The familiar red kettle can be seen outside of many stores this time of year. Its volunteer attendants wield a bell that doesn’t just ring in the holiday spirit, but also calls on people to give.
Thousands of shoppers encounter these bell ringers collecting for charity each holiday season throughout the country, but they don’t normally have a community connection with them. For the Rotary Club of Mercer Island, however, that is not the case.
Petra Walker, who has been a Mercer Island resident for 33 years and a member of the Rotary Club for 12 years, said they are lucky to be doing this in a small town and see many people they know. She said they get to engage with community members and have discussions.
“It’s a nice thing, and really it’s a community event,” she said. “We have a unique experience because Mercer Island is so small.”
Members of the Rotary have been bell ringing for Salvation Army at three locations on the Island — the north end QFC, south end QFC, and at Walgreens. Rotarians have already spent two days “a-ringing” (Nov. 30 and Dec. 7) and will be ringing at the same stores 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 14.
Each time, the Rotarians can be found in pairs, taking shifts. Walker said it also provides an opportunity for the duo to bond and connect in ways they wouldn’t necessarily have a chance to otherwise.
“We talk about everything under the sun,” she said.
All in all, she estimated about a third of the club’s total membership volunteer and participate in the ringing events.
“Everybody who is able to does it because it’s fun — truly fun,” she said.
In particular, she said she enjoys children and parents who approach together, pitch some coins in, and have an educational moment in which they discuss what it means to give.
She said she also is thankful for store staff and friendly customers who sometimes provide the volunteers with coffee, given that they stand out in the cold temperatures.
Most everyone involved shows kindness and generosity, she said, and she hopes to see more people participate on the Dec. 14.
More information about the Mercer Island Rotary Club and their events can be found online at www.mirotary.org.