By John Butters, The JOURNAL
The Salvation Army?s Red Kettle campaign in Washington was a resounding success this Christmas season, according to committee organizers.
Jim Stiles, who helped coordinate shifts for the volunteer workforce, said the bell ringers brought in $18,406, an increase of $2,568 from last year.
?Some of the difference was in the number of weeks we worked. We rang for five weekends this year, compared to four weekends last year,? he said.
But, he said, the community?s generosity also helped fill the kettles.
?I remember when we thought $8,000 was a good year. Now we are able to raise $18,000. That says something wonderful about our community,? he said.
Stiles said the money raised in Washington is exclusively distributed to county residents. Those in need are referred to the pastor at First Baptist Church in Washington.
Stiles said he and his committee are very appreciative of the many volunteers who turn out each year to ring bells in the cold for the charity drive.
?This year, there were 14 churches and nine service clubs that volunteered to take an entire day. There were also Silver Cord clubs from the high school who participated,? he said. ?We also had 17 individuals who volunteered to take shifts.?
The cooperation and support he received when seeking volunteers was terrific, he said.
?When I called the churches and the service clubs for volunteers, not one turned me down,? he said.
In what Stiles calls a labor of love, 140 hours of bell ringing was needed to staff all five weekend shifts, at six Washington locations.
Stiles said he finds the work fulfilling and motivating.
?When I called the service organizations, none refused to help. When I called the churches, all volunteered without hesitation,? he said. ?That is inspiring.?
He also finds joy in his personal experiences as a bell ringer.
?One evening when I was putting everything away for the day, I heard a lady ask if she could contribute. Her son had passed away and then her mother passed away.
She said, ?I am healing. I want to do something for other people,?? he said.
On another heartwarming occasion a small boy asked him where the money would go. After Stiles explained the purpose of the Red Kettle and how the money was distributed to those in need, the little boy asked his mother if he could contribute.
Those touching experiences are likely what motivates Stiles and his committee to continue the good work they are doing in Washington.
But they can?t do it alone. They need the continued support of both volunteers and contributors.
?We are very grateful to the community and all those who gave. We couldn?t do this work without them,? he said.