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OELWEIN — The joy of caring and sharing helps to repeat the miracle of Christmas each year. The Salvation Army has been an integral part of Christmas miracles since its beginning 129 years ago. The sight of the familiar red kettle and volunteer bell ringers helps generate millions in donations each year to help families in need, seniors, and the homeless.

In Oelwein, the Salvation Army Red Kettle Days begin Monday, Nov. 23 and will continue until Christmas Eve. Local Red Kettle organizer Jim Yokas has been a Salvation Army volunteer for six years.

“This last year was really good,” he said of the volunteers signed up and donations received. “I know we’ll be down a few volunteers this year because of COVID-19 concerns, but I am hoping we can sign up a few more.”

Yokas said in past years, the red kettle was found at the local Fareway Store. This year Dollar Fresh has also welcomed a red kettle stand, so he will need to fill more time slots for the second location.

“All the money we raise stays locally to help people in need or in crisis,” Yokas said. “That is the great thing about this fundraiser.”

Dennis Tellin of rural Westgate has been a volunteer bell ringer for the Salvation Army red kettles in Oelwein for three years. He decided he wanted to volunteer after seeing one at a store in Waterloo a few years ago. He got connected with Yokas and signed up for the four-hour shifts.

“Best job I ever had!” Tellin said. “I just stand out here next to the kettle and ring the bell. I sing Christmas carols and hymns sometimes. Some people look at me like I’m crazy, some smile and some sing along. It’s all good. I really enjoy it.”

This year Tellin will have some help with the bell ringing, and perhaps harmony with the carols. His wife Jeanine has also signed up as a Salvation Army volunteer for the red kettle.

“I’m a newbie, but I’m excited to do this and I’m sure Dennis will show me the ropes,” she said.

The Tellins and Yokas hope more persons will step forward to volunteer at one of the Oelwein red kettle locations this year. Yokas said all volunteers will be required to wear face masks and practice social distancing. Anyone interested in volunteering or learning more about how the Salvation Army can help, may call Yokas at 319-283-3003.


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