The Salvation Army and its team of volunteers are out in force, jingling and ringing away.
As of now, the organization is falling short of the volunteers needed to staff each Ellis County location. But for one local family, serving as a Salvation Army bell ringer has become a holiday tradition.
Allison Alford and her daughter, Miranda, have lived in Midlothian for about 20 years on and off. They have spent the last four holiday seasons as bell ringers. Allison first noticed some bell ringers during the holidays and immediately wanted to become involved.
“I think it’s very important because I’m trying to teach her [Miranda] to give back to others. I try to instill the value of helping others that are less fortunate all the time, but especially at Christmas. We are fortunate and there are some people who just need help,” Allison said.
Over the years, Allison and Miranda have been known to go all out when setting up their bell ringing station. They dress up in extravagant costumes, wearing crazy hats and holiday-themed attire. Passersby can expect to hear Christmas music playing and candy canes are often handed out to children.
They said their favorite location to ring is at Walmart, “on the HomeGoods side,” Miranda emphasized. While ringing for donations and spreading holiday cheer, they see friends and familiar faces, hoping to inspire those to bell ring and give back.
Allison said this has become more of a tradition in her family.
“It seems like everyone during the holidays gets into their own thing and I just like to take time out to help others. We have a really small family, we don’t have a lot of relatives. This is one [tradition] that I’d really like to keep up. And because like I said, it teaches the kids and it helps the community.”
Allison encourages fellow residents to join in on the bell ringing because, well, anyone can do it. It’s an inexpensive way to give back that doesn’t require a lot of effort or any qualifications or training.
After she completes a shift of bell ringing, Allison explains, “I feel gratified and happy that I’m able to help. It’s not like we can donate a lot of money or toys and so this is something that goes towards a really good cause."
Miranda added that her mother has set an example for her to look up to.
“I like how she’s teaching us to give back to others. It’s good to see that she’s doing it. It’s nice to see how she acts with the other kids. She’s friendly and always happy,” Miranda said.
Over the years, the tandem has racked up about 80 hours around the red kettle. Allison said after bell ringing for so long, she can tell when someone approaching wants to donate. She then added, “But it’s the weirdest thing because you can be completely wrong. The people who wouldn’t donate do.”
Allison wishes she could bell ring more often but works full-time at the Humane Society of North Texas in the equine department. Miranda is junior at Midlothian High School.
If interested in participating in the bell ringing experience, Salvation Army Officer Lieutenant Robert Coriston can give more information. He said they are in need of about 50 more volunteers or groups to do two or four-hour shifts.
This year’s bell ringing starts the week before Thanksgiving and runs through Dec. 23.
“We have 20 locations spread out around Ellis County that ring six days a week,” Coriston said. “As of now, we have 10 volunteer groups who each will take a full day. We have about 40 individual bell ringers, mostly volunteers. We're at each location for about 10 hours a day, so we still need many more volunteers.”
When it comes to volunteers, The Salvation Army is grateful for whoever can help. Anyone is welcomed to volunteer as individuals, groups of families, or even companies or churches. “Whether a person or groups rings once, five or six times, it is a big help,” Coriston said.
Money donated to the red kettles goes toward meeting the needs to fund The Salvation Army’s programs in the local community throughout the year.
Coriston said bell ringers get the satisfaction of knowing their time volunteering, “truly makes a difference in someone’s life. Giving back to those in need is the greatest gift of all.”
Through Coriston’s experience bell ringing, some of his favorite memories have been when people come up to donate that have been impacted by The Salvation Army in the past.
“Whether it's a WWII veteran who said The Salvation Army was there to provide coffee to someone who got sober in The Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation program, to someone who received clothing and shelter during their time of need. I love hearing how people's lives have been changed,” Coriston said.
Coriston encourages residents that if they see a kettle, to donate and for those in need to seek help from The Salvation Army.
Coriston can be reached at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org. If interested in bell ringing, email him with contact information and he’ll be in touch.