BELOIT - Attention bell ringers. The Salvation Army needs you more than ever.
Bell ringers are in short supply in Rock County, according to Patrice Gabower, volunteer and special events coordinator for Salvation Army of Rock County.
"We can't do what we do, providing services and support, without the support of those who will come out. If anyone wants to ring bells, please give us a call today and we will get you signed up," Gabower said.
Gabower said the county is at about 30 percent coverage for its bell ringing shifts, a bit behind where it was last year.
"We don't know if it has to do with the weather, but we know that we have time to make up ground," she said.
Gabower said the county began with 6,200 available hours, or 3,100 bell ringing shifts of 2-hours apiece available.
"Beloit has 24 percent coverage of all of its shifts, and Janesville is at 35 percent coverage," Gabower said.
To ring bells, individuals or groups can go to registertoring.com and put in a Beloit or Janesville zip code to get different shift options. Once the user gets a username and password, the volunteer can select shifts. Those who wish to ring can also call 608-757-8300 to sign up.
Bell ringing kicked off on Friday, Nov. 15 and will continue until Dec. 24 with the exception of Sundays and Thanksgiving. The goal is for the Beloit Salvation Army Corps to raise $128,000.
Gabower said volunteers are critical for bringing in funds.
"A kettle sitting empty won't bring in as much money as one with a bell ringer standing next to it," she said.
Volunteer Cindy Folts, who was manning the Piggly Wiggly kettle on Monday, agreed.
"You have to be here to get people to give," Folts said.
Folts, a 20-year Salvation Army volunteer, has several other shifts she has signed up for, including a stint with some friends. She said manning a red kettle is a great and easy way to help out during the Christmas season. There are certain locations, such as Piggly Wiggly, which are heated.
It's also a great idea for friends to do bell ringing together so they can chat as they ring or for families to do together with kids.
"We have to raise volunteers. They don't just happen," Folts said.
Folts said roughly about one in 20 people tend to give, in her experience. She said it's always a good time saying 'hello' and visiting with people.
"A manned bucket will get people to give," Folts said.
Gabower said all funds stay local, support food pantries and free community lunches at Beloit and Janesville. The Salvation Army also provides emergency housing vouchers, utility assistance, gas vouchers and a variety of other programming.
"We have fallen short in the last year or so, but we are optimistic the community will jump in and help us out this year," Gabower said.
Both Beloit and Janesville have an angel tree program, with Beloit working to getting its tags to local businesses to round up toys for kids. Toys will distributed on Dec. 18 and 19 along with Christmas food baskets.
For Thanksgiving the Beloit Corps offers a free Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 27 starting at 3:30 p.m. The Janesville Corps offers a free meal on Thanksgiving Day starting at 11 a.m. Between both locations, dinner will be served to more than 700 people.
"We've been busy collecting turkey donations and will be prepared for everyone on Thanksgiving. Our meals in Beloit and Janesville are put on by volunteers," Gabower said.