The ringing of the bells outside of department stores and other places has been a sign that Christmas is just around the corner for 126 years.

In Seymour, the bell ringing began Friday outside Walmart Supercenter, 1600 E. Tipton St. The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign will continue through Dec. 23.

On Tuesday city officials and employees spent one-hour shifts volunteering took their turn as bell ringers on what has become known as Government Day in recent years.

“Each year, the city has department heads, elected officials and families that volunteer to ring the bells outside Walmart to help out,” said Bill Everhart, director of the Seymour Department of Public Works.

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They took up station at each of the entrances to Walmart ringing bells and inviting people entering and exiting the store to donate by way of the red kettles.

Donations from the Red Kettle Campaign stay locally in Jackson County, assisting people pay for heating, rent, non-narcotic medications, utility bills, meals, hotel vouchers, winter clothes and holiday gifts for children through Human Services Inc. in Seymour.

In previous years, the campaign has raised more than $20,000 annually.

It takes about 600 people to keep the bells ringing throughout the month leading up to Christmas Day.

“There is a lot to do each year (as the kettle coordinator), but it’s worthwhile,” said Kendall Lambring, kettle coordinator for The Salvation Army who works for Human Services.

“It’s something we need in the community,” she said. “Without it, we wouldn’t reach our goals, and we’d be unable to help households and individuals.”

Locally, The Salvation Army is a Jackson County United Way partner agency that operates through the Human Services office in Seymour.

Lambring said funds collected by volunteers make an impact, fueling the programs that help those in need not just at Christmas but through the entire year.

Everhart said city employees ring bells as a way of helping The Salvation Army and its efforts to serve the community.

“There’s a lot of need both financially and material-wise to help those in need,” he said.

Gloria Cullison, administrative assistant to Mayor Craig Luedeman, set up the times for the ringers after talking with Lambring.

This is the second year for Lambring to register volunteers for the Red Kettle Campaign, and she said the campaign always needs more volunteers.

Individuals and groups interested in helping out this year may contact Lambring at 812-522-8718 between 1 and 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays or by visiting The Salvation Army’s website at registertoring.com.

Lambring said people should be prepared to take a two-hour shift when they volunteer between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. She takes care of setting up and putting away the kettles each day.

Everhart said he encourages people to help with the effort.

“They should give it a shot, and they can contact The Salvation Army to help out,” he said. “You just feel blessed afterwards knowing that you helped others.”

The Salvation Army’s first Red Kettle Campaign was conducted in 1891 in San Francisco when Capt. Joseph McFee decided to provide a free dinner for 1,000 of the city’s poorest on Christmas Day.

He placed an iron pot at Stage Landing where boats came in so people could toss in a coin or two to help the poor. A day later, he placed another iron pot at Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street for the same purpose.

Six years later, the idea had spread to the East Coast and resulted in 150,000 meals for the needy that year.

Today in the United States, The Salvation Army assists more than 4½ million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods.

At a glance

Individuals and groups interested in helping out with The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign in Jackson County may contact Kendall Lambring at 812-522-8718 between 1 and 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays or by visiting registertoring.com.

Bell ringers will be stationed outside Walmart Supercenter, 1600 E. Tipton St., Seymour, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Dec. 23.

Author photo
Aaron Piper is a photographer and reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at apiper@tribtown.com or 812-523-7057.