Making a difference one ring-a-ling at a time

Jeff Denney has been volunteering with Salvation Army since 2014

Holiday shopping season is upon us. The cooler temperatures nip at our noses while we shuffle quickly inside to warmer, cheerier stores, decorated for the season. We’re filled with goodwill toward others as we search for the perfect gifts to light up bright smiles on the faces of those we love. And of course, our ears are not only filled with the sounds of holiday music but are also treated to the soft ring-a-lings of those silver bells from the Red Kettle program of the Salvation Army.

Jeff Denney has perfected the art of the subtle and inviting ring of the silver bell. There’s a special technique to it, “You want to channel your inner English lady ringing a tea bell. It should be a calling soft enough so it’s just heard. You don’t want to make it off-putting in any way,” says Denney. If anyone is an expert, it’s him. He’s been a volunteer with the Salvation Army since 2014.

The Salvation Army has been there for Jeff in his highs and lows. He started volunteering as part of their adult rehabilitation program. Giving back while getting help himself has been a powerful tool for Jeff as he found a new lease on life. Back then, he was part of a group called the Kingsmen where he volunteered with others in the rehabilitation program. It helped them bond and build healthy relationships with others they could rely on.

Once he graduated from the program, he kept coming back to volunteer with those silver bells year after year. “It’s a great experience,” Jeff explains, “I love watching the kids get excited to run up and put the money in. I always encourage the parents to let the kids do it themselves. Sometimes it can be difficult for the kids to put the money properly into the red kettles, but it helps them build character and confidence.”

Suited up in a Santa hat and a Salvation Army apron, you may find Jeff outside some of his favorite spots like Hobby Lobby. While he was nervous when he first started volunteering, now he adores every minute of his two-hour shifts. He’s never had a bad experience while ringing the bells for the Red Kettles. It’s a time to connect with the community, laugh while making new friends, spend time with his friends and family who he often volunteers with, or even reconnect with people he hasn’t seen in years. “What keeps me coming back year after year is the spirit of generosity I get to witness and encourage. People love to give.”

Now a seasoned pro, Jeff likes to help others get involved and volunteer. He’ll often bring his friend Monet and her son who is now 13, who has been volunteering since 2017. Jeff often helps the youth in the community find the fun and joy in volunteering, too. Often, their favorite part is wearing the apron and handing out candy canes to all the other kids who are out shopping. According to Jeff, the best time of day to volunteer is between four and six in the evening or between six and eight during all the after-work holiday shopping action.

The donations from the Red Kettle program help the Salvation Army continue to do good work for the communities it serves year-round. The Army has been around since 1865 and does a lot for so many who are in need. If you’re curious about volunteering, Jeff says to just go for it. “Give it a try once or twice and see how you feel. I bet you’ll find that there’s a great spirit in doing it and you’ll find joy in helping others,” he adds.

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