EATON — Many do not realize the Salvation Army bell ringers stationed in front of Walmart and Kroger are raising money specifically for Preble County. While in the past, a small portion of those funds raised benefited the county, now, 80 percent of funds raised stay in Preble County, according to officials.
By donating to the Preble County Salvation Army red kettle program, donors are helping Preble County Job and Family Services provide clients with items they need that can’t be covered by other programs.
In the past, bell ringers were coming from Indiana and Preble County was only receiving 10 percent of proceeds. Salvation Army Preble County Kettle Coordinator Judy Barth found out about this situation seven years ago and took control of the program.
Now that the red kettle program is organized by Job and Family Services, Preble County keeps 80 percent of all funds raised.
Barth utilizes school groups and other organizations, which helps increase Preble County’s profits. They also now accept Apple Pay or Google Pay, so cash is not a requirement to donate. In addition, anyone that mails checks into Salvation Army from Preble County can indicate “Preble County” in the memo line and the money is credited to the county.
As of Monday, Dec. 15, Barth had raised $8,200 through the red kettle program. Last year was a small donation year with only $11,000 donated, so she is hoping to increase that number this year. Bell ringers will be present in front of Walmart and Kroger until Dec. 24.
In addition to the physical bell ringers, there are also counter kettles at businesses including: Marathon gas station in New Paris, BP gas station in Camden, Skyline Chili, Eaton Place, Hot Head Burritos, and others.
Funds benefit Preble County Job and Family services. Those funds are used for expenses that don’t qualify other program. They pay for services, including: work boots, car repairs, uniforms, heating bills, and other items “out of the ordinary.”
“We get more funds [now] for the county to help our residents — 10 percent wasn’t a lot and 80 percent is a lot. We do help a lot of people to get those jobs where they can better themselves and get off of public assistance all together,” Barth said. “I like that we can help those that need a boost to get out on their own.”
Barth utilizes 13 individual bell ringers and different organizations and groups who volunteer their time to raise money for the county.
Chelley Rutherford has been a bell ringer for four years. She is one of the more active ringers, as she dresses up as several different Christmas characters. Over the season, she volunteers on average four times a week.
“I love what I do, because when I was a kid bell ringers were always dressed up for the holiday. You don’t hardly see that anymore, so when I started doing this I asked [Barth] if I could get crazy with it. I love it because the kids, when they see you dressed up, [love it]. The older people also stop, smile, and laugh. They like to see a tradition continued in a way that it used to be,” she said.
“When my kids were little I had to use Salvation Army one time to pay a heat bill. Because of doing that, I learned about bell ringing. I did it for a few years then. When I moved to Preble County, I [decided] to do it again. I will do it as long as my health allows.”
Jenny Eyer has been a bell ringer for seven years, but what sets her a part from other volunteers is that she’s 90 years old. She enjoys being a bell ringer, because she gets to see people she knows and interact with others.
“The people are so nice,” she said. “This program helps people year round with different things. If something happens, this helps people get settled again.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH