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February 25, 2020

1/23/2020 7:30:00 AM
Salvation Army's 2019 Red Kettle totals are in
Community meeting set for Jan. 24
Stephanie Kuski
River News Features Reporter

Another Salvation Army bell ringing season has come to an end and, although it had its challenges, organizers are grateful for the community's continuing support.

According 2019 kettle coordinator Kim Swisher, the Rhinelander Salvation Army raised $42,278.41 during the 2019 Red Kettle season and the Minocqua Salvation Army raised $28,704.27. These totals were last updated Jan. 7 and do not include online donations.

"Thanks to the community's generosity, last year (2018) the Rhinelander Salvation Army raised $52,089, exceeding our goal of $50,000, and made it possible to assist 404 individuals, children and families in the community," Swisher said. "This year (2019), we increased our goal to $55,000, as the need continues to grow. While we only raised $42,278.41 (as of Jan. 7), we are incredibly grateful for the community's support."

"The Minocqua Salvation Army raised $29,682.44 in 2018, making it possible to assist 187 individuals, children and families in our area," Swisher added. "I was ambitious this year, hoping to raise $40,000. This year, we raised $28,704.47."

The Red Kettle Campaign is an annual fundraiser that raises money to provide emergency assistance to local residents. That assistance may include financial support for housing, medical care and/or transportation needs.

The source of donations comes from the red kettles that are seen each year at local businesses beginning in November and continuing through the Christmas season, Swisher said. Donations are also mailed by individuals and local businesses.

Due to last year's shortened Christmas season, the red kettle totals in Rhinelander and Minocqua were lower than their goals.

"It's hard to say exactly why donations were down, but we do know that the bell ringing season was shorter this year," Swisher said. "In addition to losing a week and not ringing on Thanksgiving, we also know that people's time and money are in demand, and the holidays are a very busy time for everyone. Weather is always a factor, and the snowstorms around Thanksgiving impacted travel and we did see shift cancellations due to hazardous road conditions."

The Rhinelander Salvation Army relies on both volunteers and donations to continue providing emergency assistance to local families.

Long-time Salvation Army volunteer Tom Jerow came out for the 2019 bell ringing season despite the cold and snowy weather.

"To me, I receive way more than I give," Jerow said. "It puts me in the Christmas mood."

He said bell ringing is one way he is able to share his time and help his neighbors.

"Most of the Red Kettle money stays right here in our Rhinelander community and it helps our neighbors," he said.

Of every dollar donated to the Rhinelander Salvation Army, $0.86 stays right here in our community, Jerow noted.

"The other $0.14 goes to things like statewide efforts to support veterans and prevent veterans from being homeless, as well as emergency response," Jerow explained. "A couple of years ago there was some flooding in Northern Wisconsin and many of our neighboring communities needed some help and the Salvation Army was there for the emergency response. They helped provide food and shelter for people."

The Rhinelander Salvation Army partners with Rhinelander's ACES (Association of Churches for Emergency Support), an organization of community churches which helps distribute funds to local individuals in need.

"ACES is comprised of eight churches that have come together to work with the Rhinelander Salvation Army to create a unified effort to serve our community," Swisher explained.

Rhinelander ACES includes Calvary Baptist, First Congregational UCC, First United Methodist, Grace Foursquare, Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Nativity of Our Lord, North Country Vineyard Church and Trinity Lutheran.

"So they meet with people who are experiencing some kind of emergency in terms of housing, transportation or health care, and we provide one-time help to get people on their feet and help them out during an emergency situation," Jerow explained. "We try to be flexible in how those funds are distributed and it goes to a variety of things like rent assistance, help with a heating bill, or transportation is another big one."

"Our goal, primarily, is to keep people in their homes," Jerow added. "Rather than have them go to the shelter for housing, we try to keep them in their house by providing them with some emergency support."

Even something small like an unexpected car repair can put families over the top on their bills, Jerow noted.

ACES helps provide emergency one-time support in those instances.

"They'll help anybody that needs help," Jerow said. "It doesn't matter who you are, the Salvation Army doesn't discriminate."

Jerow said that every year he rings, he hears how local people are positively impacted by the efforts of the Rhinelander Salvation Army and ACES.

"I've heard the most incredible stories," Jerow said. "This year a gentleman in his eighties came up to me and he said he was living in an orphanage, which had to be 70 plus years ago, and the boiler went out. He said the Salvation Army showed up and bundled them up and they all spent the Christmas holidays in the homes of people, which was something he really appreciated. He was kind of thankful the boiler went out, because he had the chance to have a real Christmas in a real home."

He said another man told him a story about growing up on a farm with a family of 17 siblings. The man said his family was very poor, but one year there was a particularly bad harvest which devastated his family.

Again, the Salvation Army was there to help provide support, the man relayed.

"The Salvation Army came at Thanksgiving with food baskets and gifts for the kids and every year he rings because the Salvation Army helped his family when he was just a young kid," Jerow said.

"Everyone has their reasons for bell ringing and donating to the Salvation Army," Swisher added. "For some, it's about helping people in the community. For others, it's more personal. I've heard stories of how the Salvation Army helped folks in their time of need."

"I feel it's important to contribute to my community and help where I can," Swisher said. "As the saying goes, 'There but for the grace of God go I,' holds true for me, and reminds me to appreciate the blessings I have in my life."

Volunteers make up the lifeblood of this organization, and the Rhinelander Salvation Army is always recruiting new faces.

"We will always need more bell ringers," Jerow said.

The Minocqua Salvation Army lost its long time coordinator, Larry Callahan, who passed away last year, Swisher noted.

"Larry was a dedicated volunteer who worked tirelessly to recruit volunteers and coordinate efforts, and he is greatly missed," Swisher said. "He left big shoes to fill, but we're working to continue his efforts."

Swisher said Salvation Army volunteers, as well as the public, are invited to a community meeting scheduled for 12 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Minocqua Public Library.

"We're seeking input for enhancing bell ringing efforts in 2020 and hope to see an increase in volunteers and donations for the coming years," she said.

You may also still contribute online or send a donation to help the Rhinelander and/or Minocqua Salvation Army meet their 2019 Red Kettle goals.

Donations can be mailed to the Rhinelander Salvation Army at P.O. Box 1081, Rhinelander, WI 54501 and the Minocqua Salvation Army at P.O. Box 641, Minocqua, WI 54548.

The Rhinelander Salvation Army also has an online sign-up for bell ringing.

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