Ambassador for Santa: ring those Salvation Army bells

The secret to being a good volunteer at one of the Salvation Army’s Christmas kettles is to keep ringing the bells that are supplied to you.

The secret to being a good volunteer at one of the Salvation Army’s Christmas kettles is to keep ringing the bells that are supplied to you.

That’s a lesson I quickly learned during a two-hour shift at one of the kettles set up in front of Duncan’s Walmart store last week.

I discovered that the ringing bells catch the attention of shoppers passing by because they bring back their past memories of Christmas, and once you’ve caught their attention and flash them a pleasant smile, most feel compelled to slip a few bucks into the kettle.

The two hours went by rather swiftly, with people stopping by to thank me for volunteering to help the poor, offering advice on how to stay warm while standing in one place, and some even brought me coffee.

Amanda Brown, along with her three children, came directly to my kettle after parking their car.

She said she makes it a point every Christmas to give something to the kettle campaign.

“The Salvation Army does great work in the Valley and around the world, and I’m more than happy to give a little to help them help other people,” she said as the kids dropped money into the kettle.

I couldn’t help but notice how very attentive and friendly most youngsters were to me as I stood there with a Santa hat on.

I’m not usually very good with kids and, for whatever reasons, they tend to shy away no matter how hard I try to make them like me.

But, I figure, I became an ambassador of Santa Claus to them while at my station and I saw many of them tugging on their parents jackets looking for money before they ran up with great big grins on their faces to put the coins and bills in the kettle.

I believe they looked at me with big round eyes in the hope that I would be taking note of their good deed to bring back to Santa so it will be weighed against any incidents from the past year that could put them on Santa’s naughty list.

The Christmas kettle campaign is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Salvation Army branches on Vancouver Island.

This year’s goal for the Salvation Army branch in the Cowichan Valley is to raise $80,000 that will help pay for approximately 600 Christmas hampers and toys for the needy in the region, with the rest going toward the Salvation Army’s family services programs in the Valley that run all year.

Out of the 700 two-hour shifts that needed to be filled by volunteers at the seven kettle locations in the Valley this year in the days leading up to Christmas, just 150 are left to be filled, with most of those occurring in the last two weeks.

The locations this year are the Thrifty Foods stores in Duncan and Mill Bay, and Duncan’s Superstore, Save-On-Foods, London Drugs, Canadian Tire and Walmart.

Don Bazinet, the kettle coordinator for the Valley, encourages people to get involved in the campaign this year and volunteer to take on at least one of the remaining two-hour shifts.

Anyone interested can call him at 250-732-8988.

It’s a lot of fun, and you come away from it feeling good to have selflessly helped such a worthwhile cause at Christmas time.