The Salvation Army needs volunteers to ring the bells this year

The organization is $20,000 behind in donations
The Salvation Army needs volunteers to ring the bells this year

The Salvation Army of Dane County doesn’t have enough volunteers this holiday season, and the organization is asking for your help.

The organization says it doesn’t have enough volunteers to ring the bells at Dane County’s 72 red kettle locations, putting the Salvation Army about $20,000 behind from this time last year. The goal this year is $525,000.

Ward Harding, 87, rings his bell inside Woodman’s Grocery Store six days a week, totaling 38 hours a week.

“You see the good side of people,” Harding said. “They come in, and they make a donation. I get hugs sometimes, I get invitations to dinners and churches. And so I think it’s very constructive, and I’m a firm believer in it.”

The money raised through the campaign goes to Salvation Army’s many services, including the single women’s and emergency family shelters, the food pantry, the community center and seven housing programs.

Steve Heck, director of development for the Salvation Army, said Dane County is a giving and philanthropic community, so the problem isn’t that people aren’t willing to donate.

“Every time we have somebody fill a shift — they’re usually two-hour shifts — it’s about $100 that comes back to help provide and support the programs,” Heck said.

Only 28 percent of the two-hour bell-ringing shifts are filled at this time. Usually, by this time at least 40 percent of the shifts would be filled.

Heck said $100 goes a long way at the organization. It could feed a family a whole week’s worth of food from the food pantry or house three women for a night at the women’s shelter.

“Your two hours of time could help us put them in the shelter and have a warm safe place to sleep and a nice meal — one for breakfast and one for dinner — and will change their life,” Heck said.

Heck said anyone is welcome to volunteer. Most of the locations are inside. Plus, the next three Saturdays in December are “Match Days,” in which local philanthropic organizations will match the donations.

To sign up for shifts, go to