Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
For this week’s #WHYoming, I had a chance to sit down with Kimberly May and Julie Godfrey, members of the Salvation Army board of directors, and local Salvation Army bell ringers.
Kim is the Salvation Army Board Chairperson, as well as the Independence Program Coordinator at the Sweetwater Family Resource Center. Julie is the Salvation Army Board Treasurer, the Rock Springs Bell Ringer Coordinator, and she also works at Broadway Bargains.
With the Salvation Army bell ringing season coming up soon, Kim and Julie are reminding the community to open up their generosity by either donating this holiday season, or by donating their time by being a bell ringer.
Location dates and times for this year’s bell ringing season are as follows:
- Albertson’s: November 20-27 and December 17-24
- Smith’s (Green River and Rock Springs): November 20-27 and November 29-December 24
- Walmart: November 29- December 24
- Murdoch’s: to be determined
To sign up to be a volunteer bell ringer, you can contact the Sweetwater Family Resource Center at 307-362-6549; Julie, Rock Springs Bell Ringing Coordinator at 307-922-3897; or Brooke Barna, Green River Bell Ringing Coordinator at 307-212-2473.
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Can you tell me a bit about the Salvation Army bell ringing season?
The Salvation Army has contracts with Smith’s and Kroger, Safeway, Albertson’s, and Walmart. And then last year, we rang at our local Murdoch’s which ended up going really well.
The bell ringing season usually starts the week of Thanksgiving, or just after Thanksgiving. It goes all the way through Christmas Eve.
How do you recruit volunteers?
What we try to do is send out letters to businesses and individuals who have rang before around the end of October to let them know we’re starting up our sign up sheets to volunteer. All our volunteers pick usually two hour increments or more to ring.
Anyone can volunteer. The high school National Honor Societies will help in both Rock Springs and Green River. Some people who have court ordered community service will contact us as well.
This year, we have a little propane heater that we’ll set up at some of the locations to help keep our volunteers warm so they don’t freeze.
What does the money collected go towards?
When we do our bell ringing for Sweetwater County, that money stays local. That money is how we help people who come here who need food, gas to get to appointments and job interviews, prescription assistance, dental and eye exam assistance, and utility assistance. So everyone who pitches in money during our bell ringing season is directly helping members of the community. That money goes into our local bank account that we have set up for the Salvation Army and we use that to help all those people.
Every household we help is allotted $150 per year. We have done instances where they need more money to get their eyeglasses or prescriptions, or to keep their utilities on, but it carries over to what they’re allowed to get next year. Especially with kids in the house, if their heat is going to get shut off, we’ll pay that.
Then we also have counter kettles, which are little jars that we put out at places that allow us to. We start doing that next week through after Christmas before New Years. This helps so we don’t have to have people standing at all these different locations and we don’t have to recruit as many volunteers, which can be hard enough some days.
Julie, how did you end up in Rock Springs?
Born and raised.
How about you, Kim?
Fifteen years ago, I was living in Southern California with my four kids on the verge of homelessness, even though I was working two and a half jobs, and I was going to school. My parents lived in Evanston, and they told me I should come move up here. At first, I was like, ‘it’ll be a cold day in hell before I move to Wyoming.’ Then, as I was looking for a place I could afford that would accommodate me and my four kids, I could only afford a one or two bedroom apartment, and they wouldn’t let me live there because of fire codes.
Long story short, instead of living in a motel with a kitchenette with prostitutes and drug dealers next door, I called my parents and said ‘hell froze over because I need to move to Wyoming or I’m going to be homeless.’ So it’s been 15 years since we’ve been in Wyoming. My kids hated it at first, but now they’re very thankful we left California and came here. We spent six years in Evanston, and then I got married and we moved here to Rock Springs. Then I got divorced, and I’m still here.
What’s something unique about the Salvation Army?
What’s unique about our organization is that everybody says we’re the ‘best kept secret in town’. People always tell us they didn’t know we existed.
We think it’s because we don’t have an actual office. Most Salvation Army locations have their own offices, but we don’t. The Sweetwater Family Resource Center office is the Salvation Army office.
We also don’t only serve Rock Springs, but all of Sweetwater County.
Kim, how did you get involved with the Salvation Army?
When i came to work here at Sweetwater Family Resource Center, since this office is the unit for Salvation Army, I just fell into Salvation Army naturally. I was being shown how to write a voucher, and I thought it was pretty cool. So I started inquiring more about it and was asked to become a board member. After becoming a board member, our board chairperson was moving, and they all asked if I could take her place. So I just said ok.
Julie, how did you get involved?
I’ve been part of the Salvation Army for 11 years. Another member and I were part of another group called Friends of Military Families, which helped our local National Guard unit, which has since disbanded. The coordinator of that group asked me to come be a part of Salvation Army because it’s the same kind of effort, you’re helping families. Four months later, they asked if I wanted to be the secretary of the Salvation Army board, and I said why not. So I’ve been secretary of the board ever since.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
We love that it’s small. It’s more friendly, more warm, and and more giving. Also, all the agencies are really great at collaborating.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Donate more. If you can’t donate monetarily, donate your time. Everything we collect bell ringing stays local, so it’s best to donate directly to our local Salvation Army so you know your money is going to our local community members, rather than going to the Wyoming fund. The Salvation Army mailers that are sent out go into the Wyoming fund.
If we run out of funds, we can’t help people.
If people want to make a donation to the local Salvation Army, they can do so at the Sweetwater Family Resource Center at 756 Pilot Butte, Rock Springs.
Beyond monetary donations, what else does the Salvation Army accept?
Our agency also accepts food donations and clothing. Julie also works at Broadway Bargains, so if they’re overrun, she’ll bring stuff here, and if we don’t have what someone needs, we’ll send them over there. We do need more food in our pantry because the food bank is open every other week, whereas we’re open Monday through Friday, every week. So people come here a lot, because they need food during the food bank’s off week.
One of the local hotels is also donating mattresses soon, because they have to change them out every few years. When you place a person in a home, they don’t have furniture or anything, so those donations are also welcome.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
When we house someone. Or keep their utilities on. Every small or big thing we can help with, that’s an accomplishment we’re proud of.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
I think we just like it here. We like the smaller communities, they’re more one on one. And no traffic. We like the four seasons. It can get pretty cold, but it’s nice to actually have seasons. We love that it’s more country and open and there’s wildlife. The kids aren’t as caught up in selfishness or gangs or things like that.