By Joseph Hamrick
A ringing bell in one hand and armed to the teeth in smiles, the Salvation Army bell ringers have been out in full force this Christmas season during the annual Kettle Bell Campaign.
Even with seven fewer days of posting bell ringers around Hunt County, the Salvation Army was able to meet its goal of $60,000 this year.
According to Corps Administrator Sgt. Wes Trueblood, the hard work of the bell ringers made it possible.
“We did it. We all survived,” he said to his bell ringers before sending them out one last time on Christmas Eve. “Y’all came through and made it happen.”
Bell ringers could be found at any Walmart, Super 1, Brookshire’s, and many other grocery and department stores in Hunt County.
Most are looking for food, clothing or a place to stay. But most importantly, they look for work.
And for the 15 bell ringers employed for the past 22 days, that is what the Salvation Army provided them.
Trueblood said since they all showed up on time, were friendly and had a good work ethic, he will personally sign a recommendation letter they can hand to a business in Hunt County.
“I want them all gainfully employed and happy,” he said. “I sincerely hope that they go out from here and that they are so happy at your job, you’ll come in and say hello.”
Trueblood encouraged the ringers to come back in sometime during the next year and look at what the $60,000 raised has done to help the local Salvation Army.
“They’re great people, and I want to let them know I’m going to miss them,” he said.
Trueblood said the businesses where the bell ringers worked went out of their way to make the workers feel at home.
“They all went above and beyond,” he said, adding they provided the ringers with free coffee and allowed them to bring the kettles inside on the days it got really cold and windy. “On behalf of my bell ringers, I am extremely grateful.”
The bell ringers were not the only people who surprised Trueblood with their generosity this year. Countless people donated their time and money during the campaign.
Trueblood said there were multiple instances of people bringing jars of change and dumping it into the kettle bell, including an entire family, who when they heard the Salvation Army needed money, brought approximately $300 worth of change they had been saving a year for a vacation and donated it.
Trueblood listed other instances of people bringing trash bags full of change and children bringing their piggy banks and pouring their change into the kettle bells.
“We had a kid who walked into this building with his money he had been saving for a new iPod,” he said. “He came in and donated his entire savings to help others. I’ve cried more than once this Christmas season.”
Alongside the kettle bells, the Salvation Army also partnered with the Air Force Wing at L-3 Mission Integration to sponsor 1,500 angel trees in Hunt County.
“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Air Force at L-3,” he said. “We cannot thank them enough for what they did. It was a full team effort.”
Trueblood said since coming to Hunt County, he has been able to see the generosity of the residents when they see someone in need.
“The generosity of the people here in Hunt County continues to astound me,” he said.
Before he sent them out for the final time of 2013, Trueblood reminded them of the Salvation Army’s mission.
“We want to show people that Christ offers hope and love,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about; helping people.”