Ministry of a Bell Ringer

Dec 6, 2022

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign has become an iconic symbol of the Christmas season. For 131 years, Red Kettles have been placed at millions of storefronts across the world, each accompanied by a smiling bell ringer who is looking to give back to their community. 

81-year-old Mr. Bill Youman is one of Indiana’s extraordinary volunteer bell ringers, but his dedication has become almost as iconic as the Red Kettle in his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana. This fall, Bill is set to hit the incredible milestone of raising $100,000 as a bell ringer for The Salvation Army.  

For the past ten Christmas seasons, Bill’s smiling face has greeted shoppers as he stood by his Red Kettle for hour after hour, day after day, week after week. Why? Because he simply wants to do as much good as he can.  

Being a man of great faith, Bill claims that his many hours of bell ringing are part of a larger ministry. “There are two principles of Christianity: faith and service,” he expressed. “In the book of James, the Bible tells us, ‘Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,’ and there is no action simpler than just ringing that bell.” 

This year, Bill plans to ring more than 360 hours, broken into ten hours shifts, a challenge he has trained for a year to accomplish. “I don’t take any breaks while I’m at the kettle,” he explained. “Though I get tired, and get kind of achy at times, I try to remember the experiences of people in need around the world. Their tragedies seem unreal, beyond anything we could imagine.” 

The stories Bill has heard while manning the Red Kettle are some he will never forget. “One woman told me of her grandfather, a doughboy from WWI,” he recalled. “His first sighting as he stepped foot on the shores of America was The Salvation Army with coffee, donuts, and the warmest of welcomes.” 

One of his favorite stories was that of an elderly woman who shared that her father had passed away at a young age. The death left her family in shambles. In their time of need, The Salvation Army came to the rescue with clothes and toys on Christmas morning. “Though she was just a child at the time, she still remembers,” Bill added.  

As of now, Bill plans to return next year to bell ring once again. “I sometimes get my numbers confused. Am I 18 or 81?” he joked. “I am fortunate enough to be in good health, so as of now, I plan to return again for my eleventh year.”  

Because of bell ringers like Bill, families have dinner on the table, victims of domestic violence have found safe shelter, and children in his community will receive gifts on Christmas morning. If Bill’s story inspires you to give back, too, please consider signing up as a volunteer bell ringer in your own community. Just two hours of your time could raise enough funds to feed a family in need for an entire week. Visit today to find a convenient time and location for you.  

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