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2018 United Way 'bell ringing' tops $33,000

Clay Whitener, United Way of St. Francois County executive director, announced Sunday afternoon that the grand total from this year's bell ringing program, conducted in cooperation with the Salvation Army, was $33,594.27. He added that the amount was greater than that collected in a single year over the past six or seven years.

With Christmas over for another year, the United Way of St. Francois County announced Sunday afternoon that the grand total raised in 2018 through its bell ringing campaign in association with the Salvation Army was $33,594.27.

Clay Whitener, UWSFC executive director, was quite pleased with this year's donations.

“This is another great response from the community and is more than we’ve collected [in a single year] over the last six or seven years,” he said.

He noted that the total was around $5,000 more than what was collected last year and included only what actual cash was placed into the donation boxes — not checks written directly to the United Way.

“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."

“All of this came from just the two Walmart locations. We had to schedule 1,040 hours of time and we booked 78 percent of those hours. Last year we booked 77 percent at the Walmart in Farmington and 80 percent at the two River Mart locations. A lot of the low number of hours being booked came from that first week of ringing — which is the week before Thanksgiving."

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.

The root of St. Francois County’s participation goes 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. The agreement is renewed yearly with the Salvation Army’s main office in St. Louis.

And although the 2018 bell ringer project has just concluded, Whitener said it’s not too early for organizations and groups to already be thinking about next year.

“I actually have groups wanting to schedule bell ringing for next year,” he said.

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Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or kjenkins@farmingtonpressonline.com

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