteers is huge,” said Trantham. “We have outstanding bell ringers.”

The Salvation Army’s kettle goal for Edgecombe and Nash this Christmas season is $104,000. Currently, the organization has raised $31,510, which is $7,000 below last year’s intake at the same time. The bell ringers weren’t able to man the kettles at stores until Black Friday this year, said Trantham, but they are making up ground for time lost.

In addition to Wal-Mart, Piggly Wiggly is a bell-ringing location in Tarboro.

“Kenny Honeycutt [owner of Piggly Wiggly] has been very gracious to us in having his employees ring,” Trantham said.

Counter kettles are stationed at several other locations in Tarboro, including Rusty’s Gifts, On the Square Restaurant and Thorne Drug.

“The number of people who are needing assistance and find themselves financially burdened, that number continues to rise,” Trantham said. While the need for donations is rising, the difficulty of making donations is increasing, as well. Those who “really thought of others before they thought of themselves” are the ones who have kept the Salvation Army afloat through the years, Trantham said.

“They’re trusting us to do the most good to the most people in the most need,” Trantham said. “We have not had to turn anyone away who qualified for assistance. It’s been that way for years now.”

During their last fiscal year, the Salvation Army provided assistance to 5,582 individuals in Edgecombe and Nash Counties. The volunteer-run service organization needs between $14,000 and $17,000 per month to provide their services – operating a thrift store in Rocky Mount and Tarboro, providing used clothing and furniture to families who are victims of house fires, and offering rent/ utility assistance to those in need year round.

“Sometimes we are their last hope,” said Trantham, of the people in need who walk through the doors of the Salvation Army.

The bell ringers will be at Wal-Mart until 8 p.m. the Saturday before Christmas (Dec. 22).