Nov. 9—Christmas trees, lights and decorations are beginning to grace Dalton once more as a spirit of cheer sweeps over the town. During this time, another familiar sight reappears in front of stores and businesses: Salvation Army bell ringers and their iconic red kettles.
Beginning Nov. 17 and lasting until Dec. 23, volunteer bell ringers for the Salvation Army of Whitfield, Murray and Gordon County will be stationed around town, spreading positivity and collecting donations for the charity organization.
Lt. Sebastian Arroqui said there are no qualifications for becoming a bell ringer during the 2023 season, other than "people who are filled with the Christmas spirit and are able to greet people and thank (them) for their contributions."
"We welcome volunteers of all types, from civic groups to businesses to individuals, and any corporations around town," Arroqui said. "We want someone who is willing and able to be out there and ring. However, the most important thing is that they are just a friendly person."
Volunteers must also be able to stand for long periods in potentially cold temperatures.
During the course of the next month, ringers will be stationed at a majority of big retailers across Whitfield, Murray and Gordon counties.
"For example, they will be at all of the Walmarts, Krogers, Food Cities and Hobby Lobby," Arroqui said. "Just different locations around town, but mostly at main retail areas."
Each year, the organization sets a goal for money raised throughout the campaign. Arroqui said they "would like to raise $80,000 this year."
He said that amount is significantly higher — "over $10,000 higher" — than last year's goal.
"That will go towards helping give Christmas to children in our community," Arroqui said. "It will also help pay for emergency financial assistance (for clients), which includes rental and utility assistance, and it will continue to help our clients in our Pathway of Hope programs and our transitional housing programs."
The Pathway of Hope program helps to "provide targeted services to families with a desire to take action to break the generational cycle of crisis and enable a path out of poverty," according to the Dalton Corps' website.
Donations received through the red kettle campaign will also be used to fund the organization's food bank, which serves food every Monday through Thursday to those in need.
"And it will continue to provide free children's programs and music classes for our children throughout the school year and during the summer," Arroqui said.
The Salvation Army of Whitfield, Murray and Gordon County has other programs throughout the holiday season.
"We do our Christmas Assistance, which involves giving Christmas toys for children from (newborn) to 12-years-old," Arroqui said. "We do that in all our counties and we're also having registrations this week for Whitfield County. That's a big part of what we do during Christmas: We help (children). Last year (we helped) over 1,200 children with Christmas."
The Christmas Assistance program is available to anyone in Whitfield County with children 18 or younger. Individuals who want to register can visit the Salvation Army at 1109 N. Thornton Ave. Individuals seeking registration will need to bring their ID, birth certificates or immunization records for each child, a utility bill with their name on it to verify residence, proof of Life Skills classes attended and proof of any income.
Arroqui said anyone wanting to volunteer with the Salvation Army "can call our main office directly at 706-275-0391 and we will arrange it."
"And that goes for any type of volunteering, whether that's helping with our Christmas distribution or just donating toys for us to be able to fulfill our children's needs and wants," he said. "That also includes the volunteer bell ringing. It's a big part of what we do. When we have volunteers out bell ringing, 100% of (the donations) raised that day comes back to us instead of having to have the cost of paying someone to be out there."
To sign up as a volunteer bell ringer visit Indeed.com.
"All they have to do is type in 'Salvation Army bell ringer' and the location in Dalton and it should pop up," Arroqui said.