We have plunged down water slides, faced off with pitching machines and bounced through rooms of trampolines, all to share interesting and entertaining experiences in Mansfield for our Let’s Try It! series.
But last week, altruistic reporter Coleen Daniell and I put our hands out and solicited funds for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, hoping to raise money for those in need.
First, we got some tips from a professional - Lt. Patrick Jones, who is in charge of the Arlington and Mansfield area for the Salvation Army. Turns out, ringing the bell is the least of what successful bell ringers do. The sound of the bell carries across the parking lot to give shoppers heading into stores a reminder that a Red Kettle is stationed by the door.
But bell ringers who know their stuff do a lot more than jingle. They smile, they make eye contact and they say something to the people passing by, Jones told me. OK, we could do that. Not like any of those shoppers were going to whiz balls at my head or toss Coleen down a four-story water slide. How hard could it be?
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Mansfield school board trustee Raul Gonzalez agreed to let us work the red kettle he sponsored in front of Kroger on Matlock Road for two hours. (Thanks, Raul!) Salvation Army volunteer coordinator Bridget Lenhardt delivered our red kettle, a pair of aprons and two bells, plus Raul’s Salvation Army sign, so we were ready to go. The rest of the morning went something like this.
10 a.m.: Red kettle set up, aprons on and bells in hand
10:02 a.m.: Take selfies with our cell phones to let everyone know to come donate. Coleen starts Christmas music on her iPod with attached speaker.
10:03 a.m.: First donation! 40 cents! Woohoo! We dance.
10:06 a.m.: Lug nut inside my bell goes flying across the Kroger parking lot.
10:08 a.m.: Coleen fixes bell, takes bell away from me and hands me her much smaller bell.
10:09 a.m.: Lug nut drops out of Coleen’s bell. I smile.
10:14 a.m.: Coleen digs emergency blue gift-wrapping ribbon out of her car and fixes bell again. Bell is now noisy and colorful.
10:16 a.m.: Friends drive by and laugh at us. They do not stop and donate.
10:17 a.m.: We dance and ring bells in sync with Christmas music.
10:22 a.m.: We discover that we can ring bells with either hand - ambidextrous bell ringing.
10:37 a.m.: It starts to sprinkle.
10:41 a.m.: It starts to rain. We move kettle and stand under overhang in front of Kroger’s front door.
10:48 a.m.: We notice Kroger has another smaller front door, and the other one is getting a lot more use than ours. Hmmm.
10:59 a.m.: Man wearing U.S. Army shirt drops money into our bucket. I point out that Navy is going to beat Army in football. Army man rushes our bucket. Coleen throws herself in front of bucket and tells me not to incite donors.
11:08 a.m.: We notice people walking around the back of columns in attempt to avoid us and our bucket. We lean around, smile and wave.
11:24 a.m.: Backs start hurting. No more dancing. No more music.
11:26 a.m.: I figure out that I can lean against column and continue to ring bell. Also that hanging your arm down and twitching hand with bell is just as effective and takes a lot less energy.
11:37 a.m.: We start to worry that we have only raised less than $10 in two hours. Wonder why we didn’t bring cash to stuff our bucket. Concerned that we will become known as the worst bell ringers in Salvation Army history.
11:56 a.m.: John arrives to relieve us. We frantically shake bells in attempt to summon donations that will keep us from humiliatingly low total. John looks at us sympathetically.
11:58 a.m.: We take off aprons, unhook our red kettle and leave, not nearly as confident as we were two hours before.
Lt. Jones called Monday morning to report how much money we had raised in our Red Kettle adventure. He said the average bell ringer manages to collect $24 per hour. Uh oh. So did we raise $24? I ask hopefully.
Nope, he said. In two hours, we raised $86.21, more than $43 per hour.
Coleen and I are stunned. Neither one of us earns that much in our regular jobs.
Hey, Army guy, sorry! And thanks for the donation!
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451
To volunteer for the Red Kettle Campaign, contact Salvation Army volunteer coordinator Bridget Lenhardt at 817-860-1836.