Giving back to others can be as simple as ringing a bell.

The Salvation Army kicked off its annual monthlong Red Kettle Campaign on Black Friday with volunteers standing outside Walmart in Seymour collecting donations from shoppers.

On Monday, more than 20 city employees, including Mayor Craig Luedeman, were scheduled for hourlong shifts to ring the bells on what has become known as Government Day.

It wasn’t the prettiest or warmest of days, with sleet falling around noon, but seeing people of all ages give selflessly is enough to warm your heart, said Jeri Wells with Seymour Housing Authority.

Story continues below gallery

“This is one of the best ways to help our community,” Wells said.

That’s because all of the money raised by the Red Kettle Campaign in Jackson County stays in Jackson County, she added. It’s distributed through Human Services Inc. to local families and individuals in need throughout the county.

Donations help provide heating and other utility assistance, rent, medications, winter clothing, work boots, holiday meals and Christmas gifts for children.

Missy Woods, director of HSI, said the organization is about meeting people’s immediate needs. It also operates a food pantry to help feed the hungry.

Each year, the campaign raises more than $20,000 and has been ranked as one of the top Red Kettle fundraisers in the state, she added.

Some contributions consist of folded money, mainly dollar bills with a few larger denominations mixed in, and others are made up of change dug out from cars, pockets and the bottoms of purses.

The amount of individual donations isn’t what is important because, big or small, it all adds up to helping someone in need, Wells said.

Working with low-income households in the city, Wells said, she sees firsthand the impact the money makes through Human Services’ heating assistance program.

She also said the Red Kettle Campaign is a good way to get children involved in philanthropy, whether by allowing them to put money in the bucket or letting them volunteer to ring a bell.

“It’s a great opportunity to teach children the importance of sharing and giving,” she said.

After shopping with his grandpa Monday at Walmart, 4-year-old Bryson Mays of North Vernon asked for an extra dollar to put in the kettle.

“I hope it helps,” the little boy said.

Bernie Bryant with Seymour Department of Public Works said it always makes her smile when she sees children wanting to donate.

“One little girl’s mom had to lift her up to put the money in, and then we let her ring the bell,” Bryant said. “She was so happy. That’s how everyone should feel when they donate.”

Bryant and co-worker Karen Jones signed up to ring the bells together on Monday.

“I think it’s fun,” Bryant said. “You get to talk to people and spread Christmas cheer.”

The two even said they would sing and dance to keep people entertained.

“We might get more donations not to though,” Jones said with a laugh.

In the past, Bryant has helped organize volunteers to fill shifts, which run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday through Christmas Eve.

Many local churches, service organizations, sports teams, youth groups and even families and friends participate.

After a long absence, Linda Lawyer, former director of the local Human Services office, is again in charge of coordinating the volunteers.

She said she’s had good response from people wanting to sign up but has plenty of times available.

This year, Lawyer said there are some first-time ringers including U.S. Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., and his staff, who will be ringing the bells at Walmart later in the month.

“We’re exited to have them on board,” she said.

Today is #GivingTuesday, and Lawyer encouraged everyone to give a little or give a lot to help others. Donations to The Salvation Army also can be made through Jay C Food Store at the registers by purchasing a paper red kettle for $1. Donors can then sign their name on the kettles, which are being hung on the walls in the stores.

#GivingTuesday is a national day of giving started in 2012 and is conducted the Tuesday after Black Friday to increase donations to local charities and nonprofit organizations before Christmas.

Former Seymour resident Roxanna Maddux, who now lives in Bloomington, said giving to charity is important, especially at this time of year.

She said she tries to donate to the red kettles every time she goes by one.

“I always make sure I have some spare change in my pocket this time of year,” she said. “It gives me a great feeling to think I’m helping someone have a better holiday season.”

How to help

Anyone wanting to sign up to ring the bell for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign may call Linda Lawyer at 812-445-3269.

You can also donate online at onlineredkettle.org.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.