The Salvation Army is in desperate need of bell ringers to man the kettles at various Lake area locations. While many chapters now pay people to ring bells, the Lake Area Salvation Army continues to rely on volunteers.

Every year around this time, at least for the last 14, Harold Johnston greets thousands of Lake area residents with a smile, ringing bells, a hello and a wish of a Merry Christmas.

In return, people leave what they can in support of local Salvation Army chapters who are seeking people like Mr. Johnston for various shifts to be filled at grocery and retail stores across Camden and Morgan counties. Local organizers say there are plenty of available days and flexible shifts for those willing to bear the cold for a good cause.

“I come at 8 o’clock in the morning and stay until 11 o’clock. It’s great,” Johnston says on a brisk Thursday morning while wearing a ball cap, sunglasses and a red apron. “This - it just don’t get any better than this.”

The former steelworker from Kansas City has been volunteering as a bell-ringer and donation collector for over the last decade when he and his wife retired to the Lake area. Johnston says it feels great to give back to the community and those less fortunate around the Christmas holiday.

“I do it almost every morning (around this time of year),” he says. “You greet people, they smile, they give you a donation. It’s just very enjoyable. I like it very much.”

The Salvation Army is in desperate need of bell ringers to man the kettles at various Lake area location, according to one coordinator Judy Crawford.

While many chapters of the Salvation Army now pay people to ring bells, the Lake Area Salvation Army continues to rely on volunteers. The local chapter also has no office or staff, helping people through referrals from area agencies.

A small percentage of the money raised through the kettles is sent to division headquarters in St. Louis to help with disaster relief around the country. The 85 percent that stays in the Lake area helps those in need here with things like rent, utility bills, medical bills, medication and food - anything someone might need.

Bell ringers are needed from Versailles to Eldon, Osage Beach, Camdenton, Sunrise Beach, and Laurie.

Local ring times are usually done in two hour shifts but Crawford said when they are as short-handed as they area this year, they will take any help they can get. Churches, civic groups and clubs are encouraged to participate and organize their own force of ringers.

Call Judy Crawford 573-480-1221 to see about volunteering at locations around the east side of Lake of the Ozarks. Call Sandy Gilbert at 573-374-8874 to ring at Save-A-Lot in Laurie and Nancy Pate for G2M in Laurie.