A big part of each Christmas season is dropping bills or coins in the Red Kettle to help those less fortunate through the Salvation Army. Andy and I will be ringing the Salvation Army bells this Friday, December 16th inside the Mall of America from noon to 1pm. Drop by and say hi, but think about volunteering for a shift of your own yet this season. There’s actually a shortage of bell ringers right now. To volunteer, call the Salvation Army’s bell ringing hot line at 651-746-3519 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or register online at The Salvation Army North.

A recent Star Tribune article brings the need into focus:

A slump in the number of volunteer bell ringers means that the Salvation Army has collected $200,000 less in its red kettles this holiday season, compared to this time last year.

Now the nonprofit, calling the situation dire, is trying to recruit new bell ringers in hopes of meeting or exceeding the $3 million threshold.

“We have about 14,000 volunteer bell ringers so far this year, compared to just over 16,000 at this time last year,” said Salvation Army spokeswoman Julie Borgen. “We don’t put kettles out without a ringer.”

The Salvation Army places kettles at 300 locations throughout the Twin Cities. When staffed with a bell ringer, a typical kettle collects about $30 an hour. That amount increases the closer it gets to Christmas.

Borgen is urging people to volunteer for a two-hour shift. The Salvation Army encourages creativity, she said: Bell ringers may play holiday tunes, sing a carol, wear an ugly sweater or bring friends or their children to help out.

“This is a critical time for the Salvation Army,” said Lt. Col. Lonneal Richardson, leader of the organization’s Northern Division. “If we don’t make our goals, we risk needing to cut programs that serve the people in our community.”

Borgen said the money raised stays in the region.