Written by Edith Updike & Daniel Offner Wednesday, 25 December 2013 00:00
Perhaps no one symbol of the generous spirit of the season is more iconic than the bell ringers of the Salvation Army’s “Red Kettle” brigades. These hardy fundraisers brave winter’s chill outside grocery stores and shops, a reminder to holiday shoppers that charity may begin at home, but it doesn’t end there.
Each year, around Christmas time, members of the Farmingdale Breakfast Rotary Club, Lunch Club, Boyscouts Troop No. 261, and the Interact Club—a high school organization sponsored by the local Rotary—help raise money for the Salvation Army by signing up, in one hour intervals, to ring the bell outside the Stop and Shop on Motor Parkway.
“We each give a few hours every year,” said local Rotarian Bob Chapman.
Founded in 1928, members of the Farmingdale Rotary Club have been helping the Salvation Army for more than 50 years. For the past 20 some-odd years, Rotarian Mike Muchmore has continued to lead the charge for the local chapter’s Red Kettle drive.
“Helping those in need really puts more meaning into your Christmas,” Muchmore said. “You get more out of it then you put into it.”
According to Len Constantinopoli, director of the Farmingdale Rotary, the local chapter has had a fair amount of success fundraising for the Salvation Army over the years—raising as much as $6,500 in one year.
“The people of Farmingdale are very charitable,” Constantinopoli said. “This is such a wonderful neighborhood.”
Despite the club’s past success, Muchmore said that they could always use additional help.
“It gets harder every year,” Muchmore said. “We used to get a lot more folks... life is more complicated nowadays.”
The support of lively, engaged volunteers is critical to the success of the Red Kettle drive, and especially this year, with the Christmas season shortened by a late Thanksgiving holiday compounding larger economic pressures. Music and youth, experienced volunteers know, boost donations. “When you add music to a Kettle, the giving is enhanced exponentially,” explains Major Philip Wittenberg of the Salvation Army’s Hempstead Citadel Corps. “And if there are small children, it really warms people’s hearts.”
The wintry chill isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either, when you’re trying to raise money. “People have more sympathy when you’re standing in the cold,” says Bill Moseley, a Salvation Army advisory board member who has been working the Red Kettle—often with his
guitar, because it brings in “two to three times the donations”—for 25 years.
Although schools and civic organizations take the lead in providing volunteer bell-ringers to supplement the Salvation Army’s paid fundraisers, the organization easily accommodates solo volunteers as well.
“We get individuals that call and say ‘I want to teach my kids about service. Can we ring the bell for three hours at Roosevelt Field?’ and we always say ‘yes’,” explains Major Philip Wittenberg of the Salvation Army’s Hempstead Citadel Corps. “With lots of people it has almost become a tradition.”
“We do see quite a bit of volunteers from the North Shore,” Wittenberg adds.