Salvation Army bell-ringing drive brings record donations for Family Resource Center in Oxford

OXFORD — A record in total donations will assist the Family Resource Center with their work this year as a result of the local Salvation Army bell-ringing effort over the holidays with a boost from an online giving option.

Kiwanis Club members again headed up the annual drive, which saw an expanded planning period dating to last August, and more than 100 adults and children volunteering their time to ring the bells in front of the Oxford Kroger store over a 16-day period between November 26 and Christmas Eve.

The 2021 effort brought in total donations of $12,019.19, of which the FRC received $10,817.27 with the rest going to the Salvation Army for their work.

Kiwanis Community Services Committee chair Dave Belka praised the efforts of local residents making donations in a year when lower-than-usual totals were anticipated.

“The generosity of the residents in the greater Oxford area is outstanding. The Salvation Army predicted that this year would be one of its lowest years in total contributions. That did not happen in Oxford,” Belka said. “A new option for donating online began this year. Of course, the red kettle tradition is a mainstay for this annual project.”

In his report to Kiwanis, Belka noted that planning began earlier than usual in order to deal with uncertain circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The planning committee included Belka, along with Rick Selcer and Jack Tills led the effort with Brad Cotterman, Don Hanson, Jim Kehr and John Moul serving as Day Leaders in charge of setting-up and tearing down each day. The planning committee volunteered a total of 132 hours for organizing and implementing for the 2021 Bell Ringing in addition to ringing bells a total of seven times. Day Leaders responsibilities were a combined total of 15 hours in addition to ringing the bells seven times.

The Builders’ Club and National Junior Honor Society from Talawanda Middle School volunteered and rang bells and sang for 13 hour-long time slots and it was also noted that 43 adults volunteered two or more times to ring bells. The NJHS and Builders Club provided 2-10 youth who rang and sang for the entire time.

The seasonal effort kept a tradition for Richard and Mickey Bement who started and ended the effort with the first hour of the Bell Ringing season and also the last hour of the project on Christmas Eve as they have for the last 19 years.

Belka reported volunteers had some interesting stories to tell after their shifts including Mary Sue Houk, who was challenged by a man who told her, “If you sing Jingle Bells, I will donate $100.” She sang Jingle Bells and the man dropped a $100 bill in the kettle and then went into Krogers.

A woman wanted bell ringer Ginny Layton to watch as she slowly donated $5 and then told her, “If it hadn’t been for the Salvation Army, I would not have had any Christmas gifts when I was a young girl.”

In 2020, Marty Creech was asked to substitute for friend who could not do the time slot that person signed for. Creech rang bells again in 2021 and responded, “So now, I’m all in.”

This was the first year for Heide Schran for her and her son, who played the cello on Christmas Eve as she rang bells. She later said, “I would be so delighted to make this be one of my holiday traditions. It was such a gift for us.”

Five Kiwanians and two friends of Kiwanis provided emergency help as six volunteers were unable to show for their scheduled time, Belka said. All of these open slots were covered in less than ten minutes of the scheduled time and loss of donations was avoided.

“The number of volunteer hours totaled 398 hours with 265 of these hours provided by Kiwanians,” Belka said. “The per volunteer hour of donations, total donations divided by number of total volunteer hours, was an amazing $29.95.”

He gave thanks to Krogers and Manager Lauren White for support of the bell ringing project, as well as LCNB bank which provided free use of change counter and check writing for the counted amounts, First Financial Bank which provided free depositing and handling of donations, Kendra Fithen, the Salvation Army liaison, for communication and guidance, and The Family Resource Center for volunteerism and support.

“The results of 2021 were extremely successful money-wise. Many volunteers stated that this experience was also very satisfying for them,” Belka said. “The entire bell ringing went smoothly with only slight tinkering with procedures needed for 2022.”

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