-WANDERING THROUGH LIFE-
By Sonja Reis
Ding a ding a ding!
It's that time of year again when the sight of red kettles and the sound of bells ringing become an expected, if not nostalgic, addition to any holiday shopping excursion.
For me, Black Friday morning was spent volunteering beside a red kettle at the Walmart in Moon. Unsure what to expect, I figured bringing my A-game and a smile to the task of raising money for the Coraopolis Service Unit of the Salvation Army would be enough.
Getting into the swing of things, I began keeping track of how many donations were made during my two-hour stint and how many times the bell hit the sidewalk. In case you're interested, there were about 36 individual donations and five bell drops (seven if you count mid-air saves).
As to the total amount collected? Unsure. Know that generosity was on full display.
Many times bills were folded up small or large amounts of change were poured in. There was at least one fifty and several twenties, tens and fives that made the kettle. Most donations were of the one-dollar variety.
The expectation for the day was an overly-packed parking lot and people too focused on saving a few bucks on a Black Friday deal to donate. Having forgotten that in-store Black Friday and overall holiday sales volume continue to drop from year to year as people enjoy “door-busting” from the comfort of their home computers, that wasn’t the case.
There was no side eye or comments from those Grinches who aren't in the Christmas spirit or those not approving of the tenants of the Salvation Army.
And the Walmart employees who chatted with me while on a break actually complained that it was “just another day at Walmart.” One sarcastically joked, “I asked to be on the schedule today so I could witness a few brawls over a sale item and saw none.”
For the most part, the shoppers were amiable and in those short two hours, I learned a lot about people just by observing. It seems those who had the least made the most effort to be of help. (I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover…)
There were a few exceptions to that impression, including:
A muscular man with intensely piercing blue eyes made a beeline for the red kettle.
He has several bills folded in his hand and as our eyes lock my wheels are rustily turning trying to place this individual. Ah, yes, Olympic Wrestler Kurt Angle. His generous donation (Did he leave, go to the ATM [or was it the MAC?], and return to make a donation?) was quickly made and he was back to his car to continue his day.
Much like the noted lack of workforce that is affecting businesses of all types, the Salvation Army is struggling to find volunteers to serve as bell ringers.
With no one to ring the bells, donations drop and the ability for a local unit to help is negatively affected.
Note that 90% of the funds collected by a service unit remain in that unit’s coverage area.
In the Coraopolis Unit’s case, those funds go to service people in the 15108, 15046 and 15225 ZIP Codes.
That other 10% is administered centrally to help cover “support functions” as well as programs such as Camp Allegheny, Project Bundle-Up and The Angel Tree.
Donations sent to the Coraopolis Salvation Army Service Unit’s mailing address c/o Coraopolis United Methodist Church, 1205 Ridge Ave., Coraopolis, PA 15108 are used locally, as well.
If you’ve decided you might want to ring a bell for a few hours, call them at (412) 397-8685, they’d love to have the help.
Other local units in need of support include:
• Pittsburgh (Westside) Worship & Service Center, 1821 Broadhead-Fording Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15205
• Feeding Families for Life, 700 N. Bell Avenue, Carnegie, PA 15106
• Chartiers Valley Service Center, 39 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106