• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Salvation Army bells begin ringing Friday

SALVATION ARMY bell ringer Stasha Hickey prepared to accept a donation from Marilyn Biles last December. The money donated in Woodford County stays here and helps people struggling with basic needs. (Photo by John McGary)

While many will be sleeping off the effects of that third helping of Thanksgiving turkey and mashed potatoes, Salvation Army bell ringers will be at their posts, raising money for needy Woodford County residents. The volunteers will begin ringing bells and accepting donations Friday morning at three Versailles locations: Kroger (two at the main door and one near the pharmacy), Save-A-Lot and Kmart. Until Christmas Eve, they'll do their unpaid work in two-hour shifts, Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Elise Wallace, co-chair of the Woodford County Salvation Army Service Unit, said all the money raised will go to local charities like the Food Pantry for Woodford County and the Woodford County Clothing Bank. Last year's Christmas Drive raised between $25,000 and $30,000, she said, and the money was spent throughout the year. Wallace said the Salvation Army's mailing list has between 300 and 400 names of people who could volunteer for the hundreds of shifts to be filled. "We need 25 ringers a day," Wallace said. With 27 days of ringing, that amounts to 675 ringers, though many volunteer for multiple shifts. "It's direct help for folks that need it. The Salvation Army is the first to be (involved) in any crisis . to meet basic needs for individuals," Wallace said. "We help folks with rent, with utilities, with food and clothing." Last year, two days before Christmas, The Sun interviewed 21-year-old bell ringer Stasha Hickey at her post inside the main entrance of Kroger - just a few feet away from where her 11-year-old neice, Miriam, was working. They wore red aprons and Santa hats and rang bells next to the familiar red Salvation Army bucket. At the pharmacy entrance, Stasha's mother, Stanene, was doing the same. It's a family tradition, Stasha said. "I just like to give back to the community. We do it every Christmas since I've lived here. We also help with the meals sometimes on Thanksgiving through the Salvation Army," Stasha said. Stasha said she'd begun ringing the bell six years ago, while this was the first year for Miriam, who said, no, she wouldn't rather have been on Facebook or playing a video game. "I like spending time outside the house," Miriam said. When asked whether any of her donors said something memorable while dropping change or bills inside her bucket, Miriam thought for a moment, then said, "One person said no one can resist giving the money over here." A few minutes later, Lela Mitchell, of Versailles, did just that. Asked why, she said simply, "To help other people." Fifteen yards away, by the interior exit door, Stasha spoke of the generosity she witnesses every time she rings the bell. "Lots of people are willing to give, even the people that you don't expect, sometimes. It's just really great to see them," Stasha said. "Most people who walk through here do give, and we're out here for a whole month, so they probably give more than once, so that's a really good feeling." If you'd like to learn more or sign up as a Salvation Army bell ringer, you can go to the group's Facebook page or call Wallace at 227-5242 or 873-7400.

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