Carrye Jo Cony was blown away by the volunteer bell-ringing effort of Lakeland University’s Beta Sigma Omega fraternity.
When she arrived at the Sheboygan north-side Walmart last Saturday, Cony, the Salvation Army’s volunteer coordinator, couldn’t believe how much money stuffed the two donation kettles.
“It had to be a record,” she said. “In fact, there was so much change in one of the kettles, the handle broke. I am absolutely thrilled with these young men’s dedication, and I’m now challenging other groups to break the kettle handle.”
Cony said the Betas raised a stunning total of $1,599.45 during their 9 a.m.-3 p.m. shift. So full were the kettles, Cony had to make a mid-day pit stop at Walmart to empty them, so the Betas could collect more. The kettle by the main entrance netted $1,088.
“We’ve never had a kettle get so full in such a short period of time,” she said.
Cony explained that the money LU’s Beta men raised that day will provide more than 53 nights of emergency lodging, meals and casework for homeless individuals in this community.
Six Lakeland Betas – Sterling Gladney, Airiss Hargrow, Cris Jackson, Diante Moses, Jerry Ojeda and fraternity president Donte Rowell – worked in pairs to fill the entire six-hour shift at both entrances.
Rowell said the Betas sang “Good Morning” to people who entered, and also gave “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” a try.
“It took me out of my comfort zone,” Rowell said of singing for strangers. “But I figured, we’re out here, so we might as well have fun! When we started singing and dancing, one lady immediately put $10 in the kettle.”
Earlier this week, Cony was talking to a group of volunteers from Aurora, and brought up the Betas’ incredible haul.
“One of the women said she saw the Lakeland students that day, dancing and singing,” Cony said. “She told me, ‘They were so festive, you couldn’t help but give!’ Those young men really added extra Christmas cheer and charisma. They’re a tough group to beat.”
Lakeland’s Betas have long been a go-to community service organization for the Salvation Army, Cony added.
“They are always so willing,” she said. “I have called on them at the last minute when we are blessed with a great donation, and the truck pulls up and we need some help unloading. They are always so cool about helping.”
Rowell said ringing the Salvation Army bells and helping others “was a true blessing.”
“A lot of people are not as fortunate as we are, and some people depend on community service to survive,” Rowell said. “I think I speak for all the Betas when I say it feels so good to make a difference and help people. And, it’s just the right thing to do.”
Cony said plenty of bell-ringing shifts remain, and she challenged other Lakeland groups to try and match the yeoman-like effort put forth by the Betas. Sign up at www.ringbells.org.