Decades of service, ringing the bell


Chuck Mulligan rings the bell for Salvation Army for 58th consecutive year

Chuck Mulligan is 85 years old and has no plans to stop volunteering. 

Ringing a bell for the Salvation Army is one of his passions.

On Friday, Mulligan made the bell ring again for the Red Kettle Campaign at the Grand Central Fred Meyer in Vancouver, and he greeted dozens and dozens of shoppers and donors.

This makes 58 consecutive years for Mulligan, who started helping out the Salvation Army in 1963, near where the old Penney’s store was located in downtown Vancouver.

“Things have changed,” Mulligan said.

Chuck Mulligan, a retiree from Vancouver, rings the bell for the Salvation Army on Friday. This is his 58th consecutive year as a volunteer for the program. Photo by Paul Valencia
Chuck Mulligan, a retiree from Vancouver, rings the bell for the Salvation Army on Friday. This is his 58th consecutive year as a volunteer for the program. Photo by Paul Valencia

Maybe a lot has changed around him, but during the Christmas season, Mulligan and his bell are constants for the Salvation Army.

“It’s just part of my Christmas tradition. I enjoy giving something back to the Salvation Army. I think they do a good job,” Mulligan said. “Just part of my MO, I guess.”

He is not ready to stop just yet.

“I told somebody I would retire when I got 75 years in,” Mulligan said, knowing that would make him 102. “I don’t think I’ll make it. I hope to make it to 60, at least … two more years.”

He said he appreciates all the appreciation he gets from folks who donate. They often thank him, even if he is just a volunteer. He said military veterans often comment how the Salvation Army was there for them, so it is their time to help out the Salvation Army.

He has had thousands of conversations over the years.

“I love being able to greet people,” Mulligan said.

“I try to be a good listener. I think that’s important.”

He also loves seeing young people get involved. He has watched parents lift up their children so they can put money in the kettle. It’s uplifting for Mulligan, too.

In fact, he would not be surprised if he has seen children put money in the kettle, and then 25, 30 years later, see those grown-ups help their own children put money into his kettle. 

The Red Kettle Campaign, as it is known now, made its debut in 1891 in San Francisco. Since then, it has grown into a global tradition.

Locally, the campaign has volunteers ringing the bell through Christmas Eve. All local donations stay local. And it is not too late to volunteer for this season. Questions? Call the Salvation Army at (360) 448-2146.

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