December 14, 2022 at 4:39 p.m.
Max, Marianne Barsness volunteer as Salvation Army bell ringers
A Christmas shopping scene isn’t complete without a Salvation Army bell ringer, and Max and Marianne Barsness of Sauk Centre have been filling that role for years, glad to have a way they can help local charity while in their 80s.
“It just feels good that you’re helping somebody who needs it,” Marianne said.
Max and Marianne have been bell ringers for about 15 years so far, serving in whatever community they happen to live – including Long Prairie, Sartell and, most recently, Sauk Centre. They started when they were about 65 and wanted to do some volunteer work; they chose to help the Salvation Army because of their work for those in need, and the money raised usually stays local.
“Most people don’t know, but 88% of the money coming into these kettles stays local,” Max said. “People here benefit by it, and that’s good.”
Fortunately, being a Salvation Army bell ringer has not always had Max and Marianne standing out in the cold and snow. At their station in the Coborn’s exit, for instance, they are inside a heated space with a nearby bench so one person can rest while the other rings the bell. Being indoors also makes it more comfortable for people to stop and donate.
Some days, the community’s generosity means the kettle will fill up in two or three hours. That is why there will often be a paint-stirring stick next to the kettle, so Max or Marianne can poke it through the slot and pack the money down.
Through bell ringing, Max and Marianne have not only helped fundraise but have also met community members who will sometimes stop and chat as they donate.
“The kids especially like to put the money in,” Max said. “You see a lot of parents handing their kids the money, and then the kids drop it in.”
From what v have heard, the Salvation Army has had some people return to bell ringing after 2020 cut the numbers, but more volunteers are always welcome. Bell ringers are often integral to the success of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.
“They’ve done studies,” Marianne said. “If you put out the kettle without the ringer, people won’t donate as much.”
Bell ringer registration for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign can be found at https://www.registertoring.com, where interested people can volunteer as individuals, groups or virtual ringers. From there, volunteers can pick where they want to ring; Sauk Centre has two locations, one at Walmart and one at Coborn’s. People can also volunteer by contacting the Sauk Centre coordinators, Pam and Shane Brown, at 320-423-8310.
Volunteers can also select their shifts online, usually in about two-hour increments.
“I like doing it online now because you can see what’s available,” Max said. “It’s easier on my end.”
Ultimately, the Salvation Army welcomes volunteers of any age to help fundraise during the holiday season.
“We’re in our 80s, and it’s something we can still do,” Max said.