Clark County Today staff members ring the bell for Salvation Army

Organization is looking for more volunteers this December

It could be Christmas magic in that bell.

Or maybe it is not magic at all, but a reminder that there is more good in the world than bad.

Reporter Paul Valencia called it a special time, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army on Tuesday. Photo by Mike Schultz
Reporter Paul Valencia called it a special time, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army on Tuesday. Photo by Mike Schultz

Every year the Salvation Army sets up in front of stores, or busy walkways, places its kettles to collect money, and rings a bell. And every year, people give.

Those who ring the bell get a special point of view during the holiday season.

“You find out that the community is more generous than you thought. You see people put money in there you wouldn’t expect them to put in there,” said Joe Lennington, the volunteer coordinator for the Vancouver Corps of the Salvation Army. 

Clark County Today sponsored a six-hour shift at an east Vancouver location Tuesday. 

John Ley
John Ley

Reporter John Ley said he had an interesting conversation with one giver.

“He said, ‘I’m going through tough times but I know there are people going through tougher times, and I want to help,’” Ley recalled. 

Exactly as Lennington explained, a prime example of the generosity of Clark County.

I took the first two hours.

I watched as a father taught his young son the act of giving. He told him what the Salvation Army does, then handed his son a dollar or two to put into the kettle.

Many from an older generation did not just give money but also shared a story or two about how the Salvation Army helped them years ago. 

Now called the Red Kettle Campaign, the kettle made its debut in 1891 in San Francisco. Now, it is a global tradition. 

As my shift progressed Tuesday, I started giving an extra special twist, for a little louder chime, when someone donated. 

Two children saluted me. I was not in any military uniform. Just my normal attire, but with the volunteer apron on, to show that I was “official.” But those two salutes were special, their way of saying thank you.

The Salvation Army is looking for volunteers to ring the bell, with opportunities all over Southwest Washington up until Christman Eve. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Salvation Army is looking for volunteers to ring the bell, with opportunities all over Southwest Washington up until Christman Eve. Photo by Mike Schultz

Oh, yes, the thank yous. As a bell ringer, I said thank you to all who donated. And most responded with a thank you to me, just for being there.

A win-win.

You can be a bell ringer, as well. Lennington said the Salvation Army is in need of volunteers for the rest of the month. The pandemic has hurt the numbers this year.

“Many of our volunteers are older. They may be retired, and they want to do something for their community,” Lennington said. “But this year, they’ve been told they should stay home.”

A lot of service groups in schools are not in their normal routines. Lennington said one high school group usually takes up all of the volunteer hours in the evenings and weekends at one location. This year, none of those students were made available. 

To volunteer, call (360) 448-2146.

“We have bell-ringing opportunities all over,” Lennington said. 

And yes, companies that volunteer can put up a small sign close to the kettle to promote their business. 

The rules of a bell ringer are simple. Ring the bell. Never ask for donations. Just ring the bell. Smiles are great, too, although this year, one can only see a smile through the eyes. Masks are mandatory this year, naturally. 

Me, personally, I love to talk. So I tried to say hello to everybody. Oh, and always wave to a child. That was my rule, anyway. I complimented many people and their masks. I saw Mickey Santas on one mask, Frosty the Snowman on another. Lots of sports teams. A Star Wars mask. Plenty of U.S. flags, too. And one Canada flag. 

Clark County Today’s Heidi Wetzler took the next two hours, wearing a Santa hat.

Heidi Wetzler, Administrator

“I did enjoy being on the other side of the bell, and I’ll do it again,” she said.

Wetzler appreciated the brief conversations she had with those who gave.

“Don’t be afraid to say hi to your bell ringer,” she said.

Ley took the last two hours. A few years back, he had a friend who was a bell ringer, and Ley helped that friend for about 30 minutes. That friend recently passed away, so Ley was ringing the bell Tuesday in his memory.

“I was delighted to contribute to a worthy cause,” Ley said.

In fact, the Vancouver Corps of the Salvation Army provides for what amounts to be a small city, Lennington said.

Last month, the Salvation Army provided food boxes for about 2,000 families, roughly 7,0000 people. The organization also helps pay rent and utilities. The money raised in Clark County stays in Clark County, too. 

Oh, and for those who don’t want to go out to ring a bell, there is a virtual bell to ring. Folks can sign up to host a virtual event, put it on video, and send to friends. Go to:


About The Author

Paul Valencia joins after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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