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Salvation Army: There's a shortage of bell-ringers in the Northland

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Things are quiet outside many stores and malls in the Northland – perhaps a little too quiet for the Salvation Army.

The charitable organization says it is facing a shortage of bell-ringers, who are known for manning the red kettles and collecting donations, in St. Louis County.

According to KBJR 6, the Virginia bell-ringing station has about 2,000 volunteer hours total between now and Christmas Eve – only about a quarter of those are filled.

Meanwhile, the Hibbing chapter of the Army only has about 10 percent of its holiday hours filled, WDIO reports.

The station says the charity has been making efforts to find more volunteers as it heads into a crucial season.

Meanwhile, other northern Minnesota cities are dealing with shortages as they head into the holidays.

Salvation Army Divisional Media Relations Director told BringMeTheNews that Brainerd still needs to fill about 2,000 volunteer hours, Hibbing needs to fill around 1,200 hours, and Duluth still has a shortage of about 3,200 bell-ringing hours.

However, with slightly warmer weather expected this weekend (and above-freezing temps possible), DeMars says officials are hoping more volunteers step forward.

The bell-ringers are key to the Army's mission, with an official telling KBJR 6 that "a ringer standing there is the difference between something that comes back empty and something that can have really several hundred dollars in it."

Another official explained to WDIO that the organization does have a "handful of paid ringers" who fill in for volunteers, though it may not be enough to make up for the shortfall.

According to the Northern Division of the Salvation Army, bell-ringers work a minimum of two hours but are encouraged to watch over the kettles for four hours or more "to help The Salvation Army manage sites and volunteers more efficiently."

Is volunteerism on the decline?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic's yearly volunteerism report found that 2014 saw the fewest Americans volunteering (for anything, not just bell-ringing) since the agency began tracking numbers in 2001, according to the Huffington Post.

However, the year-to-year change might not be so dramatic. The report shows that the volunteer rate in America last year was 25.3 percent, only a slight drop from the year before when it was 25.4 percent.

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