Ring Tones

Bell ringers help Salvation Army
reach financial goals

The charity does more than feed, clothe people

December 2016 Cover

MADISON, Ind. (December 2016) – Like most people in the Madison, Ind., community, Laura Watson never realized just how much the local Salvation Army does for people in need. But when her 26-year-old son needed to enter rehabilitation for drug addiction last year, she turned to the agency, which helped get him admitted to a rehab center in Indianapolis.
As a result of her experience, Watson has become involved at many levels at the Salvation Army, including leading the Club 316 character building group for ages 5-18, attending weekly church services with her family on Sunday, serving on the Emergency Disaster Relief Team, and, of course, taking turns ringing the bell for the agency’s annual holiday kettle fundraising drive.
In fact, it may be safe to say that most people’s only interaction with the Salvation Army is dropping a few coins or dollars into the bright red kettles each Christmas season as they exit the grocery store or shopping center. While the kettle drive does represent an important part of the agency’s annual fundraising drive, the Salvation Army is more than providing food and clothing to families in need.

Photo by Don Ward

Madison Salvation Army Advisory Board chair Andrew Forrester rings the bell during the kickoff weekend of the annual kettle drive.

“I don’t think people really know how much the Salvation Army does with the donations it receives this time of the year,” said Watson, 45. “They don’t know how helpful it is in the mission to feed families two meals a day, shelter those in need, provide clothes and assist in paying utility bills and rent.”
Watson not only was humbled by her introduction to the Salvation Army but has been inspired to help it succeed. Just in the past year, she has become perhaps its biggest volunteer, showing up four nights a week to lead classes or lead children on field trips.
She serves on the 20-member Advisory and tries to recruit others from her employer at Madison Precision Products to volunteer.
“Our volunteer base is very small, and we struggle to find people to volunteer,” she said.
A Hanover, Ind., resident, Watson supervises more than 40 people as Final Inspection Assistant Manager at Madison Precision Products.  Her husband, Charles, 43, is a contractor who also volunteers his skill in repairing facilities and will be building the holiday parade float for the agency. The couple and their two daughters, ages 10 and 14, attend weekly Sunday service at the Salvation Army, where Lt. Vinal Lee, who heads the agency with his wife, Brenna, leads the service. Both are ordained ministers. The Salvation Army is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.
The Lees arrived in Madison in June 2015 to take over leadership of the agency soon after marrying. He came from Chicago and she from Omaha, Neb., where she had directed a Salvation Army office. Both sing and Vinal plays the guitar and other instruments during the church services.

Photo by Don Ward

Volunteer bell ringers Kenneth Surrett and Laura Watson greet passersby at the Madison, Ind., Kroger Store.

The Salvation Army is a faith-based agency founded in 1865 in London, England, by William Booth, a Methodist-New Connexion minister. The Salvation Army first opened in the United States in 1881 in New York. Today, the Salvation Army exists in 128 countries. Nearly every county in the United States has some form of assistance originating from the Salvation Army’s global reach. Most funds are distributed through local churches or charitable organizations.
“We have really become a global force for good,” said Lt. Vinal Lee, 24.
In Madison, the Salvation Army office first opened in 1925. The nearest offices in Indiana are Columbus and New Albany.
Madison’s office at 331 E. Main St. employs seven people – four in the thrift store that operates in the basement and three on the main floor to manage the social services cases, the kitchen and the office. The staff serves two meals a day (breakfast and lunch) to about 100-115 people every weekday year-round.
 “A lot of them are regulars, but we do see a fair number of new people each week. It’s a transient population,” Lee said. “The bulk of them reside in downtown Madison, but we do get a few from Trimble County (Ky.) and Scott County (Ind.).”

Photo by Don Ward

Girls Inc. of Jefferson County (Ind.) members ring the bell for the Salvation Army. They are (from left) Addy Colen, Quinn Ulery, Isabella Rhyne and Girls Inc. Assistant Program Director Connie Leap. Leap says the after school program encourages the girls to take part in community service activities like this.

