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Lake County Salvation Army collections up, while Porter County's is down

John McNamara, a veteran Salvation Army bell ringer, on the first day of the season this year at the Strack & Van til in St. John.

The bells are ringing at storefronts throughout the Region to help put a roof over someone's head, pay utility bills, and feed hungry young children.

The money going into the bright red kettles scattered across Northwest Indiana will help people throughout the year, said the development directors for the Lake and Porter county units of The Salvation Army.

Lake County is seeing an upswing in donations and the number of people volunteering to ring bells, Kevin Feldman said.

"We are seeing a positive increase in the number of dollars raised and the volunteers needed to ring bells," Feldman said, adding as of Nov. 17, they have collected $116,425 through the three Lake County corps, an increase of $19,000 over the same time period last year.

"We still have a long way to go," Feldman said, adding the goal set is not an arbitrary number, but one reflecting the need in the county and the people The Salvation Army serves.

Lake County's goal for kettle collections is $500,000. Porter County's overall goal for the holiday season is $130,000.

Porter County is not seeing the increase in donations.

"We are down, no two ways about it. It is way down," said Angela Kalin, adding she could not comment on whether a recent controversy of Hell's Angels members ringing bells outside of the Valparaiso Walmart had a negative effect on collections.

"We are at half of where we should be, but our need to help families throughout Porter County is continuing," Kalin said, adding funds raised in the Porter County kettles stay in Porter County to help families with a wide variety of services.

Kalin said that 82 cents of each dollar donated goes to services for those in need.

A shortage of bell ringers in both counties continues to be an issue.

While the number of volunteers is up, Feldman said, kettles are going unmanned. Last year only 32 percent of the time slots were filled. Even if the number of volunteers climbed 20 percent this year, he said, that would leave kettles unmanned 50 percent of the time.

"We still need volunteers up until Christmas Eve. We tell people just try it one time. Often, if they try it just once, they will come back," Feldman said.

Kalin said they've also seen a decrease in the number of people applying to be paid bell ringers and credits that to the improved economy, lowering the employment pool.

Volunteers can sign up to ring bells in either Lake or Porter county at or by contacting Lake County at 219-838-0380 or Porter County at 219-762-9191.


Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.