Velda's Varieties

Velda DeMoss

Guest Column by Mary Weaver
Lost Clapper

I was in Green Valley, Arizona from Thanksgiving until just before Christmas, when I observed an ad in the local paper asking for volunteers to help with Salvation Army bell ringing, soliciting donations for the Holiday as well as the entire year.

The ad stated it was not necessary to have experience, just a willingness to ring the bell and smile for a two hour shift. I had rung the bell as a part of Boone County Lions several years ago, bundled up from head to toe with a hat, scarf, and gloves under mittens, snow boots and a double layer of pants. When I called the number to volunteer, Captain Kelley asked if I had rung the bell before, and I explained I had done it in Iowa. He assured me I would have a much better experience in Green Valley, if only for the temperature.

I was assigned to be in front of the Walgreen’s Drug Store. The bag with the kettle, the bell, and the apron, also had a Santa hat, one of those pointy, floppy hats, that looks like red and white fake fur. The instruction card urged that everyone should be greeted with “Merry Christmas”. It was noted on the card, that while the greeting was not politically correct, most everyone liked it.

Most persons who went in and out of Walgreen’s gave a donation. One person related a story about the Salvation Army’s assistance during WWII. One middle aged woman emotionally related how the Salvation Army, helped her get back on her feet, when she was a single Mom, with two children, trying to finish college. The most frequent donations came during the time when a gentleman left his dog, Cocoa with me while he went into get his prescriptions. Cocoa was an older rescue dog, a gentle mutt that liked attention. She looked like a Golden-Cocker mix and raised her head to be petted as everyone went into the store. Many thought we were a Salvation Army team. After Cocoa left, I became engaged in a farming discussion with a man from Fargo, South Dakota, and noticed when I wasn’t ringing the bell, or greeting persons the donations lessened.

It was a great opportunity to meet people, and so inspiring, I volunteered the following week and was placed in front of the Supervalu Grocery. The bell clapper was not well attached, and it fell out twice. I attempted to pinch back in with my fingers, but that was only a temporary fix. The store customer service people did not have pliers, but a offered a pair of wire cutters. Wire cutters can not secure a clapper in a bell.

.This incident reminded me of the Johnny Carson, “Clapper Caper”, a takeoff on Dragnet. You do have to be of a certain age to remember this segment, but most of the persons living in Green Valley are of that vintage. During this time I was helping bring grocery carts from the parking lot back to the store,(really a pet peeve of mine when people don’t return their carts) and during the picking up of the carts, the clapper fell out not to be found. Several persons helped me to search; one person even moved his car for me, as I tried to retrace my steps.

It is hard for a bell to be effective without a clapper! For a time, I “mimed” the activity, which brought even more donations, as it solicited many questions and jokes about losing my clapper.

During this time I received a $500 check, and the person wanted a receipt, so I put a call into Captain Kelly.

 He came very promptly, bringing me a receipt, and a new bell. He admonished me, “if you break another bell, it will come out of your salary!” Though to reward my efforts, Captain Kelly did bring me a treat, a Ding Dong! I had never had a Ding Dong before, but they are moist chocolate cupcakes, filled with gooey white frosting.  So appropriate for a bell ringer!

I did one more stint of volunteering in front of the grocery again the following week. Christmas was only a week away, and it was warming to my heart that the bucket was so full; I had to shake it twice so more money could be  pushed into the bucket.

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