The ringing of the Salvation Army’s bell from numerous store entrances often is a harbinger of the holiday season.
Jackie Fekula of Evans is honored to be a face behind an iconic sound of Christmas.
“It’s a privilege,” Fekula said as she and others from one of the two Bible study groups she leads rang the bell Friday for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign outside the Evans Walmart.
Fekula said she’d always thought the Salvation Army was a great organization and saw the bell-ringers, but never had any idea who those mysterious ringers were.
Last year, Fekula saw a newspaper ad asking for bell-ringing volunteers. That’s when she garnered volunteers from the Bible study groups at the Family Y and New Hope Worship Center to serve a total of 16 hours ringing for a good cause.
“We believe,” Fekula said of the mission of the Red Kettle Campaign. “It’s like getting out and being Jesus’ hands and feet and doing something with what we know.
“So it is not just head knowledge, we’re out serving the Lord.”
Many shoppers entering or leaving Walmart Friday were greeted with Fekula’s friendly smile and a “Merry Christmas.”
Fekula said she believes blessings will follow those who donate and the retailers that allow the bell-ringers outside the stores.
The Red Kettle Campaign started Nov. 10. All funds raised help pay for such Salvation Army services as running the soup kitchen, the homeless shelter, a nine-month residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and a six-month job skills program, Salvation Army Public Relations Coordinator Anthony Esposito said.
Volunteer bell-ringers staff handbells and red kettles at 25 retail locations in the Greater Augusta area, including Columbia and Richmond counties and North Augusta, six days each week.
“So we use a lot of support from the community,” Esposito said and bragged on volunteers like Fekula and her comrades. “She’s dedicated. ... She is certainly a veteran and enthusiastic bell-ringer.”
Fekula, who assists with each four-hour shift served by volunteers from her groups, was honored for her efforts at a Salvation Army awards banquet in April.
Gail Brown, and her children Maddie, 10, and Jeremiah, 6, were helping Fekula outside the Walmart with their own handbells. Brown, of Evans, said she appreciates the opportunity to teach her children a valuable life lesson, while having fun greeting shoppers, singing holiday songs and ringing the bell.
“I think it’s a generational lesson, not only to give of your money, but to give of your time,” Brown said.
“And they (my children) will remember it. Every time they pass this bucket, they’ll remember this experience and I believe they’ll want to continue doing it every year.”