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Bell Ringers ring in donations for the needy

Lieutenant Erin Smullen, age 23, is leading the bell ringers this year in the kettle fundraiser for the Salvation Army. Smullen has been with the Salvation Army her whole life, although she just recently became a minister in the Salvation Army. Matilda Brown. (click for larger version)
December 29, 2010
BERLIN – Every year, at countless storefronts around the U.S., Salvation Army Bell Ringers herald in donations to fund programs for the needy throughout the year. In Berlin, the leader of the effort this year is Lieutenant Erin Smullen, age 23.

The Kettle effort is the largest fundraiser the Salvation Army does throughout the whole year, although Smullen admits that this is her first year heading the effort and usually she just handles giving out toys.

The only way the Salvation Army can help people, Smullen says, since they are a non-profit, is if people donate. The funds raised during the holiday season go to the feeding program, kids programs, and sending kids to camp, as well as the operating budget for Salvation Army buildings.

Past donations have included rare coins, worth thousands of dollars, however this year, Smullen has not seen any in the area kettles. She said that the group does get many $100's and $20's in the kettles, although she added that no gift is insignificant and every donation helps out. Despite the economic woes many are facing, Smullen says that people are still giving what they can, even if they themselves are facing hardships.

As Christmas draws near, people tend to donate more than they do even earlier in December, which Smullen attributes to the giving attitude of the season. One of the bell ringers under Smullen, Jedadiah Delano, said that he has noticed people tend to give more in the mornings as well, perhaps because they feel sorry for the ringers who have to stand in the early morning cold. Delano adds that he himself has seen people donate "a hat trick of $100 bills (three at a time)" on several different occasions.

Although some of the bell ringers are salaried, there are volunteers. The Salvation Army partners with the Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club for their bell ringing efforts. Smullen added that Gorham High School students also helped this year to pack food bags and give out toys.

Smullen has been with the Salvation Army her whole life because both of her parents were Salvation Army ministers. Smullen herself has been a minister with the Salvation Army since July, however, she has been active in other areas with the group, such as the summer camp the organization runs, as well as Sunday school.

The summer camp program is based on income levels and if a family cannot afford the full cost, the Salvation Army will pay the rest.

Working with kids is what Smullen enjoys most about the Salvation Army and she expressed her wish to expand the current after-school program that the S.A. runs in Berlin, as well as expand the gym. She said that it's hard for children to understand why they need to give things up in times of economic trouble and she enjoys helping get children toys and other things so that they don't need to feel a large part of the burden that a depressed economy creates.

This year, Smullen said she has seen an increase in the number of people who utilize the services the Salvation Army offers, such as the food pantry and the clothing store. She feels that the increase is due to the level of unemployment in the area, especially the layoffs at the mill.

Smullen says that the Salvation Army is much like the regular army in that workers move where they are told, when they are told to. Although she is native to Pennsylvania, Smullen said that most workers tend to stay in a community for three to five years before they are transferred, and she said she would like to stay in Berlin for three to five years because "I love the community…the people are very friendly."

Smullen added that she would like to thank everyone who gives and has given, saying that the Salvation Army has not taken their gifts for granted and is putting them to good use.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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