Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

Waseca, MN (507) 837-6767


A real pair of dingalings

For last week’s paper, I wrote a news piece about how the Waseca police and fire departments and the Waseca county sheriff’s office are entering into a “bell-ringing contest.” That is, each will take a two-hour time slot ringing the bell for Salvation Army donations in front of Waseca’s Walmart this Saturday. The agency which has the most money in its kettle at the end of its time will be awarded a traveling plaque to display, and brag about, for the upcoming year.
In addition to telling about the public safety agencies’ contest, the story mentioned how any group or individual can register online to ring the bell. The website–who could have guessed?--is registertoring.com.
Well, my friend Cindy Coy and I have a habit of asking each other, “Are you crazy?”
We ask each other this once a month as we’re deciding whether we’ll be able to take part in our usual monthly volunteer activity: We head down to the parking lot of the United Methodist Church in Albert Lea, where we help distribute food through a program called “Ruby’s Pantry.”
I’ve interviewed the founder of Ruby’s Pantry for a newspaper story. His organization receives donated foods from all sorts of large-scale suppliers, divides them out and sends them to “pop-up” pantries all over a five-state area.
Folks pay $25 for an “order,” then drive down a line where we volunteers set items into their cars. I jokingly call it a “food lottery,” because there’s no way to predict what you’ll get–but it will easily be much more than $25 worth of food.  Many of the items are donated because they’re nearing their expiration date, though, so they may need to be put into the freezer or eaten right away. For anyone who’s curious, you can give it a try this week, it’s always on the first Saturday of the month beginning around 8:45 a.m.  Many, many people arrive before 8 and line up in the middle school parking lot across the road from the United Methodist Church.
When I learned about “Register to Ring,” I called Cindy and asked her our usual question: “Are you crazy?” She assured me she is, and that’s how we found ourselves outside Walmart over the lunch hour on Black Friday ringing bells. During the 2.5 hours we were there, people put about $360 in the kettle.
What Cindy and I liked about our time that day was the people watching. We stood there, chatted, and observed the action as folks arrived, then left the store with their Black Friday treasures. 
We saw and greeted people we know, we said good morning (or afternoon) to nearly everyone.
We understood when people did not have “loose” cash–but we also noted a fair number of people who purposely acquired cash when they were in the store to put in the kettle.
More than once, we saw people across the parking lot take note of us and immediately begin reaching for money. One of our favorites was a woman who had probably five children with her. She pointed us out, then handed each child a few dollars to put in. Another time a vehicle came to a surprise stop next to us–a young girl hopped out, walked very deliberately to the kettle, and tucked some money inside.
I had learned from our local Salvation Army chair John Petersburg that nearly all the money which goes into “Waseca’s” kettle is kept for charitable purposes in Waseca County. Funds were used this past year for emergency fuel and heat, among other things, so I was able to answer some of the questions we heard.
Overall, it was definitely an adventure and Cindy and I are glad we did it. 
So, as you see, anyone–even retired English teachers–can “ring the bell” for the Salvation Army. Just search for “register to ring” and sign up.
Cindy and I recommend dressing warm and having a group of three or more. This IS Minnesota and December is upon us. If there are three of you, it will be easy to rotate bell ringers so they can take turns going inside the store to warm up. Cindy and I had a great time; we’re sure you will, too.


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