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Salvation Army launches holiday campaign

Mackenzi Hecker and Kiah Jahner are among the youngest volunteers helping the Stark County Unit of Salvation Army.

The girls are ringing the bells today with their grandmother, Jane Heiser.

"Sometimes, we give the kids candy canes," said Hecker, who is volunteering for the third season. Jahner is volunteering for the first time.

"This is our annual bell ringing fundraiser. It's where most of our money for the year comes," said unit member Nancy Hanel.

Last year, the Stark County Unit raised $13,000 toward its operating goal of $15,000. The Salvation Army headquarters gave an additional donation to meet its goal. The money is used to provide emergency services to individuals who "fall through the cracks" of other social services, she said.

"We have bought bus tickets, medical traveling assistance, sometimes prescriptions. Sometimes, we have provided gas in extreme circumstances. It all depends on the situation," she said.

Hanel receives referrals from social services, churches, Community Action, the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center and by word of mouth.

"We are limited, but we try to do what we can," she said.

Salvation Army was founded by a minister, William Booth, in 1852. He walked the streets of London, preaching the gospel to the poor, homeless and destitute. The movement spread to the United States during World War I and eventually circled the world.

Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet basic human needs without discrimination. It recently mobilized to meet the immediate needs of survivors following Hurricane Katrina and other storms during the 2005 hurricane season.

Hanel has served as a Salvation Army volunteer for the past several years.

"I guess the biggest reason is because it's a very good agency in our community," she said. "You see where the need really is. Sometimes it's that extra boost that gets them going."

She invites the community to support the mission of Salvation Army by placing a donation into the red kettles. If that isn't possible, she said to "keep the people in need in your heart."

"I had gone to training for disaster services at St. Paul a couple years ago. I was amazed their heart is really in the right place," she said.

She came away with the message, "If you see a need, fill it. If you see a hurt, heal it."

"I think that's the philosophy of Salvation Army," she said.

Hanel said the Salvation Army works on other projects such as co-sponsoring the angel trees in Dickinson. The organization works to ensure every child in Stark County receives a gift for Christmas.

Salvation Army assists with the Coats for Kids project during the fall in Dickinson.

"We do League of Mercy visits to the elderly in nursing homes at Christmas and Easter. We buy them a small gift and visit, which is sometimes more welcome than a gift," she said.

Hanel said additional bell ringers are needed for the upcoming holiday season.

Volunteers ring bells at Runnings, Prairie Hills Mall and outside of Wal-mart on the weekends. Businesses, churches, youth groups or families are invited to give an hour of their time to ring the bells. Volunteers are welcome to ring bells during the week instead of weekends as their free time allows.

"It's a real giving opportunity. It's good for families. Take your kids. It's a good opportunity to teach kids generosity," she said. "Also, we desperately need board members," she said.

Cheryl Bjork is the Salvation Army field representative for the 22 counties in western North Dakota.

"I supervise the Salvation Army activities. I'm a go-between the units and divisional headquarters," she said. "There are kettles all over in North Dakota. Pretty much every county has a campaign going right now. Ninety percent of the money raised in that county, stays in that county," she said.

Bjork said there's need for bell ringers.

"We're having one heck of a time getting bell ringers this year. Work for just an hour. We have hour slots, but you can do more," she said.

Bjork said ringing bells is fun.

"You meet a lot of neat people. You always get words of encouragement. I enjoy it," she said.

Bjork, who lives in Dickinson, recruited her husband and daughter-in-law to ring bells Friday and again today in Dickinson.

"I've been employed seven years and before I was a unit member six years," she said.

"Actually, this is our biggest fundraiser. If we don't make money during the Christmas holiday, Salvation Army does not have money to assist those in need."

Bjork said Salvation Army sponsors several projects in southwestern North Dakota.

"My Golden Valley-Beach unit does a Home on the Range Christmas party for kids who don't get to go home for Christmas. We have a big pizza for them," she said.

"A lot of units, not here in Dickinson, like Golden Valley and Morton County, give swimming passes in the summer. If you have a lot of kids, that gets to be expensive. We do things like that," she said.

"Then, we have two food pantries in Slope County -- one in Amidon and one in Marmarth. Salvation Army supervises those," she said.

"In Stark County we are in desperate need of unit members. We're a service unit. We do services -- actual things that need to be done," she said.

"This summer, Salvation Army helped with Coleharbor tornado," she added.

Bjork said funds specified for hurricane relief went to that service.

"If somebody in Dickinson wanted to donate specifically to the angel tree project, they should put it on their check," she said.

For further information regarding Salvation Army, call Bjork at 225-0373. If anyone is willing to rring bells, call Hanel at 483-9164 (leave a message.)