Kettle Spotlight: ‘Santa Vader’ is a force for good

Dec 8, 2020

Luke Skywalker was right: There is good in Darth Vader.

For the 16th consecutive year, Champlin resident Jim Maahs is donning his “Santa Vader” costume to ring bells and raise money for people in need.

“We have a lot of fun and we get a lot of enjoyment out of this,” said Maahs, who is scheduled to ring bells at Cub Foods in Champlin at noon every Saturday until Christmas Day, and at noon on Christmas Eve.

Santa Vader is always a hit at the red kettles. Last Saturday, Maahs and a friend who dressed as a Stormtrooper together raised $620 in just one hour of bell ringing. 

“We do this for our love of Star Wars and the benefit that goes with it,” Maahs said. 

Maahs is a member of the 501st Central Garrison – a volunteer Star Wars costuming club recognized as Lucasfilm’s preferred Imperial costuming group. Its thousands of worldwide members regularly appear at charitable events that help children and others in need.   

Maahs said a club member who dresses as Chewbacca might join him for a bell ringing shift between now and Christmas. 

“He wears painter’s stilts to become 7 feet, 2 inches tall,” Maahs said. “You can’t even tell he’s wearing the stilts.” 

Maahs also becomes much taller in his costume, going from 6 feet tall to 6 feet, 6 inches tall with the help of platform shoes and Vader's large helmet.   

Maahs started ringing bells before he created his Santa Vader character in 2005. He fell in love with the activity several years before that, when he and his sons were involved with Cub Scouts.

“The kids would take turns and (our pack) would ring for an entire day,” Maahs recalled. “Bell ringing is all about fun and charity.”

Be a force for good

You, too, can be a force for good by signing up to ring

Your help is desperately needed: The number of volunteer bell ringers has dropped 15 percent compared to last year. This drop is resulting in thousands upon thousands of dollars of lost donations. 

Bell ringing is a fun and safe fundraising activity that now includes enhanced social distancing and sanitization measures, with Apple Pay and Google Pay options for touchless giving. During a two-hour shift, you’ll raise an average of $60 for Salvation Army services – enough money to provide a day’s worth of food and shelter for a person experiencing homelessness. 

No time to ring? There are many other ways to help The Salvation Army Rescue Christmas for families in need. 

Enlist in Love’s Army by giving a donation or ringing bells at a red kettle. Your gifts of time and money will help Rescue Christmas for people and families struggling to get through the pandemic.  

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