The ringing of bells can be heard in Waynesboro.
However, it’s not the reindeer’s sleigh bells people are hearing. Instead, it’s The Salvation Army’s bell-ringing volunteers bringing in the new season with the annual holiday red kettle drive at stores in Waynesboro and Stuarts Draft.
Melody Robinson, 16, of Waynesboro, spent her Saturday afternoon greeting customers at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on West Broad Street.
“I’m just glad it’s not too cold out,” she said with a smile.
A junior at Waynesboro High School, Robinson has been a bell ringer since her freshman year in high school.
“It’s a great way to give back to the community and help those in need,” said Robinson when asked why she volunteers with The Salvation Army.
Robinson spent her first two years at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Lucy Lane, which is where The Salvation Army of Waynesboro officially kicked off its Red Kettle Campaign on Saturday.
The good news for those too busy to donate during the hectic holiday season is The Salvation Army has made it easier by offering a cashless way to donate.
For the first time, The Salvation Army is offering shoppers a “bump and pay” option. The signature red kettles will soon feature QR signs that can be scanned with a smartphone to make an online donation.
“We’re humbled by the generosity of those who give to our red kettle, and we want to make it as easy as possible for them to support their local community,” said Lt. Colonel Ward Matthews, national spokesman for The Salvation Army, in a release.
Capt. Timothy Jo of The Waynesboro Salvation Army said the group will have to wait to see how the cashless option works this season, but noted it may help reach a younger generation.
Local bell ringers this year can be found in all weather at locations in Waynesboro at Kroger, Walmart, ABC, Big Lots and Food Lion and in Stuarts Draft at Food Lion. Volunteers try to staff locations from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but hours may depend on the amount of volunteers and requests.
“From last year’s experience, it is almost impossible to occupy all the locations that allow us,” Jo said. “The more volunteers the better.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for a bell ringing shift can sign up online at www.virginiasalvationarmy.org/waynesborovacorps.
Before the campaign ends on Dec. 24, The Salvation Army of Waynesboro is hoping to raise $80,000. The group had the same goal last year, but came up a few thousand dollars shy.
With Thanksgiving being so late this year, the red kettle drive lost almost two weeks, which will make raising $80,000 difficult.
“We will do the best we can,” Jo said. “That’s all we can do.”
Darrell Jones, 71, of Waynesboro, has been a bell-ringer at Kroger on Arch Avenue for almost three decades.
“The good Lord saved me and he saved me for a reason,” he said when asked why he volunteers as a bell ringer. “I get up every day and I know what the reason is. It’s to love others and make this spot of the world a better place.”
He’s hopeful, despite having less time to raise money than in previous years, that the community will help The Salvation Army reach its goal.
The Red Kettle Campaign accounts for about 30% of Waynesboro’s Salvation Army’s annual income. All money raised stays with the local chapter and aides in Salvation Army programs, events and community outreach.
Since money raised stays local, the Red Kettle Campaign has the ability to help the community, Jo said.
“The dollars that we raise can be assistance for a single mom or rent assistance for someone about to be pushed to homelessness,” he said. “This money is about survival and homeless prevention. This is the main support of our programs, but also that money could become feeding the homeless or even the money to send kids to summer camps.”