Monday, December 27, 2010

Salvation Army bell-ringers

Helen Glover makes a donation.
Salvation Army bell-ringers
by Amanda Gordon

On Friday morning, Christmas Day Eve, I went out to photograph Salvation Army bell-ringers on their on their final day of soliciting donations for the needy. I first met Trenton Bethea outside of Grand Central Station. He told me he'd gone to the Salvation Army looking for food and shelter, and wound up with a job as a bell-ringer. "I'm grateful to be working," Bethea said, bell in hand, "but it's not easy."

Indeed getting people's attention on the streets of midtown during the frenzy of the holiday season requires all sorts of talents including ringing the bell with "an island rhythm," as Hudson Christian was doing in front of Macy's, singing, and dancing.
Trenton Bethea outside Grand Central Station.
Douglas Rockwell in Times Square.
For Donna Porterfield, who is homeless, the trick to getting donations is is finding ways to make people smile. "I let the children ring the bell. And if people look glum, I'll sing," she said, breaking into "You know Dasher and Dancer And Prancer and Vixen." Porterfield has manned the kettle in midtown, in Brooklyn, and in Raleigh, North Carolina. "More people make donations in Raleigh but the people in New York give more," she said.

I saw several moms and dads help their kids put money in the kettle, but the importance of the gesture didn't occur to me until later, when a friend wrote me that she has "many great memories" from childhood "of putting change in those red pots and ringing the bell with my dad. I hope to install those same memories in my daughter too. They are my go-to charity organization — they do so many great things for people that are down and out and help turn their life around."
Captain William Geracia. Hudson Christian of the Harlem Salvation Army, outside Macy's.
Donna Porterfield in front of Lord & Taylor.
In January, the organization has an exciting leadership change: Charlotte Jones Anderson, the daughter of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and a powerful Cowboys executive in her own right, becomes chairman of the Salvation Army's National Advisory Board. The Stanford graduate oversaw the design of the Cowboys' new stadium, which now brims with contemporary art; she also looks after the team's cheerleaders and its charitable activities.

Her commitment to the Salvation Army is longstanding: 13 years ago she implemented a Skettle kick-off during the half-time show of the Cowboys' Thanksgiving game. In her new role she'll look for ways to highlight the work of the organization so people know it beyond the kettles and bells and places to donate old clothes or buy them cheaply.

"They have this group of officers that dedicate their lives to helping other people," Anderson told the Dallas Morning News. "The fact that they make a career out of humanity is amazing. They do it for no credit, and they do it because it's the right thing to do .... So it's our job to recognize that."
Leigh Smith helps his daughter Mathilda fill the bucket.
Ryan Mikolinis, 11, sang "Jingle Bells" to draw attention in busy Times Square.
Outside the New York Public Library, the bell took a rest in favor of recorded holiday music.
120 W. 14th Street
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 337-7200

Call: 1-800-SAL-ARMY

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