Left to right: Terry Penner, Teri Meyers, Wynona Owens and Genita Kastning presenting a $1,000 check from the Salvation Army to the Seymour food pantry. The Salvation Army donated the same amount to each of the other food pantries in Webster County.

The need for help from the Salvation Army is expected to be up 155% this year, making iconic red kettle bell ringer volunteers even more important. The majority of the funds raised from the bell ringing stays in Webster county and is distributed through the Webster County Service Extension Unit.

“I started doing this just because I wanted to ring the bell,” said Webster County Service Extension Unit Administrator, Chris Parker. “I’ve always seen people ringing the bell and it looked so fun. We always need more volunteers and more help – it’s just a great thing to do to give back.”

85% of the funds raised at the Salvation Army buckets is used directly within Webster County. The remaining 15% is sent to St. Louis to be distributed for assistance statewide. 

“Due to COVID, we’re seeing a lot more need in the county and resources go pretty fast… so we’re trying to raise upwards of $20,000 this year,” Parker said. 

“Normally that’s not a problem because we have a lot of bell ringers and they allow us to put the kettles out at Walmart, Price Cutter and Orscheln’s. But this year, we’re not going to put a bucket at Orscheln’s – we’re not even going to try to man it.”

Parker said the decrease in numbers of volunteers has a lot to do with fears related to COVID-19 exposure, despite the safety guidelines the Salvation Army is following this year.

“A lot of our normal volunteers are older people who are deeply affected by COVID, so they’re afraid to ring even though we have social distancing guidelines – it has created a problem with volunteers,” she said.

According to Parker, the Salvation Army bell ringers will follow safety protocols this year to limit the spread of the coronavirus. They will provide masks and optional disposable gloves to ringers and have sanitizer available for those who need it. 

“I don’t think there’s much of a risk of transmission as long as we follow the protocols,” she said.

“Our volunteers are dedicated to helping their neighbors and overall just doing a good thing. One hour of their time can really, really help their community.”

With the waves of unemployment brought by COVID-19 this year, Parker said the Webster County Service Extension Unit is expecting a large number of applicants for rent and utilities this winter. Without the funds from the Salvation Army buckets, they will have a hard time meeting the needs of those within our community. 

“We do holiday food assistance, rental assistance, sometime’s we help with medication for people, water and electric bills, we are able to help a lot of people with these funds,” Parker explained.

“We believe that the need is going to be a lot greater this season and we’re going to have trouble getting volunteers because of everything that’s going on this year.”

The buckets will be out every Friday and Saturday, starting the Friday after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.

“You can volunteer for as little as one hour up to as many as you’d like to volunteer for,” Parker said. “You might even end up loving it – I do. I see everybody I ever knew and it’s a great opportunity to just slow down and visit with people from a distance.”

Those who wish to volunteer for the Salvation Army’s Marshfield bucket locations can contact secretary, Darcy Whitehurst at (417) 630-2173. Volunteers for Seymour locations can contact Terry Penner at (417) 425-9589 or Teri Myers at (417) 880-2314.

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