With bell-ringing season right around the corner, the Cortez branch of the Salvation Army is changing the way it serves the community.
At the annual bell-ringers meeting on Wednesday, Salvation Army leader Evie Russell announced that the group’s corporate office is asking them to move away from providing services that can be found at other local organizations. She said they will be looking for “out-of-the-box” and unmet needs in the community, and asked for ideas from the public.
In the meantime, though, the red kettle drive is expected to go forward as usual.
Russell said last year’s bell-ringers were very successful in raising money, especially the Cortez Fire Protection District, whose volunteers raised $3,000 in one day. Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Bittle, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said they plan to top that this year. Altogether, the Salvation Army raised more than $23,000 for their family services, and provided Christmas gifts to 148 children in Montezuma County through their other holiday projects.
“We’ve done really good for this area,” Russell said. “That’s probably the only reason we’re still here.”
She said the national Salvation Army often shuts down or doesn’t open chapters in small communities like Cortez, and her chapter has had to rely on their local thrift store, rather than state grants, for income several years in a row. One reason they’re often overlooked for funding is because they provide some services that are already covered by other organizations. In order to stay effective, Russell said they will need to “find (their) own niche” in terms of the projects they take on, and that might take some creativity.
Some of that may look like expanding the more unorthodox services the Salvation Army already provides, like helping people get identification, transporting them to job interviews or medical appointments and finding mechanics and other professionals willing to work with low-income families. But Russell also asked for other ideas from the community. Some attendees at the meeting threw out other ideas, like helping with an anti-bullying campaign or caring for homebound people’s pets during extended hospital or rehab stays. But Russell said she’ll continue to look for more ideas.
“I know that there’s a need in our community that we’re not addressing,” she said.
For now, though, the Salvation Army will focus on their bell-ringing fundraiser, which starts on Black Friday. Fran Ledford, who is helping to coordinate the bell-ringers, said she still needs a few volunteers, especially to cover Christmas Eve and the weekend after Thanksgiving. She and Russell also encouraged volunteers to bring their kids--and their child-like enthusiasm.
“If you’re moving, you’re staying warmer,” Ledford said, encouraging volunteers to go up and talk to people rather than just ringing their bells.
Bittle suggested a competition to liven things up for this year’s collection. The firefighters usually raise the most money, so he offered to host a special dinner at the fire station for any organization or team that can raise more money than they do this year.
Bell-ringers will be appearing for two-hour shifts outside Wal-Mart, Walgreens and City Market every weekend starting Nov. 25, and every day starting Dec. 17. But Ledford said volunteers don’t have to sign up for the full two hours, and accommodations will be made for those with physical disabilities.
The Salvation Army will also partner with the Piñon Project Family Resource Center, a Montezuma County non-profit, to deliver Christmas presents to low-income families this year.