Although traditional bell ringing by volunteers collecting money for the Salvation Army has begun, there's still a dire need for people to help.
"We really need bell ringers," said Pamela Lucas, Rolla service center manager for the Salvation Army. "If we had more people, we could be out more hours."
The schedule for bell ringers is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the Rolla Walmart store and the same hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Kroger and Country Mart in Rolla and Country Mart in St. James.
"We started on the day after Thanksgiving," Lucas said, but she acknowledged the schedule hasn't been filled for the two weeks since. "We haven't been open all the hours, because there aren't enough bell ringers. We haven't had enough people to ring."
Lucas hopes local people who want to add a new dimension to their Christmas celebration will consider volunteering to stand next to the red kettle, ring the bell and thank the giving folks who toss in change and folding money.
"It's a great thing for families to do," Lucas said. Helping to collect money for others is a good way to teach children the spirit of giving and sharing as they donate their own time and see others donating their money to help people in need.
Church young groups, S&T individual students and groups, local high school individual students and groups have volunteered, but there's room for more to sign up.
Lucas stressed volunteers do not have to be youthful.
"Any age is good," she said, as is any walk of life. You can be a businessman, a local employee or a retiree, too.
Volunteers are asked to serve two hours at a time, but Lucas said, "You can break it up with a friend."
And you can volunteer for more than one day, as do some of the staunch supporters of the Salvation Army.
"Dr. (Van) Stoecker rings a lot," she said, giving an example. "He's out there several different times."
Signing up on the schedule is simple.
"They can call us here at the store. We can get them a time and place to ring," Lucas said. The number to call is 573-368-4919. The store, or Salvation Army Rolla Family Center, is at 102 E. Fourth St.
"Keep ringing that bell," Lucas said as a tip to volunteers. "If they see you with the kettle and bell, they'll know what to do."
The bellringing goal this year is $33,000, Lucas said.
There isn't a great deal of time left to make that goal. Ringing at Walmart ends when the store closes on Christmas Eve. Ringing and collecting will continue at both Country Mart stores and Kroger through New Year's Eve.
Page 2 of 3 - Lucas said Denny Labantschnig, owner of Denny Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, will serve as the spokesperson for the bellringing campaign. Labantschnig is a great supporter of the Salvation Army and other helpful organizations.
"He's always volunteering in helping with our pantries," she said. Through the Fill-a-Ford for the Holidays campaign, nearly 30 pantries in the area are well-stocked.
Thanks to the volunteerism of people like Labantschnig, Stoecker and all the others who help with the bellinging/kettle campaign, the Salvation Army is able to help hundreds of people in the area throughout the year.
"Last year, we helped over 3,000 people with everything from utility bills to rent, clothing and things from the store," Lucas said. "The money we raise is going to determine how much help we can offer."
Just last month, the Salvation Army gave out food baskets to feed hundreds of people for Thanksgiving Day.
"We helped over 479 people with food," she said.
There were many others who were helped by other agencies. For instance, the St. James Caring Center helped families in that community.
"Our list came from the school district," Lucas said. "St. James Caring Center got a list from their schools, too."
The Church of God at the corner of Fourth and Olive streets donated the space for the Salvation Army volunteers to put together the Thanksgiving baskets, or boxes.
Lucas said the cooperation of various agencies and churches is a key ingredient in the year-round mission to help people.
"We all work with GRACE," she said. That's the Greater Rolla Area Charitable Enterprise. "We do work together."
As examples, she noted that Dr. Phil Cox, pastor of Christ Community Church on Dillon Outer Road and the chaplain at Phelps County Regional Medical Center, helps the Salvation Army frequently. "His church donated funds to help with the baskets."
First Assembly of God is always willing to help, she said. "They're awesome."
First Baptist Church reaches out to the people in need in the community with a coat closet, while Salem Avenue Baptist church has an annual shoe giveaway.
"Fires, burnouts, things like that, we help with clothing," she said. "When there's a fire, Red Cross gives a voucher that comes out of our funds."
Lucas said the Salvation Army is always ready to help with clothing.
"We've helped people with clothing for jobs," Lucas said.
All of these individuals and organizations who help, and the many others too numerous to list here, are working to chip away at the need. Lucas said someone once asked Mother Teresa how she could continue to work, knowing how vast and overwhelming the need was.
Paraphasing the saint, Lucas said, "If we take care of what's right in front of us, it will spread."
Page 3 of 3 - What that means is this, Lucas said: "The most import thing we can do as Christians is to work together to fill the needs of Phelps County."