Bell ringers signal season

Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving, implies that merchants hope to stay afloat – “in the black” rather than red.

Unlike many people, I rarely shop, and never on Black Friday. This year I went to see whether the economic woes have impacted our community as reflected in this day’s shoppers, and discovered a bit of seasonal history.

Walmart in Inverness stays busy seven days a week. On this Black Friday it seemed like business as usual. If it weren’t for the Salvation Army bell ringers you’d never know Christmas was approaching.

I considered all the services Salvation Army provides and wondered if the economy is hurting them too. I stopped to ask.

“Folks are still donating,” said volunteer Ralph Williams. “And at another Shelby County location last week they donated in my bucket between $380 and $400 each day.”

Two young children came up to drop money in the red bucket. What a wonderful tribute to the parents who’re teaching kids that real joy comes from sharing with others.

“Needy folk benefit year around, like some who can’t afford to pay their bills,” Williams said. “Mostly it goes to help children.”

Children helping children.

Young Tyler Martin had just dropped in his donation, and I compared the scene before me with recent stories about bullies and hates crimes by younger and younger kids. His contribution gave me hope for our future.

Catherine and William Booth founded the Salvation Army in London, England in 1865. The two brought Christianity to the lawless and to the desperately poor. Its first successful work in the U.S. was through 17-year-old Eliza Shirley in the late 1800’s, who opened a meeting place in a former chair factory in Philadelphia.

The Salvation Army grew to be one of the largest charitable organizations in the U.S., assisting 28,875,019 persons in 2007, according to their audited financial statements. The list of services provided include disaster relief, permanent residences, medical care, transportation, drug and alcohol rehab, senior centers, day care, boys and girls clubs, job referrals and more.

Donations in the red bucket help rebuild lives, provide community, fellowship, comfort and support. In spite of our downward economy, dig deep and drop something in a red bucket near your favorite shopping locale this year.