Kenney has been a bell-ringer and Interact member for five years. She claims it has helped make her a better, more caring person. The service organization helps raise funds for a variety of international relief efforts including Shelterbox and Operation Shoebox. The members also coordinate senior dances and bingo games, organize teams for Relay for Life, and help out at Putnam’s Beautification Day.
Kenney's sister, Kaitlyn, and friend Marina Cinami were helping her on Saturday morning.
“It's not Christmas without bell-ringing,” Cinami said. The University of Connecticut sophomore and past Interact member said that collecting for the Salvation Army made her realize how fortunate she was. Cinami grew up in Woodstock. “My family isn't rich,” she said, “and most people are really rich in Woodstock, so I always kind of felt poor. I came here and I thought, ‘Wow, I'm really lucky. They need help. We can help them.’”
A man came out of the store wheeling some luggage. He dropped some bills into the kettle.
Interact members are not the only bell-ringers for the Salvation Army in Putnam. It takes 48 kids per day to fill a bell-ringing shift. Interact has 44 members, so they have recruited friends to help them. And students from the Putnam Science Academy have been a force in the campaign, along with students from Marianapolis Preparatory School, Putnam High School, Woodstock Academy and Pomfret School.
A man came through the door carrying a snow saucer. He reached for money to put in the kettle. “Every place I go,” he said to the girls as they thanked him. Kaitlyn kept ringing her hand bell. “I'm fortunate enough to be able to help,” she said. “All I'm giving is my time.”
Kenney said that someone wrapped four $100 bills in $1 bills and dropped them into the kettle last week. “Another man gave dollar bills to his two children to put into the kettle. One child wanted to keep the dollar. ‘We had a very hard Christmas last year and the Salvation Army helped us,’ he told the child. ‘I'm giving back.’ The boy asked if they couldn't give more,” Kenney said. “Another man told us how the Salvation Army helped him during the war. Now he donates at every kettle he sees.”
According to Interact advisor and Rotarian Paul Desaultel, this year's campaign was on track to break last year's record. As of 10 a.m. Saturday, the tally was $14,777.84. “We represent a major part of the Salvation Army budget for the Putnam area,” Desaultel said. At one time, bell-ringers brought in about 90 percent of the budget for the year, he said. Some years, that money would last through March and April. The funds are used to help Putnam area residents with fuel, food and clothing purchases, according to Desaultel.