Roughly 20 years ago, a group of fellow worshippers at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren recruited Skip Eger to become a bell ringer for the Harrisonburg Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.
After retiring from a 42-year teaching career in Augusta County, the Bridgewater resident picked up the pace. The 74-year-old now volunteers about 20 times during the Christmas season.
“I want to do something for the community that’s important, and the Salvation Army is at the top of the list for what they do,” said Eger, who usually rings the bell outside Bridgewater Foods, the Dayton Market and the Walmart on John Wayland Highway. “They are a very worthy organization.”
However, Eger needs some help.
Salvation Army Capt. John Blevins said there’s a shortage of bell ringers in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County this year.
As of Friday, roughly 1,800 of the 3,000 one-hour shifts had been filled.
“The biggest problem right now is that our volunteer base is getting older, and they prefer indoor locations because it’s warmer,” Blevins said. “But the outdoor locations, like Walmart, are our largest donation spots. It’s tougher to get people to ring outside.”
Bell ringing began on Nov. 14 and continues through Christmas Eve.
He said it is important that the slots get filled so the Salvation Army can hit its goal of $185,000 this year.
“The money we raise at Christmas touches everything we do,” Blevins said.
He said a good chunk of the money raised goes to help the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter in Harrisonburg.
The shelter on Jefferson Street has roughly 40 beds available and offers dinner and breakfast.
For each hour there isn’t a volunteer ringing the bell, the Salvation Army must hire someone or leave the location unstaffed. Either way, Blevins said, it cuts into the amount raised each year.
“The more money we raise at Christmas,” he said, “the more we can do.”