Woman rings the bell to honor father

Dec 3, 2021

Nancy Van Bruggen has been ringing bells for The Salvation Army for more than 30 years.

“It touches my heart,” she said, while ringing with her 4-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn, at Coborn’s grocery store in Big Lake, Minn. 

Nancy loves to ring not only because it helps local families in need, but because it connects her to her father, Wesley Retterath, who died in 2007. They rang together every Christmas season in Valley City, N.D., for about 20 years. Sign up to ring.

Wesley spent decades as the lead volunteer in charge of The Salvation Army’s Service Extension Unit in Valley City. Service Extension Units consist of volunteers who provide Salvation Army services in less-populated regions of Minnesota and North Dakota. These units are funded by kettle donations and located in every county of both states, ensuring that The Salvation Army can provide food, shelter and care absolutely everywhere. 

“Bell ringing is something that was very dear to my dad,” Nancy said. “He would do it outside when it was 20 below. He worked his hind end off to get volunteers. He was such a good guy.”

The Salvation Army in Valley City is now led by volunteer Lee Isensee, who took over the job from Wesley many years ago. (Read a story about The Salvation Army’s work in Valley City.) 

Today, Nancy is thrilled to demonstrate to her granddaughter the importance of giving back. They’ve been ringing bells together ever since Brooklyn was 2 years old.

“She is a friendly, good-hearted little person,” Nancy said. “Next year her little brother will be coming with. We want these kids to understand the importance of serving.”

Nancy is proud of the giving spirit her father instilled in her and the legacy he left behind.  

“I do this in honor of him,” she said. 

Ring in a new tradition

This Christmas season, you too can start a tradition of ringing bells for The Salvation Army. With three weeks remaining in the Red Kettle season and hundreds of kettle locations throughout Minnesota and North Dakota, you’re sure to find a convenient time and place to ring. Sign up now.

Your time at a kettle will raise money to provide food, shelter and care for people in need. Just two hours at a kettle typically raises about $60 – enough money for The Salvation Army to provide a hot meal and one night of shelter for a person experiencing homelessness. 

You can do something good this holiday season by donating to The Salvation Army, volunteering, or ringing bells at a Red Kettle. Your help will provide food, shelter and care for local families in need. Because of you, Hope Marches On. 

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