Season for giving begins in Eagle County |

Season for giving begins in Eagle County

Connie Steiert
Eagle Correspondent
Kristin Anderson/Eagle Valley EnterpriseAnnika Sandberg a sophomore at Eagle Valley High School smiles as a donation is made to the Salvation Army during her time as a bell ringer Sunday at City Market in Eagle.

EAGLE ” To some, it’s the tune of earth-bound angels; to others, just another sound in the cacophony of their shopping day.

But to most, the ring of a Salvation Army bell heralds in the holiday season as surely as the robin heralds spring.

Why is that sound so prevalent over the holiday season? And who are those people who volunteer to stand out in weather conditions which would make even Santa’s elves shiver?

The Salvation Army’s jingling bells and signature red kettles are one of the most enduring symbols of the giving season, reminding us there are those less fortunate who would need a little bit of Christmas cheer.

Those store-side bell ringers are part of the largest annual fun-raising effort for the Vail Valley Salvation Army. Shaun Weisensel, a case worker with the local group, reports that last year bell ringers brought in $43,000 ” about half of the group’s annual donations. In comparison, the group’s other major fundraising efforts, the Christmas Concert and the Red Kettle Golf Tournament, bring in $16,000 and $35,000, respectively. The bell-ringing effort is critical to the local organization’s finances.

A 10 percent tithe is required to be sent to the Salvation Army’s Denver Headquarters. The remaining 90 percent of the funds goes directly to help those in need locally. None of the money is used for administrative costs.

Even in this affluent valley, there are many people in need.

“People feel we don’t have a lot of poor people here who are out of food or services. They (Salvation Army) are really one of the major pieces of the safety net here in the valley,” said volunteer bell ringer Diana Cecala of Edwards.

Weisensel reports that the local Salvation Army helped 678 families with essential needs in 2006. By the end of the third quarter of 2007, it had already helped 529 families.

Although the Salvation Army’s food baskets at Christmas and Thanksgiving, and the Christmas Adopt-a-Family program are the events most people are familiar with, the organization helps people in need all year round.

The group helps with everything from food to gas to car assistance for those who can’t afford to fix a broken down vehicle.

“Essential needs” can also include emergency assistance with rent for tenants facing eviction; or assistance with paying for utilities. The organization runs three food pantries in the Eagle Valley for people who need groceries.

Although the Salvation Army doesn’t help with medical costs, it will provide prescription assistance. And, it has a durable medical loan program where people can sign out crutches or wheelchairs after surgery, rather than paying rental fees. Recently, the group added dental assistance to the list of services and began working with the nonprofit Dental Van.

But it’s not just those down on their luck financially that the Salvation Army helps annually. Ever been stuck in a blizzard? When storms shut down Interstate 70 and people can’t make it home, it’s the Salvation Army that supplies warm blankets and free food to emergency shelters.

The local Salvation Army partners with other organizations in the valley to reach more clients with more needs.

For example, says Weisensel, if a client with a serious illness comes in, the Vail Valley Foundation may help with medical costs; and the Salvation Army could help that person play rent. Catholic Charities might be enlisted to help with utility costs.

The philosophy of the Vail Valley Salvation Army is succinctly stated in the signs posted on the red kettle at those bell-ringing stations: “Doing the most good.”

Last year, the following amounts were raised at Salvation Army bell ringing stations in the valley:

– Walmart, Avon $12,333

– City Market, Eagle $9,142

– Village Market, Edwards $6,984

– City Market, Avon $5,702

– City Market, Vail $4,331

– Safeway, Vail $3,014

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