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MARC CHASE: Answer the bell of volunteerism examples
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MARC CHASE: Answer the bell of volunteerism examples

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In the minds of many Region political insiders or regular Times readers, it might have appeared an unlikely gathering.

Three public officials — of whom The Times Editorial Board has been critical on some matters — sang Christmas carols in Saturday's frigid temperatures while I, the editorial page editor, rang a bell near a red Salvation Army kettle.

It's a classic example of how we all can put politics and other disagreements aside to support a greater good.

Schererville Councilmen Kevin Connelly and Jerry Tippy, who also is a Lake County commissioner-elect, and Cedar Lake Councilman Randy Niemeyer struck more than an impressive vocal tone in their Christmas song renditions.

They also sang a tune of volunteerism we're challenging other Region residents and public officials to mimic this holiday season.

In this case, the greater good was raising money for a Salvation Army kettle outside the Crown Point Jewel-Osco on Main Street.

Two weeks ago, I challenged Times readers to volunteer their time ringing bells for The Salvation Army to raise money in their red kettle drive.

The proceeds help needy individuals and families during the holidays.

I pledged myself for a 10-hour block of bell-ringing outside the Crown Point store — but pleaded for help so I didn't have to freeze for the full 10 hours.

Volunteers responded.

Indiana House Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, pledged his time for a two-hour window of bell ringing at the site.

There was no promise of publicity and no politics attached. The Crown Point Jewel isn't even within Slager's voting district.

He came to help anyway.

The Times Managing Editor Erin Orr, though she wanted no credit, volunteered for a two-hour block of bell ringing as well. Her plethora of winter layers made her nearly unrecognizable.

Those layers were needed in Saturday's finger-and-toe-numbing cold.

My twin 13-year-old sons Nolan and Connor joined me for two of my five hours at the kettle Saturday.

Mary Roberts, of St. John, a self-described avid reader of my Sunday column, batted cleanup for the final two hours of the bell-ringing shift.

And then there was our trio of carolers — Connelly, Tippy and Niemeyer.

The three government leaders, all of whom are musicians or have vocal experience, joined me between 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday at the behest of Connelly.

Outside of his Schererville Town Council duties, Connelly is a member of the Paulist Chorale, a men’s choir with roots at Chicago’s Old St. Mary’s Church. It’s the parish upon which the 1940s Bing Crosby classic, “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” is based.

Connelly recruited Tippy and Niemeyer to help.

They jokingly dubbed themselves the "PSAP II Carolers."

For those who don't get the inside joke, PSAP II is the unofficial name given to the emergency 911 dispatch formed through a cooperative of Schererville and Cedar Lake town governments.

The two towns formed the cooperative because their leaders decided not to join the larger E-911 consolidation of the rest of Lake County's cities and towns.

The Times Editorial Board has been critical in the past of the two towns resisting what it considers a larger good-government cooperative. The separate county dispatches have squabbled over state 911 funds and other matters, including court litigation.

Those differences of opinion were nowhere to be found Saturday, though.

Their impressive renditions of "O Holy Night," "Silver Bells" and many other popular songs caused many a shopper to pause and place an extra few dollars in the red kettle Saturday night.

Given my extreme lack of musical talent, I felt honored just to jingle the bell while they sang.

I also felt warmth on a very cold day from the many well wishes and donations made by Times' readers who visited me during the bell ringing.

In the end, as meaningful as the experience was to all participants, it was only one day of giving.

We filled about a kettle and a half full of cash donations Saturday, but the need persists.

The Lake County Salvation Army chapters note their volunteers and donations are below the norm this year. The organization is looking for more citizens — leaders, really — to volunteer at other red kettle sites so the organization doesn't have to pay for bell ringers.

So I end with a challenge.

Give of your time, not just your wallet, this holiday season. Sign up for an available red kettle shift, which are offered in two-hour slots at locations throughout the Region. Go online to register2ring.com where you can volunteer as a bell ringer after selecting a time and location that fits your schedule.

Need and our response to it as a society have nothing to do with personal politics, ideologies or economic means. Facing that need has everything to do with the human spirit.

Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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Kevin Connelly, Randy Niemeyer and Jerry Tippy sing Christmas carols to raise money for The Salvation Army.

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