“I know you don’t think I’m givin’ this four million dollars to a bunch of nuns!” Oda Mae glared at Sam the ghost. It was one of the best scenes from the movie – the two nuns smiling beneficently one moment; then fainting in disbelief.
“Does anything like that ever happen in real life?” I asked Micki, “…Maybe not million dollar checks, but unusual donations like rings and things?”
“Oh yes,” she grinned. “It happens all the time. Once we got a bunch of gold Krugerrand coins, another time there was a stack of hundred dollar bills wrapped in a single dollar…and then there was the time someone gave us their teeth…”
Micki Bizek is the new Salvation Army Kettle Coordinator for the City of Modesto. She moved here from Bullhead City, Arizona, in July when her husband, Kalvin, accepted the position of Overseer for the Salvation Army Homeless Shelter. Micki has been Kettle Coordinator in dozens of cities from Washington to Arizona, so she just sort of naturally fell into the job.
“The Salvation Army is in our blood,” Micki explained. “I just love, love, love our mission and Church – regardless of what city I serve.” She inherited the vision from her mentors or “adopted parents” (Majors Dan and Ruth Birks, now retired), and joined the organization in 1982. And she has passed it on. Her daughter and her husband (Lieutenants Joshua and Ryan Boyd) are the Corps Officers, or pastors in Anacortes, Washington.
Scheduling the Red Kettle
If you’re a regular reader of Paladini Potpie, you may remember the post I wrote a few years ago, where I talked of my own experience as a bell ringer, and shared a little of the history of the red kettle.
That article raised so many questions I decided to write a follow-up, so I called Micki and asked if I could drop by and talk with her. I thought I was getting a pretty good jump on the kettle season – after all is wasn’t even the middle of October yet! – but I found out that things were already in full swing!
There’s a white board in Micki’s office, divided into time slots for bell-ringing shifts. It’s probably 18 feet long, nearly covering her entire wall. Dates from the morning of November 14 till Christmas Eve are posted down the left side of the grid, and 35 sites in Modesto are lined up along the top. That’s a lot of slots to fill!
I saw that only a few scattered boxes had been filled in, regular people who always ring a bell at the same place. But Micki said she expects to start getting calls and filling the volunteer shifts soon.
She said she has already had over 100 applications from people who would like to ring the bell as a job for minimum wage; and that is always a good option. (I talked about that in “The Red Kettle“. But it’s Micki’s dream to man all the kettles with volunteer bell-ringers.
The red kettles do provide “Christmas for the needy”, but they are also the Salvation Army’s main fundraiser for the whole year. More volunteers mean more money for all that good work.
Adopt a Kettle
Looking at Micki’s whiteboard, I noticed that the entire month of December was filled by Trinity United Presbyterian Church at the Hobby Lobby store. Micki explained that an organization can “adopt a kettle”. People of the organization then have the flexibility to decide among themselves how to man the kettle. They can create shorter or longer shifts that work for everyone’s convenience. An 11×17 laminated sign is set up to identify the group who is ringing the bell. Your group may adopt a site for a day, or for a few weeks. Give them a call!
Match a Kettle
Another thing I found out is that if you (or your family or organization) are just too busy to stand and ring a bell, you can call Micki (209-522-3209) and tell her you would like to “match a kettle”. In this case, you promise to match the funds collected by the kettle of your choice on the day of your choice. An 11×17 sign identifies the person or group who is matching the kettle.
So how much are we talking here?
“Match the funds gathered in a kettle? That sounds like it could be pretty dangerous,” I thought. “How can you guess how much might be collected in any given kettle on any given day?” Micki explained that you can put a $500 cap on your match. She said the average kettle brings in about $200.00 a day. The highest a Modesto kettle ever collected was $1,000.00.
Bell Ringing Fun
I’ve always thought it was fun to stand out there and ring the bell and talk to people all day, but Micki Bizek has plans to make bell ringing even more challenging and fun for everyone this year.
December 6 will be Mascot Day, when schools, organizations, and businesses man the kettle, with their mascot ringing the bell. There will be a nice donated prize for the highest yielding kettle. And it’s good advertising for your group! If you have a mascot, it’s not too late to join and get involved.
Give Micki a call – 522-3209.
December 12 will be Mayors’ Day, when mayors and their staff from Modesto and neighboring cities personally ring bells at Vintage Faire Mall and try to out-do each other, claiming the prize for the most generous city and most popular mayor.
She also hopes to start “Red Kettle Clubs” in Modesto area high schools, encouraging young people – especially those who have community service to perform – to not only ring a bell at Christmas, but get involved all year; take a tour of the homeless shelter or volunteer some time at the downtown soup line. “It seems like that would be a perfect fit,” she enthused.
So I am all set up for my usual place outside Wal Mart in mid December. I expect lots of you to stop by with dollar bills for my kettle (and maybe coffee for my tummy) I always look forward to it. Every year most frequent comments I get are about how much good this organization does! It makes me proud to be part of the team. And it’s easy to be a part of it. Why not give Micki a call and join the fun! 209-522-3209