If you were in Monticello between Nov. 29 and Dec. 21, 2019, you likely encountered members of area churches volunteering to ring bells beside the kettle stands positioned outside of County Market and the train depot in downtown Monticello.

Piatt County’s Salvation Army Service Unit chair Mike Heiniger shared that “County Market’s willingness to host the kettles on Saturdays during the holiday season is a primary reason for the success of this campaign. Putting the bell ringers and kettles in a place with so much local traffic allows more members of the community to donate to this worthy cause.”

For the first time, kettle stands and bell ringers were also present at the Monticello Railway Museum during both Lunch with Santa and the Polar Express. Mike and Cheryl Brewer, volunteers from Crossroads Church, rang bells at the depot and shared that “it was a wonderful holiday atmosphere, complete with beautiful decorations and Christmas music piping from the overhead speakers. We enjoyed connecting with the children and giving them a chance to ring bells for the Salvation Army!” The local branch of the Salvation Army plans to continue to partner with the train depot during next year’s campaign.

Crossroads wasn’t the only church that participated in this year’s campaign. Open Hearts Foursquare Church, Lodge Church of God, St. Philomena, and Calvary Baptist all sent volunteers to ring bells during the holiday season. A Salvation Army kettle stand by itself does not garner much attention or donation, but, according to Heinger, “the same kettle stand adorned by individuals, couples, families and children at County Market in Monticello results in donations approaching $60/ hour on average. So when we say that volunteers make all the difference, we are not exaggerating! This year, Monticello churches and individuals helped to man close to 80 hours of bell ringing! We had individuals ringing along with Christmas carols, local teachers braving rain and chill, daddy-daughter duos with Christmas music kicking out of a Bluetooth speaker, and a young man with a trombone out with his family helping to move the hearts of County Market shoppers to generosity. We literally couldn’t do it without these caring volunteers.”

In addition to the bell ringers, counter top kettles were hosted by area businesses, including Subway, The Red Wheel, The Brown Bag, Las Maria’s, Monical’s, Maxwell’s Discount Store, Casa Real and Bespoke Gift Company. The Holiday Hoopla also hosted a counter top kettle during the holiday basketball tournament. Community support and engagement made such a difference in the success of this fundraiser!

Almost $4,800 was raised during Piatt County’s 2019 Red Kettle campaign, and while some of that money will help support national Salvation Army initiatives, 80 percent, just over $3,800, will stay in Piatt County to help residents navigate short term emergencies, such as an illness or injury, job loss, accident, or an encounter with Domestic Violence.

The Salvation Army serves as a safety net for folks facing these challenges who need a little helping hand to get through the situation. The local service unit can help folks with car repairs, transportation, emergency housing, power bills, diapers, groceries and other expenses.

Heiniger shared that “during the past year, the Piatt County Service Unit offered financial support to 14 Piatt County families, in addition to contributing $1,500 to help Piatt County kids start the year off with the supplies they need to be successful in school. A Piatt County family who experienced an apartment fire in 2019 also received help getting back on their feet through the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services division.” That is a lot of good to come from our volunteer bell ringers and the generous members of our county!

The Piatt County Service Unit accepts referrals from Piatt County churches and organizations. If your church or organization is aware of a Piatt County resident facing a short term emergency, please contact Crossroads Church at GoMissions@ccwired.org and provide the following information:

Your Name/ Organization/ Contact Information

Name of Piatt county resident(s) in need/Contact Information

Description of Short Term Emergency or Disaster

Description of what is needed to help the resident(s)