The sounds of the Salvation Army bell ringing campaign is one of the harbingers of the Christmas holiday season, and those sounds will be ringing out in Sidney in 2020.

The Salvation Army will go ahead with bell ringing this year, albeit in a COVID-compliant fashion.

Among safety precautions, bell ringers will wear masks and will maintain social distance from those who are putting donations into the kettle.

“We know it is trying times right now,” Bob Burnison told the Sidney Herald. “People are trying to limit the contact and being out, but we are asking, if people can, to just take some precautions to help with this. It is our only fundraiser. We do not ask for money during the year.”

The annual kettle campaign raises between $12,000 to $20,000 each year in Richland County. A majority of it stays in Richland County, 90 percent, and is used to help people experiencing a crisis. Funds have provided emergency shelter to burnout victims or others in need, utilities for heat and lights, and even fuel to assist with transportation to a doctor visit.

“People who are victims of a catastrophe, a fire, or something else, we are there to help with that,” Burnison said. “We can also help with transportation. If someone needs help to get somewhere, we can help with fuel expense. Everything is on a case-by-case basis.”

Bell ringing will start at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Volunteers are being sought to help with two-hour shifts at Reynolds and IGA from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Fridays, as well as the eight-hour shift on Saturdays.

“In the past, we have had people do it singly, by themselves, or many times, it is couples who do it,” Burnison said. “We used to have a number of people who continue to help year after year. We are hoping they will continue to do that. We understand this year there may be a few who choose not to, and we fully understand that. But we are hoping people will at least try. We know it’s a serious epidemic here, and we are taking the precautions we can.”

The number to call to volunteer to ring the bell is 433-2207. Ask for Rita Jacobson.

In addition to wearing masks and maintaining social distance, kettles will be periodically cleaned, Burnison said, and those making donations are asked to place them directly in the kettle without making any direct contact with the bell ringers.

There will also be a QR code for people to make contactless donations to the campaign using a smart phone.

“The Salvation Army locally doesn’t send out letters and things like that,” Burnison said. “Nationally they might, but locally, we don’t. A majority of everything we get in the kettles, other than 10 percent, stays in Richland County. It doesn’t pay for anyone’s salary, everyone is volunteer. It goes to help people in need in our area.”

Burnison said those who don’t want to go out can still make donations if they wish by sending them to the Sidney Salvation Army, Box 76, Sidney Montana.

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