By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) was out in force ringing the bell (sometimes singing and dancing) for the Salvation Army of the Midlands, all shifts, all day, at both entrances to Walmart in northeast Columbia, Thursday, Dec. 8.

Last year, RCSD raised $1,473.36 for the Salvation Army setting a record in central South Carolina for the most money raised by an organization on a single day at one location during the 2021 Red Kettle Campaign. Early returns indicate that RCSD will have broken its own record when the final tally is released after Christmas this year.

“Ringing the bells for The Salvation Army is a time-honored Christmas tradition that my staff and I truly enjoy,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “We always have a great time getting out, meeting, and talking with all the families, children, and people shopping and seeing how many people give. Nearly everyone gives. They want to give.”

Since 1906, community partners in the Midlands like RCSD have helped ring the bell to raise awareness and funds for The Salvation Army. One of many programs supported by Midlands-area kettle funds is the Christmas Angel Tree program. This year the Angel Tree will provide 2,500 children with new toys and clothing. Kettle funds raised also support the Salvation Army’s social services department which provides for housing stability (preventing homelessness), meals served and food service for homeless shelters, and youth development (summer camps, reading programs, etc.)

“The Salvation Army is thankful to Sheriff Lott and his team for their willingness to ring the bell in support of our Red Kettle Campaign,” said Major Mark Craddock, area (five-county region) commander of the Salvation Army. “This level of support from our community will help us reach our goal of $300,000 this Christmas season. These funds will help The Salvation Army to continue our Mission in helping individuals and families in need all year long.”

RCSD had four deputies for each shift – primarily members of RCSD’s command staff and Community Action Team – manning two doors at Walmart from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on December 8 with Sheriff Lott himself ringing the bell and welcoming shoppers in the late afternoon.

“I love ringing the bells for The Salvation Army,” said RCSD Deputy Chief Maria Yturria. “A single-hour shift spent seeing all these families with small children – whose eyes light up when they hear the bells and see the red aprons – is an experience almost beyond my ability to describe. Best of all is the knowledge that every coin and dollar bill they put in the kettle is going towards making Christmas a little bit better for an equally deserving child who might not otherwise receive any gifts for Christmas.”

– Pictured (from left) are Master Deputy Addy Perez, Sergeant Garo Brown, and Sheriff Lott.