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Bells are ringing — and the red kettles are filling up

Betty Caughey (left) placed money in the Salvation Army Red Kettle Friday while

The Brainerd Salvation Army’s familiar red kettles, heralded on Friday by the equally familiar ringing bells ushered in the beginning of organization’s Christmas season fundraiser — the Red Kettle campaign.

Capt. Scott Strissel and longtime Salvation Army volunteer Bill Lakin kicked off the bell-ringing shortly before noon Friday at the Brainerd Cub Foods store. Strissel said the bells serve as a reminder that the less fortunate among us could use help this holiday season.

“I think as soon as they hear the bells ... (residents are reminded) it’s that time of year,” Strissel said.

The number of people who need the Salvation Army’s services, the captain said, is up by about 45 percent. Those services include the food shelf, utility assistance, emergency housing and transportation, Angel Trees, the Christmas food drive and vouchers for essential items. Before the Salvation Army’s youth programs, the participants are often fed and Strissel said sometimes there can be as many as 60 kids who take advantage of the program.

“These funds help us throughout the year,” Strissel said. “It’s 90 percent of our budget. We count on those checks.”

Volunteers are being sought to ring bells at any of the eight Red Kettle locations. Strissel said all ages can ring bells for the Salvation Army. All the ringers are asked to do is to smile and engage the community and perhaps offer a friendly “hello.” Youth groups often make their members available for the charitable activity.

“It’s a great teaching opportunity,” Strissel said.

Groups or individuals who are interested in volunteering for bell-ringing may call the Salvation Army and ask for Linda or Deb at 829-1120.

Strissel, who moved here with his wife, Capt. Shanais Strissel, in July from the Detroit area, helped kick off the Red Kettle campaign in Brainerd. Nisswa Mayor Brian Lehman was scheduled to kick off the campaign at the Baxter Cub Foods on Friday.

Service clubs, businesses and individuals are all invited to ring bells at the Red Kettles, he said.

This year’s goal is $117,000. Last year’s goal of $110,000 was surpassed and a total of $114,930 was raised. In 2010, Salvation Army officials reported that 26 service clubs/organizations, 15 businesses, 14 churches, nine schools and 151 individuals rang bells at the kettles for 1,670 hours.

One volunteer who didn’t need any arm twisting was Lakin, a Salvation Army volunteer for the past 25 years. He and his wife were married at the Brainerd Salvation Army 35 years ago.

Lakin said he likes the army’s hands-on approach to helping those in need, noting the army’s philosophy of “Heart to God, Hand to Man.” The north Brainerd man works with the Salvation Army’s disaster team and recently traveled to Minot, N.D., to help flood victims. A disabled retiree, Lakin enjoys volunteering and worshipping at the Salvation Army.

“This is my way to serve people and serve God at the same time,” he said.

As he braved the cool temperatures on Friday, Strissel expressed optimism regarding the campaign’s outcome.

“We have a warm and welcoming community,” he said.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.