Ringing in the holidays for charity
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Dec 14, 2012 | 3371 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bell ringer
Breege Mondragon takes a shift behind the bell at Walmart ringing for the Salvation Army on Monday, Dec. 10.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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The constant chime of a bell echoed inside a Walmart entrance on Wednesday, Dec. 12, as 64-year-old Breege Mondragon rang in the holidays for the Salvation Army.

A volunteer for nearly a decade, Mondragon has made bell ringing a part of her holiday tradition.

“I usually try to get two to three shifts a week,” she said, ringing her bell nonstop with a smile on her face.

She rings a bell next to a kettle during the Christmas season to collect money for the Salvation Army to help local families. This year, she volunteered for 11 shifts of two hours each, including Christmas Eve.

“I’ve always seen the bucket, and to me it’s part of Christmas,” she said. “I love Christmas, and they’re helping people without any strings attached, and that’s the way it should be.”

Averaging 25 donations per hour, she was having a particularly good day Wednesday at Walmart, 3010 Grant Line Road. Forty people made donations in the first 35 minutes of her two-hour shift.

Although most people drop a dollar or some change into the bucket and keep walking, she said some stop to share stories about times when similar donations helped them.

Mondragon said a woman donated this year because the Salvation Army had paid five months of electrical bills just as the electric company was about to turn off her lights.

“I’ve never had anyone say anything negative,” Mondragon said. “I’m not in their face — ringing a bell and they don’t feel intimidated — so they give more.”

Judy McDonald, who dropped money into the bucket, said she was pleased to know that Mondragon rings the bell every year.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “She’s a very giving individual.”



More ringers needed

The familiar sight of bell ringers like Mondragon is a sure sign Christmas is coming, but the chimes may be silenced early this year if more people don’t volunteer.

The effort to raise money for local needy residents and charities kicked off Nov. 24 and continues until Dec. 24. And although many people have signed up, Myra Casey of the Tracy Salvation Army office said more are needed.

“We need some 10 more for towards the end (of the season) at Walmart,” she said.

Each volunteer signs up for at least two hours, but individuals can take as many shifts as they want.

In addition to Walmart, bell ringers are stationed in front of Raley’s, 2550 S. Tracy Blvd.

This year, the Tracy Salvation Army hopes to raise $16,000 to $17,000 — an increase from the $12,000 collected in 2011, corresponding to a greater demand for assistance in the city, Casey said.

As of Dec. 5, bell ringers had raised just $4,000.

“The last couple of years there have been less in donations, coupled with more need,” said Joye Storey, Salvation Army service extension director. “We look at our budget and know our shortfall, so we make an educated guess for what we need.”

Some past volunteers are now among the groups seeking help for their families, Storey said.

Stephanie Lopez-Vassar, the Salvation Army lead field representative who oversees the Tracy area, said baby boomers are typically the last to come in and ask for help.

“They try to get by until they get to a point where they are at the end of their rope,” she said.

The fruits of the Salvation Army’s holiday labor are used throughout the year for camp for children, holiday food baskets, hotel vouchers and back-to-school shopping trips.

Donations to the Salvation Army can be placed in a ringer’s bucket or dropped off at the Tracy office, 241 E. 10th St.

Anyone looking to volunteer as a bell ringer can call

836-2346.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com.
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