Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Ringing bells for charity & bonus holiday events December 8, 2017


RINGING BELLS for the Salvation Army stretches beyond simply accepting donations for a charity that does good in my community. It’s also an opportunity to bring joy to someone needing something as basic as a friendly greeting and a warm smile.

When I ring, I make eye contact with everyone approaching me. Not because I want to guilt anyone into giving. Rather, I want to welcome them with a smile, a good morning/afternoon and, most often, a Merry Christmas. That’s my nature, to be friendly. Whether an individual can, or chooses to, give, remains their personal choice. I understand the finances of the senior citizen who apologized for not giving, citing limited Social Security income and mounting medical bills. He didn’t have to explain. Those who can and want to give, will.


Randy and I rang bells together from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Saturday, December 2, took a half hour break and then returned to ring bells solo at two locations for another two hours. A lack of bell ringers led us to pull a double shift. Donations on December 2 totaled $3,965 in Rice County, surpassing the $2,500 match by an anonymous donor. Of that county-wide total, $2,620 was dropped into red kettles in Faribault.


For the first time ever in my seasons of ringing bells, I watched as a woman emptied the bulging contents of her coin purse into the red kettle. Her gift meant as much as that of a 40-something guy who dropped a few coins in the slot and remarked that every coin counts. He’s right. From the $20 donation to the $1 bills and pennies shoved in by children, every gift holds value to help someone in need.


Two girls give to the Red Kettle Campaign during a past holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I am grateful for the generosity in the Faribault community ($2,620 on December 2) and especially for those young parents who parcel coins and bills into the hands of their little ones. When one of those children asked to ring the bell on Saturday, I obliged. That sparked an idea. Maybe next year I will hand the bell to every kid who donates and offer them a chance to ring for a moment. And I’ll continue with my tradition of handing out candy kisses to youth.

I will continue also to greet those I meet with friendliness, even if some react with unkindness, something I experienced for the first time this year. The meanness won’t deter me. I am determined to keep a positive attitude, to do the best I can as a volunteer, as a human being, to extend kindness to those I greet while stationed at the red kettle. If my smile can brighten one person’s day, then I am grateful.

FYI: If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Kettle Campaign in Rice County, call (507) 334-0639 or email faribaultbellringer at gmail.com, northfieldbellringer at gmail.com or lonsdalebellringer at gmail.com, depending on location. You can also sign up online at this link: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f4dacab2faafd0-2017

Bell ringers are desperately needed as the local chapter strives to reach its goal of $50,000. As of Monday, donations totaled $10,478, according to Ed Little, co-chair of the local Red Kettle Campaign. Last Saturday in Rice County, an anonymous donor matched donations with a $2,500 gift. On December 15 and 16, an anonymous donor will once again match county donations, this time up to $5,000.


LOOKING FOR SOMETHING to do in Faribault this weekend?


Skaters from Shattuck-St. Mary’s Figure Skating Center of Excellence presented a Christmas Spectacular on Ice in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. They’ll skate this Saturday during the Campus Christmas Walk.


The Faribault Woolen Mill hosts a Holiday Open House from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday featuring gourmet goodies, give-aways, store specials and more. Bring a Toys for Tots donation and get a free gift.

Pop into the historic Farmer Seed and Nursery to view the many beautiful themed Christmas trees with ornaments available for purchase. The store opens at 8 a.m. Saturday, closes at 5 p.m.


In the Shumway Hall entry hall, carolers sing for Christmas Walk guests in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


On the east side of Faribault, Shattuck-St. Mary’s School opens its campus to the public for the annual Campus Christmas Walk. The Saturday event begins at noon with a free Figure Skating Holiday Show in the sports complex. Following that, from 1 – 3 p.m., enjoy hot chocolate and cookies and ornament making and cookie decorating in Morgan Refectory. Nearby, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at The Inn from 1 – 4 p.m. Stop at Shumway Hall between 1 – 3 p.m. for a sleigh ride. And then end your campus visit by taking in the half hour Holiday Concert in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd beginning at 3 p.m.


One of the many creches from the collection of Kathleen Putrah now on display at the Paradise.


Pop into the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault’s historic downtown from 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday to shop at the Winter Farmer’s Market for locally-grown/raised produce/meats, baked goods and more. Also check out the work of local artists available for purchase in the PCA gift shop during the Holly Days Sale. Don’t miss the display of creches in the art gallery. And in the evening, take in “Coconuts and Mistletoe,” a holiday play performed by the Paradise Community Theatre beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. In this comedy, Santa conspires with spies to save Christmas.

In between all those events, be sure to shop at the the many home-grown businesses in our community.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The Red Kettle Campaign: More than just ringing bells & collecting donations December 16, 2015

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Members of Trinity Lutheran Church rang bells at various Faribault locations on Saturday. Here Bud and Bev ring outside of Walmart.

Members of Trinity Lutheran Church rang Salvation Army bells at various Faribault locations on Saturday. Here Bud and Bev ring outside of Walmart.

DRESSED IN A KHAKI COAT and sporting a Vietnam veteran’s cap, he rolled up to the Faribault Walmart in his motorized cart Saturday morning. He stopped outside the entry, where my husband and I were ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

A man drops coins into the red kettle tended by Bud and Bev.

A man drops coins into the red kettle tended by Bud and Bev.

I thanked him for his service to our country. And then he pulled some change from his pocket, dropping the coins into my palm to place in the red kettle. He had a story to share, too. Back in the 1950s, growing up in northeast Minneapolis, he was helped by the Salvation Army.

Who knows when we may be in need of assistance?

Who knows when we may be in need of assistance?

This soldier’s story touched me, moved me nearly to tears. His wasn’t the only story I heard during our two-hour bell ringing shift. Another man, Tom, explained that he gives to the Red Kettle Campaign because the Salvation Army aided his niece in South Carolina. “It means something to me,” he said.

More giving...

More giving…

Mostly, I don’t know the reasons people give. I am simply thankful that they pause to stuff bills or drop coins into the kettle. For the first time since I began ringing bells several years ago, I watched a man pull up in his vehicle, park, donate and drive away. Likewise, a woman stopped, rolled down her car window and handed me $20. These two went out of their way to give to others.

I delighted in the many young parents who gave their children money to donate.

I delighted in the many young parents who gave their children money to donate.

What perhaps touches me most are the young families who donate. I watched as dads and moms hoisted preschoolers high enough to reach the kettle, patiently waiting as stubby fingers pushed coins into the slot or folded bills to fit therein. My husband and I thanked the kids with a kiss—a foil-wrapped chocolate kiss. And I thanked the parents for teaching their children to give.

Hub replaced my husband and I in ringing bells at Walmart's south entry.

Hub replaced my husband and I in ringing bells at Walmart’s south entry.

Ringing bells for two hours is about more than collecting donations for the Salvation Army. It’s about listening to stories. It’s about greeting shoppers with a smile and a warm welcome, whether they choose to give or not. It’s about encouraging philanthropy and thanking young parents and their children. It’s about thinking of others during the Christmas season. And that, perhaps, is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbing