The Salvation Army searching for volunteers, decades-long bell ringer shares his story

The Salvation Army needs your help.

Dropping what you can in their red kettles is appreciated, but it also needs people to volunteer to ring the bell at those kettles — around 40,000 hours of ringing.

“Every time one of our bells rings, it’s reminding folks that there are people in need that they may never meet in this lifetime,” Maj. Scott Shelbourne, general secretary with The Salvation Army’s Northern Division said.

“[People] can give to the Red Kettle [campaign] and help [others] get to a sustainable future,” Shelbourne added about donating during the holidays.

As The Salvation Army works to fill those hours, one long-time bell ringer is doing the work of many volunteers.

“It will be 200-something after the end of the season,” Steve Seltz said during one of his volunteering shifts about the number of hours he’ll volunteer this holiday season.

Seltz’ number will be 280 hours — that’s 8 hours a day, six days a week, for six weeks.

That’s not the only impressive number on Seltz’ Salvation Army resume — he’s been bell ringing for 30 years.

“A lot of regulars come in the same door,” Seltz said with a smile and chuckle at his favorite spot to ring the bell: Mall of America.

He started volunteering after a close friend received help at The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center in Minneapolis. For the last 20 years of volunteering, Seltz has had multiple sclerosis. He now bell rings in a wheelchair.

Seltz says anyone, with any ability, can volunteer.

Shelbourne says this year’s campaign is a bit behind pace for their goal. And in a sense, he says a successful Red Kettle campaign has never been more important.

According to The Salvation Army’s Northern Division, during parts of 2020, demand for their services increased 136% – nationally it reports that number was as high as 155%.

Like other organizations that rely on donations, there was uncertainty about how they were going to keep up with demand. That uncertainty was short-lived as Shelbourne says while others fell on hard times, many others stepped up and have continued to do so.

Total monetary donations for The Salvation Army Northern Division by fiscal year, which runs October to September:

  • 2017: $30,516,385.00
  • 2018: $30,398,523.00
  • 2019: $29,129,665.31
  • 2020: $34,531,870.43
  • 2021: $41,287,925.10

During the last fiscal year, The Salvation Army’s Northern Division brought in the most amount of money in five years at $41,287,925.10 — that’s $12 million than the fiscal year before the pandemic started.

“We live in a tremendous community,” Shelbourne said. “Even when we don’t get tangible dollars, we put the word out and businesses and individuals come to the rescue and help make sure that the Salvation Army can meet the needs of the community.”

It was also clear for those who could donate to the Red Kettle Campaign during the pandemic, did so.

Red Kettle campaign donations for The Salvation Army’s Northern Division:

  • 2019: $5,991,049
  • 2020: $6,1889,197

If you see a red kettle without a ringer, you can still donate by scanning a QR code and donating on your phone. You can also do so if there is a ringer, but you don’t have cash or change.

If you’d like to volunteer to bell ring, you can pick your time and location to do so here.