Great Neighbors: Volunteers Keep Salvation Army Bells RingingDec 15th, 2011 | By Patty Fuller | Category: Safe, Sound and Savvy
By ringing bells and offering good cheer, Mother Lode volunteers each Christmas season inspire holiday shoppers to contribute thousands of dollars, a few coins or bills at a time, to The Salvation Army through its annual kettle drive.
The Salvation Army – an international organization providing services to those suffering from substance abuse and to others down on their luck – launched the Christmas-time fundraiser in the late 1800s in San Francisco. Locally, fundraising efforts are through the Sonora Service Extension Unit, led by Peggy DuTemple.
Nearly 200 volunteers, representing a dozen civic groups and more than five dozen families and individuals, each December spend a couple hours ringing bells alongside the unit’s bright-red donation kettles. Among standouts are Aronos Club members, whose role in the local kettle drive is itself a longstanding tradition.
“Aronos is distinctly amazing, mostly because of the age and dedication of the members,” DuTemple says. “I get more members from this club volunteering than any other.”
Aronos (that’s Sonora spelled backwards) began as a club for Sonora-area women almost 100 years ago. Beyond raising money for annual scholarships, Aronos is also a social group, with about 35 members, all in their late 50s and above. As active member and past president Caroline Lundberg says brightly, “It’s the old ladies club!”
Nearly half of the entire group, including centenarian Camille “Mickey” Nichols, are ringing bells this Christmas season. From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, volunteer bell ringers will be posted at The Junction Shopping Center, Wal-Mart, and in front of the Banyan Tree in downtown Sonora, during midday hours Thursday through Sunday. And regardless of the weather, Aronos Club members pair up for two-hour stints, encouraging shoppers’ contributions.
The club’s members say Christmas wouldn’t be the same without their fundraising outings.
“It’s fun. And last year, even with the economy so bad, people put in more $5 bills than I’ve ever seen before,” notes Dorothy Gilles.
“It just gives you a good feeling,” Melissa Schultz says.
“And cold feet,” Gilles adds with a laugh.
Last year’s kettle drive raised $14,000 – 90 percent of which was used locally to help various causes, including a Sonora women’s shelter, area food banks, buying sleeping bags for the homeless, and sending children to a Salvation Army summer camp.
Adds Aronos member Lila Silberman, “We just enjoy doing it, and it’s for a good cause.”
To volunteer as a bell ringer, contact Peggy DuTemple at (209) 768-1846.
© 2011 Friends and Neighbors Magazine