Cloquet Salvation Army volunteers will begin ringing their bells Saturday, Nov. 17, but the charity organization is still looking for more bell ringers to sign up for volunteer shifts throughout the holiday fundraising season.
"That is our biggest fundraiser of the year," said David Westerberg, a social worker with the Salvation Army. "That's where we get a lot of money, and it stays in the community."
The fundraising kettles and bell ringers will be stationed outside three stores in Cloquet: Walmart Grocery and Pharmacy, L&M Fleet Supply and Super One. Volunteers will ring every day but Sundays and Thanksgiving until Dec. 22.
Westerberg estimates the kettle fundraiser raises between $60,000 and $80,000 each year. That's money that helps run the food shelf and all of the organization's emergency assistant programs, which include rental and electricity assistance, as well as helping people get back to work.
Another Salvation Army holiday program focuses exclusively on giving to kids. The "Adopt-a-Child" program pairs each child with a volunteer who finds a gift based on the anonymous information the child provides: age, gender and interests. The deadline for children to sign up is Friday, Nov. 16.
Last year, every child that signed up for the program was adopted, Westerberg said. That meant 500 children got a gift from a generous donor during the holidays.
"It's completely community-driven," Westerberg said. "All of the gifts come from members of the community, either organizations or families. We have families who have children that have gotten older and instead of buying presents for them they will buy presents for these children."
But it's not just monetary assistance the Salvation Army provides, Westerberg said. He often works with people looking for guidance - sometimes after losing a job - and refers these clients to programs they may not know about.
Last year, Westerberg said the Salvation Army helped a little more than 700 families in Carlton County, as well as southern St. Louis County, mostly through the food shelf. Almost 250 families are served through emergency assistant programs.
Parents who want to sign their children up for the "Adopt-a-Child" should bring a proof of a photo ID, proof of income and the child's medical insurance card or birth certificate sometime Thursday, Nov. 15, from 9-11:30 a.m. or Friday, Nov. 16, from 1-4 p.m. to the food shelf. The Salvation Army Cloquet Food Shelf is located at 316 Carlton Ave.
To sign up for bell ringing, call the Salvation Army at 218-879-1693 or visit the Cloquet Salvation Army Facebook page and follow the link to sign up.
And, of course, Westerberg said the Salvation Army can always use more volunteers at the food shelf, especially with extended Monday hours beginning Dec. 3, when the food shelf will be open from 4-5:30 p.m.