Local store matches kettle donations

December 13, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

Hibbett Sporting Goods has a Christmas bell ringer that remains standing for the entire day, and she's not allowed to leave the store.

"Flo has collected $7,000 in only one week, which means $14,000 because of the matching program from our company," says manager Mark Bowling.

"Flo" is a cardboard cutout of a Salvation Army worker in uniform. She comes equipped with a battery operated motorized arm that waves a silent bell, and a motion detector that sounds off with a cheery "Merry Christmas, God Bless You" when someone walks near.

The "standee" kettles are being used at 200 Hibbett Sporting Goods and Books-A-Million stores in 14 states and were developed and produced by the parent company in Birmingham, Ala.


But that's not all; Hibbett's will match up to $10,000 of the donated funds from the Danville store, as well as 49 other stores nationwide.

The idea came from Charles Anderson, chairman of Anderson Media Co., the parent company of Hibbett Sports and Books-A-Million.

"He's also a member of the national advisory board of the Salvation Army," says Capt. Zach Bell from the Salvation Army in Danville.

Bell says the company's interest in matching up to $10,000 is "a true blessing and just shows how wonderful this community really is."

Bowling says the entire project began "because of Target and their policy with the bell ringers at their stores."

Target banned Salvation Army bell ringers from its stores this year, which ended several years of the store excluding the charity from its blanket policy against solicitation.

Target was the Salvation Army's second-largest collection point last year and accounted for 10 percent of the near $94 billion that was raised nationwide.

Bowling has been manager of the Hibbett's store in Danville since its opening 3 1/2 years ago and says it has had to turn down charities in the past because it has always given to United Way.

"This has been really nice. We have given to a charity in the past, and others had always knocked at our door, but we weren't able to do anything since it was a corporate decision. I'm glad that the public can really see first-hand that we participate and give back," Bowling says.

Only positive comments

The employees have noticed only positive comments about the standee.

"People have said that they like it better than a real person," Bowling says, adding that customers have said they feel guilty for giving only a certain amount to bell ringers, and perhaps the absence of a human is actually leading to more donations.

"I think they feel better about tossing in whatever little change they have," Bowling says.

The standee is an image of an actual Salvation Army employee out of Atlanta, he says.

"We've been told her real name is Ann, but Crystal liked Flo better," Bowling says, referring to Crystal Marcum, another longtime associate of the store.

Hibbett Sports and Books-A-Million each have 100 stores nationwide, and 50 of each stores are participating in the matching funds program.

"They are foreseeing doing this type of fund drive for years to come," Bell says.

Bowling thinks that the kettle drive will continue through Christmas Eve. Hibbett Sports is in Ridgefield Shopping Center on the bypass.

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