In Geneseo, residents are willing to donate to the Salvation Army's annual kettle campaign ... it's finding volunteers to man the kettles that proves difficult.
"Bell ringers are very, very important to us," said Linda Bolls, service center director for the Salvation Army's Kewanee office, which also covers Geneseo.
"When the kettles are out, people are willing to give. You see people go by the kettles and toss in a handful of change. It's surprising how fast all of that change adds up," said Bolls.
All money raised in Geneseo during the Salvation Army's holiday kettle campaign stays in Geneseo, a fact Bolls thinks many don't know.
"That's the most important part. The money raised in Geneseo stays in Geneseo. The Salvation Army is very particular about being good stewards in all that's been entrusted in our care. We try to spend our money very wisely and we try to help as many people as we can in the proper and right way," she explained.
In the past, kettle funds raised in Geneseo have been used to help local residents in need with emergency services such as rent or utilities. The Salvation Army is a participant in the Nicor utility matching program which helps those in need with their gas bill.
"We've even helped provide things like eyeglasses. All of our services are provided on an individualized basis," she said.
A lack of a localized contact point in Geneseo has hurt the Salvation Army's ability to assist in the community.
"We've been trying to find a Geneseo business or organization that can help distribute Salvation Army funds in Geneseo," said Bolls.
At the present, Geneseo residents needing the Salvation Army's assistance must first travel to the Salvation Army's Kewanee office.
"Not only do we supply them with assistance, but we also have to provide them with gas money to get to and from Kewanee," said Bolls. "It would be more convenient if we could find someone in Geneseo to help us."
In addition to distributing funds, finding volunteers to man Salvation Army kettles in Geneseo is difficult.
In the past, kettles have been manned at Walmart, Fareway and Walgreens.
Church groups, Scouts and other organizations have assisted in the past.
"We don't care who volunteers. We just need people to ring the bells," said Bolls. "We have no eligibility requirements for bell ringers, all we ask is that anyone under the age of 16 have a parent or adult with them. In Kewanee, we have a lot of families who ring bells for us, and we'll have children as young as 3 or 4 out there helping Mom and Dad."
Bell ringers are encouraged to man the kettle in hour or longer blocks of time.
"In Geneseo, for every two hours of bell ringing, we're able to help one client," said Bolls.
In addition to the kettle campaign, the Salvation Army solicits donations from area residents via mail appeals. Some of the mail campaigns are for specific areas of the Salvation Army's mission — such as disaster relief.
In May 2012, when heavy rains caused the Geneseo Creek to overflow its banks and flood the neighboring Maple City Trailer Court, Salvation Army disaster relief funds were distributed to those in need by the Geneseo Ministerial Association.
"We worked with the Ministerial Association during the flooding to help the funds get to those who needed it," said Bolls.
While the Salvation Army does its best to help those in need, the first step is finding volunteers to help the Salvation Army.
To volunteer as a bell ringer in Geneseo, contact Tammy Price at (309) 489-4145.
For more information about local Salvation Army efforts or to volunteer as a business or organization to serve as a Geneseo contact point, contact Bolls at (309) 853-4192.