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Bell Ringing For The Salvation Army

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When you’re out shopping this holiday season, you’ll hear bells ringing from the Salvation Army. But the local chapter of the organization is in need of bell ringers. WMRA’s Chris Boros spoke with Captain Duane Burleigh from the Salvation Army. Here is the captain talking about his history with the group.

Click here to sign up as a volunteer as a bell ringer.

Or call 540-434-4854

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Salvation Army
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Captain Duane Burleigh

Captain Duane Burleigh: My wife and I and my family were here about eight years ago from 2008-2014, then the Salvation Army moved us down and we ran the adult Rehabilitation Center in Virginia Beach for five years. Then I retired three years ago and this is my fourth assignment coming out of retirement.

WMRA: So what had you come back out of retirement?

DB:  They called and they said they had a need for me and if I would come back to Harrisonburg. If it had been any other place, because after three callbacks in three years, I was ready to actually try retirement. But when they said Harrisonburg and we left the part of ourselves here after being here for six years and had a son graduate from here, and my other kids were going through school. And we love the valley and I just could not turn my back on it.

WMRA:  So during this time of year, we see the bell ringers all over the place and I understand you're in need for volunteers this year.

DB:  Yeah, we're running short on volunteers. We have a hefty goal of $200,000 and we just can't get the kettles manned, whatever the reasons may be. I know the ones that used to ring when we were here before, have gotten older like I have and maybe they can't stand out in the cold like they used to. But we have 22 spots that we can man. And I think today, we only have 7.

WMRA:  And where are these locations?

DB:  We have all the Walmarts – Timberville, here in Harrisonburg and Port Republic Road. We have four different Food Lions during the day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Of course, we have the mall at Penny’s and Belk. We have Hobby Lobby, we have Kroger, the Dayton farmers market, the Shenandoah farmers market, and Bridgewater foods.

WMRA:  And it's really not just people - groups can also volunteer.

DB:  Yeah, that's the best way to do it, you get a group or you can do it as a family. A school group, a church group, where you can get two or three people to ring at the same time so you can talk and you can have fun and just have it rotate through the day is the best way to do it.

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WMRA: Can you talk about the Angel Tree and Toy Convoy?

DB:  The Angel Tree is a program that was started by Charlie White, who was actually an officer here at one time. And this year we're doing over 1400 angels, and what that is, is people come in and sign up in early October. And we get the child's name, shoe size, clothes sizes, their wants and a need. And then we put it on a tag and the people can pick that they can pick off and buy a gift for that child. Our goal is to see that every child has an outfit and has what they need and maybe one of their wants.

WMRA:  I assume that people who volunteer to be bell ringers that they also get something out of doing this?

DB:  You talk to people and hear stories. I had a lady say 40 years ago the Salvation Army helped me and she put some money in the pot. I've had people that we help through our shelter program that stop to say thank you and welcome back and they put a dollar in the pot or whatever, because they’re thankful that they’re not homeless anymore. So it just warms your heart and to see the little children, even if it's only a quarter I say would you like to ring my bell? And to see the smile on their face. And that's what Christmas is all about, putting smiles on children's faces.

WMRA: It must be a rewarding job that you have.

DB:  It is very rewarding and very tiring. The 12-13 hour days are catching up with me. I am 70 years old so it's a little hard to keep up with the pace I used to have. Again when you see the joy on a child's face, when we do the distribution out at the fairgrounds on December 15th and you look out and you see over 1400 bags, and realize each one of those bags is a child. It's like wow, that's what we're doing.

WMRA:  If someone or a group is interested in bell ringing, how do they get involved?

DB:  It's very easy, you go online. You www.registertoring.com and you can see all the places that you can ring, and you can sign up. Or you can give us a call at 540-434-4854.

Chris Boros is WMRA’s Program Director and local host from 10am-4pm Monday-Friday.