And Nelson is counting on the legion of hundreds of volunteer bell ringers who will be manning the 10 kettles at eight stores in Danville, Harrodsburg, Liberty and Stanford to come through as they have been doing since 2001.
Knew volunteers would help
"The volunteer spirit that is so evident in this community is especially on display with the work of our dedicated bell ringers," he said. "When the Danville army switched from paid bell ringers to volunteer bell ringers, that's when our collections really started to take off."
Liz Cook, who served on the army's advisory board at the time, recalls why the decision was made and how it paid off immediately.
"A lot of us on the board knew there was a tremendous amount of volunteer spirit in this community and in neighboring communities," said Cook, who now serves as resource development director of Heart of Kentucky United Way. "We had seen that spirit inspire so much support of the army and other community organizations."
During the 2000 kettle campaign, the last one where paid bell ringers manned the kettle, about $26,500 was donated but about $8,000 of that went to pay the bell ringers, leaving a net of $18,500 for army programs.
"In the 2001 campaign, the first one with volunteer bell ringers, we collected $32,300, and all of it went to help the people that counted on the army's programs," she said. "And the amounts collected have risen every year since then, all the way up to the $85,000 given last year."
The Danville army's corps of bell ringers is the only volunteer group in the army's Kentucky-Tennessee Division, Nelson said.
The volunteer bell ringers include individuals and groups from more than 100 area churches, schools, civic organizations and businesses, said Dana Long, an army staffer who recruits and schedules bell ringers.
"One of the great things is that we have couples and families ringing," she said.
Long and Cook cited several examples.
"Jeff Fieberg, a Centre College professor, is one of Centre's many volunteers, and he along with his wife and kids have been loyal bell ringers, and they have fun doing it," said Cook. "He even plays the saxophone."
"Danville police officer Rickie Sellers and his wife and kids also have been dedicated ringers," Long said.
Retired teacher in her 90s helps
But perhaps the honor for the most dedicated goes to a retired teacher who now is well into her 90s.
"Helen Fisher Frye is the very personification of community spirit as well as dedication," said Cook. "She will be there with her bell, every year, during her appointed time, no matter what the weather."
Speaking of weather, Cook recalls the time another dedicated volunteer bell ringer as well as army board member, the late Rev. David Birney, was ringing during a frigid day.
"It was blisteringly cold outside and someone was kind enough to bring David a hot cup of coffee," she said. "After he took a sip, he held it in one hand and rang the bell with the other when someone came up to him and dropped some coins in his cup."
Cook also got a chuckle out of the bell-ringing experiences of her own father, retired longtime Danville grocer Guy Richardson.
"Dad was pretty aggressive when he was trying to encourage people to drop some money into the kettle," she said. "He threw himself in front of shopper who would pass by the kettle on their way into the store and tell them, 'Now don't you forget the army.'"
Long has her own stories of family getting involved in volunteer bell ringing — those of her husband and his fellow "Juggers," a group of Boyle County High School football fans who shake noisemakers at Rebel football games.
"The bells make a lot less noise, I can tell you that, but they are just as enthusiastic ringing bells as they are shaking plastic jugs at football games," she said with a laugh.
Long, Cook and Nelson are confident the enthusiasm of hundreds of bell ringers will be on display during the 2009 campaign.
"It's that volunteer spirit that has made this campaign the success it has been, and it will be the same spirit that will make this year's effort a winner as well," Cook said. "It has to be a success because hundreds of needy families and children in this area depend on the army."
SO YOU KNOW
Salvation Army bell ringers and their kettles will be at the following area stores from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday through Dec. 24, except on Sundays:
Walmart, Kmart and Kroger in Danville; Walmart and Kroger in Harrodsburg; Walmart in Stanford; and Pamida and IGA in Liberty.
Meanwhile, volunteer bell ringers are still needed, especially in Harrodsburg and Stanford. Anyone who wishes to serve as a bell ringer may call Dana Long at the army's Danville office at (859) 236-4473.