United Way bell ringing is under way this holiday season.
Ringers are going full force outside Farmington and Desloge Walmart locations and kettles are placed at both the food and pharmacy entrances.
Clay Whitener, executive director of United Way of St. Francois County, said that this year’s campaign is going “pretty good.”
“One thing folks may not realize is that one-third of money raised by the bell-ringing campaign goes to fund the county’s Salvation Army,” said Whitener. “Without these funds, the Salvation Army in St Francois County would operate at a budget of several hundred dollars rather than $15,000-$20,000.”
According to the United Way website, the organization began in 1887, when a Denver priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative effort to address their cities’ welfare problems.
They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities. Today that agency known as the United Way of America has more than 1,300 locally governed agencies that raised more than $4 billion last year.
St. Francois County roots go back to 1988 when the Salvation Army approached the Farmington community looking for a group to run the yearly holiday kettle campaign.
An agreement was reached that funds raised from the kettle campaign in Farmington would be divided equally between three organizations, the Salvation Army, the Farmington Ministerial Alliance and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
This original agreement is still in effect today but the kettle collections are now divided with one-third of the funds going to the Salvation Army, and two-thirds going to the United Way of St. Francois County for grant distribution.
This agreement is renewed yearly with the Salvation Army’s main office in St. Louis.
Individuals or groups in the county who have thought about ringing are not too late to sign up.
As of Friday morning, about 300 ringing hours remain, according to Whitener. Of those hours, 65-70 remain unfilled.
Whitener says at the Desloge location, 14 hours remain open at the food door and 17 hours remain open at the pharmacy door. In Farmington, remaining hours are 18 at the food door and 17 at the pharmacy doors.
People who wish to sign up to ring can call the United Way of St. Francois County office at 573-760-8929, however, Whitener said the easiest way to sign up is on the website. Simply go to unitedwayofsfc.org and click on volunteer, then select your location and times.
Matt McFarland is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.