Ringing a hand bell and calling “happy holidays” to everyone who passes by, Tracy Mayberry joyfully greets customers at the Jewel-Osco on Lisle’s Maple Avenue and solicits donations for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.
Mayberry’s been ringing bells for the Salvation Army for the past five years and has spent the last two holiday seasons in front of the Maple Avenue market. She spent her first two years ringing as a volunteer, but for the last three years, she’s been a seasonal employee of the international Christian organization known for its holiday kettle campaign.
Although ringing the bell and collecting donations for eight hours a day, five days a week, can be tiring, Mayberry said she has fun seeing many of the same people over and over again as they shop. She’s also enjoyed the milder weather this year.
“It hasn’t gotten too cold, and that makes it a lot easier to be out here all day,” she said.
Before setting up their kettles each day, the Lisle-based bell ringers gather each morning at a Salvation Army site in Chicago and are bused to the suburbs in a van. The Salvation Army often places bell ringers in communities outside of their own to encourage diversity, said Capt. John Pook, commander of the Oakbrook Terrace Corps, which oversees 78 kettle spots in DuPage County.
The bell ringers took their spots at familiar ringing sites — including outside the front doors of chains such as Walgreens, Jewel-Osco, Sam’s Club and other businesses — on Nov. 9. They will ring bells and collect donations through Christmas Eve.
Pook said the campaign provides the local Salvation Army with approximately 40 percent of its annual budget, and all the red kettle money raised in Lisle and other towns in the region will remain in the area. Pook said he hopes this season’s Red Kettle Campaign will raise $385,000 for his district, and expects the Lisle ringers bring in $25,000 to $35,000.
In comparison, he said, the goal for the Red Kettle Campaign in Chicago is $12 million.
“We fell short in last year’s goal, but thankfully God blessed us to continue to serve the community as best as we can,” Pook said. “We try our best to meet human needs as best as we can through donations given each Christmas season.”
Some of those community efforts include supporting food pantries, providing bill assistance and other social services. There are also music programs, Bible studies, athletic programs, job placement and character building initiatives provided in the Oakbrook Terrace Corps headquarters, Pook said.
Mayberry knows firsthand how the Salvation Army can provide assistance. Last year, she said she lost her South Side home in a fire, and the Salvation Army provided her with furniture and other items for the new home she moved into afterward. In addition, Mayberry said her mother was assisted by the Salvation Army when she needed help.
“They’ve done a lot of good by me,” Mayberry said.
The Salvation Army has also been good to former homeless bell ringer Louis Lumpkin.
“Once a year the Salvation Army can always count on me to ring bells for them,” said Lumpkin, who rings a bell at the Maple Avenue Walgreens. “There are not a lot of people who will help out a man of 62 with a job, but they do, so I am here for them each year.”
Lumpkin said he never asks people for donations, but would rather let God speak to their hearts.
“God takes care of us all,” Lumpkin said. “He’s taken care of me plenty of times, and he’ll provide for the Salvation Army.”
Bryan Payne also rings a bell at the Maple Avenue Jewel. He rang for the Salvation Army in 2011 mostly in Naperville, but did ring for a brief time in Lisle. Like Mayberry and Lumpkin, Payne has also benefitted from services provided by the Salvation Army. Like so many Payne was negatively impacted by the economic recession and has survived by working temporary jobs, including his stints as a bell ringer.
“It’s been tough, but this will give me a chance to provide a good Christmas for my kids,” Payne said.