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The latest COVID-linked shortage? Salvation Army bell ringers

Bloomington, Minnesota — It's a sound synonymous with the holidays: Salvation Army bells. The charity's Red Kettle Campaign has been raising money for people in need for more than a century. But this year, a shortage of bell ringers is leaving 20,000 hours unfilled, CBS Minnesota reports.

Steve Seltz has been a bell ringer for 30 years. He can be found six days a week greeting shoppers at the Mall of America, the nation's largest. He started volunteering after a friend stayed at a Salvation Army shelter.

Now retired and disabled, he still sees the need for their services every day.

"You do a lot of people watching and learn from that, and it makes you all the more proud that you're doing it," Seltz said.

But there's a shortage of bell ringers this year.

Salvation Army Marketing Manager Angel Fields Mitchell said it's been an ongoing problem since the pandemic.

"There aren't as many people that are signing up to bell ring, but I've got to say it is one of the safest volunteer opportunities that are out there," Fields Mitchell said. "You can mask up; it's a contactless, volunteer experience."

She says, though, that the organization has seen an increase in online donations the past two years.

"All of the donations go to be able to provide food, shelter and care right here in our local communities," Fields Mitchell said.

From October 2020 to September 2021, the Salvation Army Northern Division assisted 735,000 people and distributed more than 5.2 million meals.

"It takes an army to be able to be able to meet the needs of this community," Fields Mitchell said.

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