NORMAN — Major Margaret Kennell thought her local Salvation Army unit had finally hit the Christmas mother lode. A diamond ring was dropped in the red kettle at the east Norman Wal-Mart in the week before Christmas.
They even planned on running a newspaper advertisement, advising anyone who had accidentally dropped the ring in the kettle to identify it and it would be returned to them if it was dropped in by mistake.
No such luck. A quick trip to a downtown jeweler and it turned out to be a fake diamond with a relatively small worth. It’s good to dream.
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But Norman donors came through in other ways. This year’s countywide goal of $110,000 was surpassed. The roughly 19 locations — Wal-Marts, Homeland stores, Hobby Lobby, liquor stores, Sam’s and the mall — brought in $165,000.
“Last year we got a couple of watches donated. We also got a white envelope with a gold wedding band inside,” Kennell said. “They had written ‘And they brought him gifts of gold’ on the envelope.”
In Moore, at Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve, Kennell was recalling how no one had ever dropped a gold coin in her kettles as has happened in other cities. She was emptying the kettle and found a wad of bills. There was a $20, some $10s and then some $100 bills. All told, the donor had dropped $650 cash in the kettle.
“The people in Norman and Moore have just been really generous this year,” she said.
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Indeed, numerous organizations, families, sororities, fraternities, businesses and individuals volunteer to ring the bells here. Many of the ringers are paid employees but in Norman and Moore the percentage of vounteers is higher than throughout the region, Kennell said.
Here are a few secrets gleaned from personal experience with the red kettles and the bells. Make eye contact with shoppers. Better for them to know that you have an interest in them donating. Also, have a gimmick: A Christmas hat, blinking nose or ugly sweater. One year Jaci Williams’ was ringing bells and the bell broke. She improvised and made her own ringing sound as shoppers approached.
“Ring, ring, ring,” she would say while telling them her dinger was broken. A few of the donors even offered a little extra so she could buy a new bell.
“It’s just really been awesome,” Kennell said. “We have the best volunteers anywhere and they do more hours than Oklahoma City and Tulsa by far.”