Ask any bell ringer why they’re out supporting The Salvation Army and they’ll likely have a good reason or story. For some, it’s a seasonal job to get through the holidays, but for many, there is a heartfelt answer to the question, “Why ring?”
In Tyler, Bell Ringers may tell you they have their eye on a certain prize, adding their name as winners of the First Responders Bell Ringing Challenge. The iconic Red Kettle Campaign, now in its 131st year, remains The Salvation Army’s most important fundraiser. In Tyler, an inspiring group of volunteers took up the challenge and created a friendly annual bell-ringing competition, all to help make a difference in their community.
The First Responders Bell Ringing Challenge began in 2020, sponsored by local Advisory Board Member Jeff Johnston, who also operates the Chick-fil-A on South Broadway Street. Participating groups include Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Tyler Fire Department, Tyler Police Department, and UT Health East Texas EMS/Air 1.
Each group is assigned a day to ring the bell at Chick-fil-a for 12 hours. The winning group not only wins bragging rights for an entire year, but their name is engraved on a traveling trophy created for the event.
While this tradition is a new one, all parties are committed to continue indefinitely. “The trophy includes 32 engravable plates so we’re looking forward to at least another 30 years of competition!” Johnston said. UT Health East Texas EMS/Air 1 won the inaugural challenge in 2020, and special congratulations go to the 2021 winner, Tyler Police Department, who raised $1,693.51!
More than $10,000 has been raised through the challenge in the last two years. The Salvation Army is extremely grateful, and all funds raised directly support local services and programs.
“Thank you to the dedicated first responders for their service, and for their commitment to help make change happen – one coin at a time,” Johnston said. “Your help in this goes a long way to help others who need it in Tyler.”
About The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 130 years in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through a broad array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar The Salvation Army spends is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to www.salvationarmyusa.org.