On Thanksgiving, the staff and volunteers served meals to 140 people. On Dec. 23, a Christmas dinner will be served. Local musician Rusty Bladen performs during both events, and the volunteers sit down and dine with those who come in to eat.
In addition to their faith services and music, the Lees are teachers. Vinal teaches guitar lessons and Brenna teaches dance. Most students are elementary school aged children or teenagers.
The food pantry provides food items to families every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is a “choice pantry,” so families can choose whatever they want or need. “We serve about 23 families a week,” Lee said.
The thrift shop sells donated items, with the proceeds used to help fund the operation. “The store provides us with a steady stream of income, but the bulk of our money comes from donations,” Lee explained. “We have a good group of donors who have committed themselves to supporting us.”
Andrew Forrester, 27, Community Relations Manager for the city of Madison, is in his second year as chair of the Salvation Army Advisory Board. His role is to lead the board meetings and “I’m expected to be the cheerleader and focal point for the Salvation Army. But the Lees are the focal point every day,” Forrester said.
He said board members bring a variety of skill sets to help support the organization “and make sure we’re providing the Lees with everything they need to be successful.”
Forrester encourages other city employees to volunteer. The board also works to increase the visibility of the Salvation Army in the community, he said. For instance, a Community Day coming up Dec. 17 at Hanover College will offer free admission to the men’s and women’s basketball games while encouraging donations to the Salvation Army.
Kevin McCubbin, who owns McCubbin Motors Ford dealership in Madison, has served on the Salvation Army Advisory Board for at least 10 years. He is board treasurer and volunteers to ring the bell for at least one shift a year and did so Nov. 19 at the Madison Kroger Store with fellow board member Steve McAtee.

Photo by Don Ward

Girls Inc. of Jefferson County (Ind.) members volunteer to ring the Salvation Army bells outside of Shooters Restaurant in Madison, Ind. They are (from left) Karisa Shelton, Addy Colen, Quinn Ulery, Sophia Wooten and Isabella Rhyne. Girls Inc. Assistant Program Director Connie Leap is pictured in back.

“It’s a very positive experience,” McCubbin said. “You say hello to everyone who walks by. Some people put in some money and some don’t. And some people just stopped to thank the Salvation Army for all they do, and that was very gratifying.”
McCubbin said he chose to join the board because of the way the donations are used. “I know that for every dollar donated, 90 percent of it goes to help their programs. So you truly feel that your donation is affecting somebody.”
He said the Advisory Board meetings also have an impact, because many decisions take place about repairing broken facilities or addressing programs that directly help people in the community. He also likes the fact that the board is low key.
“I don’t think anyone other than my wife even knows that I’m on the board,” he joked.
The addition of the Lees has been a great help, he said. “They are very dedicated and give 110 percent. They are very caring, especially at this time of the year. They want to make sure the bell ringing program and the Angel Tree are very successful.”
The Madison agency operates on an annual budget of $600,000 – $200,000 of which are from in-kind donations – such as dental services, clothing distribution and the like. The kettle drive that involves volunteers ringing the bell outside storefronts annually generates $55,000 of the $130,000 generated in donations during the holidays.
“It is by far our biggest fundraising time of the year,” Lee said.
Lee said it is hard to find enough volunteers to fill the 2,700 hours of bell ringing each Christmas. Volunteers and Salvation Army staff members man the two-hour bell ringing slots at Kroger, Big Lots, JC Penney, Shooters Restaurant, Wal-Mart and two Circle K convenience stations.
Another large fundraiser is the annual “Rockin’ on the River” festival, held on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend and spearheaded by board member McAtee.
It generates on average $30,000 in donations. It is a one-day, free, community event on Madison riverfront featuring The Monarchs band and a warm-up band. Money is generated from donations and a raffle.
The programs help a diverse population, Lee said. “We see elderly people on fixed incomes, single mothers, young and old families. And we help get people who need drug rehab to one of two large addictions centers in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne through our Adult Rehab Center.” He said heroine and meth are the most prevalent.
Sometimes people are sent to us from the jail for rehab, but usually a person gets tired of being addicted and will reach out to us for help.”
That’s how Watson found the Salvation Army a year ago. Her son is still in rehab in Indianapolis and “is not doing very well.” But her experience has changed her life, compelling her to help others through the many programs offered through the agency.
She helps with the annual backpack program, handing out backpacks to more than 100 children in Jefferson County. She worked three bell ringing shifts in the first week since the program began Nov. 18 – one shift with both daughters singing Christmas carols outside Shooters Restaurant in downtown Madison.

“The experience of working with the Salvation Army has really opened my eyes to all that they do,” Watson said. “It’s a good group of people, and no one is turned away. There’s a lot of love in that building.”

Back to December 2016 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2016, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta