Salvation Army Receive Gold Coins Again

Salvation Army Capt. David Martinez was thrilled that one of his bell ringers collected the first gold coin donations of the holiday season. But he admits it does create a little competition among the 40 ringers on his staff.

"There is another very good ringer, and he's a little jealous (the gold coins weren't dropped) in his kettle, and he let me know about it," said Martinez, who declined the ringer's request for a transfer to Wal-Mart in Lake Zurich, where five gold coins valued at about $6,500 were donated this week.

As of Friday, the Salvation Army's ubiquitous red kettles had received nine gold coins, ranging in value from $120 to $1,300, in Lake County alone, said Alyse Chung of the Salvation Army Metropolitan Division. The charity has collected more than 400 gold coins since the first was deposited in a red kettle in McHenry County more than 25 years ago.

"It's a ... particularly strong tradition in our area because this is where it all started," Chung said. "They deposit the gold coins so other people will be inspired to donate."

A bell ringer's personality can make a big difference, Martinez said.

"I let them know they're appreciated and doing a good job and remind them about what they're doing it for," he said, adding that the donations help fund Salvation Army community assistance programs year-round. "Our goal this year is not to worry about the money, just make somebody's day better. Tell them hello, acknowledge them, wish them a happy holiday and the money takes care of itself."

Some of the best bell ringers, he said, are those who can brave the cold, stand by their kettle and manage a bell ringing in their ear for seven hours a day, six days a week for minimum wage.

Ringer Lora Sackett, 51, of Arlington Heights, withstood 19-degree temperatures Friday outside a Jewel in Mount Prospect. She said she's inspired each day by Martinez and was happy for her colleague who collected the five gold coins, identified by the charity as Ignacio Aguilar, of Chicago.

Sackett plans on ringing again next year.

"I like smiling, greeting them, making them comfortable, having a great disposition and making their day," Sackett said, adjusting her four layers of clothing and pulling out a tissue. "But the last thing they want to see is someone's nose dripping."

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