The unmistakable sound of bells heralds in the Christmas season in Guam. The tradition started in 1891 when a Salvation Army captain, Joseph Mcfee, saw many hungry people in San Francisco. He wanted to provide a hearty Christmas dinner to at least 1,000 of them.
Captain Joseph got an idea to put a pot out for passengers to toss coins into while disembarking at the Oakland Ferry Landing on Market Street.
He remembered his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England, where he saw an iron kettle called the "Simpson's Pot," into which people tossed coins to help the poor. "Keep the Pot Boiling," read a sign on his kettle. It worked. People in need have since been fed -- not only during Christmas season but all year-round -- through food banks, shelters and soup kitchens. The iconic Red Kettle has become a symbol of help and hope worldwide. That's the power of the Red Kettle. On Guam, the tradition started in 1994 when volunteer Nancy Weare first rang the bell. The Guam Corps had only begun, starting coincidentally with the arrival of Typhoon Omar in 1992. Some of us islanders seem to measure periods depending on which typhoon was around. "The most fun is having cute little kids come in and put their nickel or dime into the Kettle. I love watching the kids come and learn how to share and help others," Weare said.
She rang the bell every year. She made it a point to ring the last shift at Kmart, which often falls on Christmas eve. "I usually ring with Louis Ross and Lou HongYee every year. It's also nice to see friends who are doing their Christmas shopping." Like so many other Guamanians, Weare made bell ringing a tradition. Like so many bell ringers, due to Covid-19, she is unable to bell ring this year. Weare continues serving on the Guam Corps advisory board as a lifetime member. Maryanne Pascua started bell ringing in 2017. "I worked for a nonprofit organization in the past. So, I have seen firsthand how vital volunteers are to their mission delivery. Every day, I was inspired by the commitment of volunteers," Pascua said. "No great feat achieved by nonprofits could be possible with the limited amount of staffers organizations can afford to employ. Volunteers are a force for good, and they make a huge difference." This year, the Guam Corps has to make do with limited bell ringing sites and fewer volunteers because of the pandemic. The Guam Premier Outlets, Cost-U-Less Dededo, and Cost-U-Less Tamuning have kettles with volunteer bell ringers. Micronesia Mall has unattended kettles next to their hand sanitizing stations at Ross and Denny's Entrances. Agana Shopping center also has kettles next to their hand sanitizing stations at both entrances. Kettles are also inside all Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank branches. Salon Fusion owner Loren Abrahamsen decided to adopt a kettle for the first time. She and her staff read articles on recent Thanksgiving distribution, saw The Link and Giving Tuesday on KUAM. They were touched by how the nonprofit continues to help those who need it most in Guam.
"We wanted to give back this year, despite our business being closed for a few months. I decided to contribute 10% of the shop's income and accept donations to help the red Kettle," said Miss. Abrahamsen. "I first rang the bell when I was ten-years-old. When I turned 12, I joined the band that played Christmas Carols in malls in Portland, Oregon. Though turnout is low due to the pandemic, we appreciate all the volunteers working hard at our limited locations." Captain Eric Rudd, Corps Officer, Guam, and Micronesia Coordinator. Every dollar collected from the kettles stays on Guam. Online donations are remitted to help programs on-island. Even though the website redirects to Hawaii or for individual kettle fundraisers, the US mainland, the money is sent to Guam. The funds help holiday efforts and programs that support our island community throughout the year. The organization runs 24/7/365 with the Lighthouse Recovery Center. The Family Services Center has social programs that include rapid rehousing, rental/utility assistance, and temporary housing. FSC's services help prevent homelessness on our island. "I love celebrating the fundraising with people! I believe that happiness transcends smiles--when I'm happy, my whole body says it," Pascua said. "I raise my arms, jump for joy, and ring my bell with excitement when the Kettle gets a donation. It's more important now that smiles are covered by masks. However socially distant, sharing that small moment of happiness fills my heart."
If you or your company are interested in Bell Ringing, please call 477-9818 to register for a two-hour slot. You may also email email@example.com to sign up. To make a check presentation, please call 477-9873. To start your own online Red Kettle or make an online donation, please go to guamredkettle.org.
C.J. Urquico is the public relations and development coordinator for The Salvation Army Guam Corps.