Ringing in the holidays

Nov 292006
Authors: Keri Lenderink CTV News Director

Pete Ortiz begins his day at 10 a.m., donning a fluffy down jacket and lugging a tattered blue backpack.

He climbs into a white Ford van with several other soldiers and heads out to work.

As he stands in the blistering cold, some people pass by without seeming to notice Ortiz’s smiling eyes and the bruised metal object clanging in his hand. But others thank him for his work with a grateful tap on the shoulder and a few coins in a red kettle.

“If I could get everybody to donate it would be a great job,” Ortiz said. “That’s the only bad part is you can’t get everybody to donate.”

Ortiz works for the Salvation Army, trying to scrape together a few donations for the needy. This year, it will donate its Christmas profits to 650 families with a combined 2,000 children.

Captain Michael Halverson heads the Salvation Army bell ringers out of an outpost located on South Mason Street.

“There’s a little bit more to it than just standing there,” he said. “That’s one of the hardest parts of the job, just standing there for eight hours.”

But for Ortiz and other bell ringers, standing out in the freezing temperatures isn’t the worst thing.

The Salvation Army places about 20 to 25 kettles around Fort Collins, but in recent years, it’s been difficult to get those kettles manned.

“Quite a few years ago we might have been able to work off volunteers,” Halverson said. “But the last few years it’s been difficult to get volunteers to help out.”

Salvation Army bell ringers are now paid to ring their bells outside local stores, but sometimes giving them some extra money isn’t enough.

“Even paying them, its difficult to get enough people to go out each day,” Halverson said.

But for Ortiz, it takes more than a few people passing him by to get him down.

“Even if people don’t acknowledge you, it doesn’t matter, you know,” he said, “’cause it’s all really about Christmas.”


Check out the video version of this story at ctv11.com.

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