Share the joy at Christmas time

Members of Farmington Elks Lodge 1765 will ring the bell for the United Way of St. Francois County. Pictured are (from left) Greg Rau, Sid Bloom, Wink Rickus, Jeff Momot, Mike Barks and Charles Black.

Provided by Kerry Glore

The holiday season will soon be upon us. Thanksgiving will come with turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie. Friends and family will gather at this wonderful time of year which is so full of love and the wonder of little children.

Bells will start ringing, too. The wishing wells of the United Way of St. Francois County will be in locations throughout the county. The United Way goal is to raise donations, both great and small, to help those in need in our community. In order to make those bells ring, the United Way relies on volunteers.

“It’s a wonderful time of the year”, said Wink Rickus. 

Rickus and his friends at the Farmington Elks have been loyal bell ringers for many years. No matter what the weather, you can find them in front of the Farmington Walmart on Sunday afternoons from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. They fill slots from noon until 5 p.m. The United Way appreciates ringers like Wink and his fellow Elks like helping this area.

“We’ve been ringing for 15 to 20 years”, Rickus said. “I don’t remember when we first starting talking about it, but we knew it would help the community and we wanted to be involved.”

The Elks enjoy ringing the bell and they each take an hour at a time. Rickus said sometimes it may be cold, but it’s not that cold. Some Elks bring their children or grandchildren along and make it family time. You might see them in their red vests that say “Farmington Elks” or wearing the red apron of the United Way. It just depends on the year.

Sue Gillam, Jane Epstein and the Bismarck Wild Indians, a 4-H group, are another group of ringers.

“We have fun at it”, said Gillam. “We bake cookies that say ‘Thank you from the UW and Bismarck Wild Indians’. We hand them out to shoppers and people who stop to make a donation. One lady asked our 4-H group to sing a song from the movie 'Frozen' and in return she would make a donation. The kids got a kick out of singing the song and the lady, true to her word, made a generous donation.

"Our group smiles a lot while ringing because they are having such a good time. They enjoy seeing people they know and meeting new people. It teaches them how to give back to the community and have fun at the same time.”

Would you like to be a bell-ringer? The donations raised stay right here at home to help local agencies provide services to our neighbors who may be in need. All it takes is an hour of your time and a smile. You can bring a friend, your family or ring with a co-worker. Some bell ringers like to play music. Some sing songs or wear Santa hats. Others just like to ring, smile and spread cheer with a “Merry Christmas."

Whatever your style may be, bell-ringing gives you a chance to help others in the community and that makes the community better for all of us. It will also help to make your Christmas season even better because you will know what it feels like to share the joy!

For more information, visit the United Way website at, on Facebook/United Way of St. Francois County or contact Director Clay Whitener at 573-760-8929 or email at


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