Bell ringer profile: Lindstrom men ring every day of Red Kettle season

Dec 7, 2023

Irve Lecy and Gary Gerke are some of the most inspiring, dedicated bell ringers you’ll ever meet. They ring every single day of the Red Kettle season, which runs Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve on weekdays and Saturdays.

The men – both octogenarians – ring at Brink’s Market in Chisago City, Minn., near their hometown of Lindstrom. Six mornings per week, they come to the grocery store to see how many bell ringing shifts have gone unfilled by other volunteers. Whatever shifts are left for the day, they divide and cover themselves. (Photo below: Gary, left, is pictured with Brink’s Market owner Roger Brink, center, and Irve, right.)

“Today I’m ringing for five hours,” said Irve, 87, while ringing the morning of Nov. 30, before Gary took over the kettle at 11 a.m. “Some days I’ve rang for eight or nine hours.” 

Irve is so dedicated to ringing that he postponed a medical procedure originally scheduled for December. 

“I told the doctors, ‘Sorry, we’ll have to wait until January – when I’m not bell ringing,’” he said with a laugh.

Irve started ringing about 10 years ago when he and his wife of 68 years were living in a motorhome in Texas, where they wintered for several years.  

“Our campground was five blocks from a Sam’s Club – our neighbors said we should go there and ring bells with them,” Irve recalled. 

Gary recruited Irve to ring at Brink’s Market after Irve and his wife moved back to Lindstrom year-round. The men go to the same church and have known each other for decades.  

“I love to help the community around town,” said Gary, 85, who belongs to the local Lions Club, American Legion and Planning Commission. He has been married for 46 years. 

Gary and Irve like bell ringing because it allows them to see their friends in the community. They know many – if not the majority – of the people who pass by their Red Kettle.

“That’s what’s nice about small town U.S.A. – you know quite a few people,” Gary said. 

Irve and Gary’s community is extraordinarily generous. Last year, the kettle at Brink’s Market raked in more than $18,000 – the 18th most out of 275 kettle locations in the Twin Cities. This year the kettle has already raised nearly $6,000.

“If you want money in your kettle, you have to be here ringing,” Gary said. “People don’t put money in the kettle when you’re not there ringing.”

Gary and Irve love ringing because they love their community, and they know the money they are raising will provide food, shelter and care for people and families in need. 

“The Salvation Army is a worthy cause – here and around the world,” Irve said. “We enjoy ringing, and we have the time to do it.” 

Sign up to ring bells

With less than three weeks left in the Red Kettle season, The Salvation Army still needs 1,700 more local ringers to reach our goal of 7,500 ringers for the season. Sign up to ring now.

Bell ringing is a fun and easy way to make a big difference, with hundreds of Red Kettle locations throughout the Twin Cities, Greater Minnesota, and North Dakota. Raise even more money by recruiting your friends, family and coworkers to join.

Sign up to ring now and help The Salvation Army provide life-changing support for people and families in need.

This holiday season, The Salvation Army is calling on all of our supporters to Love Beyond. #LoveBeyond is a national Salvation Army campaign that encourages people to put love above all else, in order to show families in need that love exists beyond their most difficult situations – be it hunger, overdue bills, eviction, addiction, and other hardships. Join us by giving a donationsigning up to volunteer, or ringing bells at a Red Kettle.

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