Recently, our parish priest “commissioned” another week’s worth of bell ringers for The Salvation Army. Our family adopted a kettle, and one star member of the congregation, Janet Trefry, helped organize a whole season’s worth of ringers. What an tremendous job.
The whole effort was a boost to Publix, which is known for being a generous company. It got free advertising. Not only did our priest mention, in church, the name of the Phillippi Landing Publix grocery store where fellow church members would man the kettle, he asked parishioners to go visit them and say hello. And visit we did. Furthermore, the different families who rang bells in shifts helped to build store traffic; after their shifts, they bought groceries.
The Church of the Redeemer got a boost; we had our name on the sign as having adopted the kettle.
And I think the Army got a boost. Friends who live near the store tell me that they have given more to The Salvation Army this year, because they go to church with or have been a kettle ringer, and they tend to stop by the Publix more than once a week.
For those who don’t know Lakeland, Florida-based Publix, the chain is arguably the best-run, most community minded major grocery chain in the nation. And they are very encouraging of all sorts of charitable groups setting up and selling items near their front doors, not just the Army. The reality is that when retailers do a favor for a local community group, the goodwill comes back to the retailer. Many retailers encourage The Salvation Army; Wal-Mart and Walgreen’s both encourage bell ringers.
But not all.
Thankfully, some shopping centers have rescinded bans on bell ringing. But this season there were apparently some Grinches who make the bell-ringers keep silent, including Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield, North Carolina. How annoying. Frankly, the bells these days are tiny. Even worse, there are some chains that are restricting The Salvation Army, including Giant, the D.C. area grocer. Snopes has a story on Target and the Salvation Army; they have company wide ban against most types of soliciting, and the Army falls under that ban.
Companies that do restrict the Army ought to reconsider. The Salvation Army does incredible work, not only providing for the practical needs of people, but providing for their spiritual needs, as well. It is a different kind of charity, as it takes on the most difficult kinds of situations, and provides relief, both spiritual and material.
Below, a Wal-Mart commercial for the Christmas campaign.