Despite the wind and colder weather, the sounds of holiday bell ringers and carolers echoed through Farmington on Nov. 17 as the United Way of St. Francois County kicked off its annual Bell Ringing and Kettle Campaign.

A number of community members, students and United Way board members gathered at the Qdoba restaurant which hosted the Bell Ringing Kick-Off.

Students from St. Joseph Catholic School and St. Paul Lutheran High School performed at the kick-off. The Farmington Fire Department displayed the large American flag and Santa Claus made an appearance to welcome in the bell ringing season. Families with children stopped by to say “hello” and get an early start on sharing their Christmas list. Refreshments for the kickoff were provided by Qdoba.

“This is the second time the United Way has launched the Bell Ringing Campaign and the response was very good,” said Mark Toti, current United Way of SFC president. “The United Way board members thank student groups and their sponsors for some good entertainment. Jason Loughary, of B-104 and KFMO, served as emcee. A very special thanks to the Qdoba staff members for the extra organization and promotional efforts they invested to make the Bell Ringing Kick-Off a success.

“Hopefully, the 2017 bell ringing efforts will exceed the average $30,000 annual collection which stays in St. Francois County to assist our area residents.”

This year, these local businesses have allowed the organization to be 2017 kettle locations. Those locations include River Mart in Park Hills and Desloge; Wal-Mart in Farmington and Schnucks. Bell ringing hours differ by location.

More than 1,000 bell ringers will again be needed to fill the bell ringing assignments. Many area churches, financial institutions and civic groups are the first to sign up to “ring the bell.”

“This is a monumental community effort and we actually begin working on bell ringing in September,” said United Way Executive Director Clay Whitener. “Although we have a larger percentage of the slots filled, we still need to fill about 1,200 hours. So, if you are a member of a student group, sports team, retirees group or simply family and friends, this is a wonderful way to serve the community.

“It’s also a terrific way for parents and grandparents to teach children about volunteering. And, just a reminder the kettle money stays right here to serve St. Francois County residents.”

Whitener invites community members to contact him to sign up to ring the bell. Ringing runs through Dec. 23.

This year, the organization has an easy-to-use, online scheduling program. The program also sends a reminder about the sign up date and time.

A link can be found at unitedwayofsfc.org by clicking on the volunteer section, with link to Bell Ringing 2017. Simply choose the location to ring and then follow the instructions. Or, contact Whitener at 573-315-6883 or email at director@unitedwayofsfc.org.

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