A sure sign that the season of giving has arrived is the annual appearance of Salvation Army bell ringers, who recently began this year's Maryville campaign to raise funds for the venerable faith-based relief organization.
But the local 2012 effort is different. For the first time Maryville is part of a Service Extension Unit, which means Salvation Army efforts here are now being coordinated by a local advisory council with assistance from the organization's regional office in Kansas City.
As ever, donations dropped into the Salvation Army's trademark red kettles support emergency assistance to families and individuals in distress or recovering from fire, flood and other calamities.
Aid provided by the charity takes the form of food, clothing, utilities, housing assistance, temporary lodging, transportation, food supplements, prescription medications and other critical needs.
But the new board means that more emphasis is now being placed on what the Salvation Army does for those in need right here in Nodaway County.
Advisory Council member Norma Eckerson said Tuesday that 88 percent of the money donated locally will remain in the county to support relief efforts in the immediate area.
Other council members include Kathy O’Riley, Dave Weichinger, Jessica Loch, Rose Miller and Kim Stockwell. Phyllis Williams sits on the panel as a representative from the Kansas City office.
This year's drive will continue through Dec. 24 — Christmas Eve — with collection kettles at both Walmart Supercenter entrances as well as Hy-Vee, Nodaway Valley Bank, Citizen's Bank & Trust, Bank Midwest, US Bank and the Northwest Missouri Regional Credit Union.
In addition to its familiar bell ringers, the organization also raises money through mail appeals and, this year, will receive funding through Nodaway County United Way.
One reason for establishing a local council, Eckerson said, is to encourage more people to "step up and help out with fundraising." Board members also hope to increase awareness about the charity's activities in the Maryville region.
This year, Eckerson said, bell ringers have been organized into teams that include both parents and children, an attempt to emphasize the Salvation Army's emphasis on aiding families in need. In addition, kettles will also be manned by firefighters and Nodaway County Sheriff's deputies.
"We just wanted to involve more people from throughout the county," Eckerson said.
Salvation Army services and assistance are organized and distributed in the Maryville region in partnership with Community Services Inc., a local social services agency.
Volunteers are still needed to serve as bell ringers at Maryville kettle locations. Anyone interested should call Community Services at (660) 582-3113. Mail donations in care of Nodaway County Salvation Army Fund, Community Services Inc, P.O. Box 328, Maryville, MO, 64468.