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Salvation Army kicks off Red Kettle Campaign

As holiday decorations begin going up around Two Harbors, another sure fire sound of the season will be floating out of the entrances of Super One Foods and Shopko.

The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign bell ringers have been at the supermarket and department store on Highway 26 since Thursday, Nov. 16, collecting small donations from shoppers for Lake County families in need.

Lyle Northey, a North Shore Rotary Club executive, has organized the campaign for the last four years. Under his leadership, the Red Kettle Campaign has increased the number of bell-ringer hours.Each year under his leadership, the number of ringers and the amount donated has increased, including a more than 12 percent increase from 2015 to 2016.

The Salvation Army once had ringers stationed all around Two Harbors, but it had fallen to nearly nothing until Northey took over the Lake County campaign for the Rotary Club. Before Northey took over the campaign, ringers were signing up as individually. The retired middle school principal decided to reorganize the ringer signup process.

"I thought our community would respond if it was organized," he said. "With that, we turned to setting up a schedule with specific times and then we went out and began to call people and said, 'Fill in the blanks.'"

Northey began to solicit service organizations to help fill the hours. Churches, clubs, businesses, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as Two Harbors High School clubs and athletic teams, have volunteered to fill hours. Last year, Northey filled nearly 190 hours and raised more than $13,000 for Lake County families.

Northey said he started by researching where the most traffic was in town and where the best places were to have ringers stationed.

"What I did was that I spent some time downtown with a cup of coffee and I found out what traffic would be like at the post office," Northey said. "When you went and sat for an hour at Super One, then you saw where the people were, that was where the traffic was consistent."

Northey also changed the length of typical ringing shifts to accommodate some of the people signing up. In the past, three- and four-hour shifts were the norm, but many of the ringers were older residents and standing outside for that length of time was difficult for many. Now, shifts are a maximum of two hours — much more conducive to the older population.

Northey took over the campaign because he's always been moved by the holiday season and he wanted help make a difference in the lives of families in need.

"Maybe it was me personally, but we felt that this was one thing that was part of the holidays," he said. "Always, to me, Advent is time that you start thinking about other people. I always felt bad when I walked by in a mall or any other place and saw a kettle empty."

North Shore Rotary also matches the first $1,000 donated to the Red Kettle Campaign each year. The club once sponsored a family in need, but because of changing privacy laws, it became more difficult to identify those residents. Since 89 percent of the money donated to the Salvation Army through the Red Kettle Campaign stays in Lake County, donors can be sure that the money is helping local families in need.

"With the restrictions with regard to information that can come from schools or other places, we didn't always know where the families were, but the Salvation Army did," Northey said. "Why were we searching for a family when we know that someone will get it in the community."

For more information or to volunteer individually, contact Northey at (218) 834-2046 or northeys@frontiernet.net.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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