Ringing in the holiday giving

A watched pot may not boil, but it does clink and crackle. Friday, the red kettle in front of Tom and Nancy Grota received a stream of coins and bills for the Salvation Army.

Left to right, Nancy and Tom Grota share a laugh Friday with a donor before he walks into Super One Foods at 1515 Oakes Ave. The village of Superior couple has been ringing bells for the Salvation Army for years. It's amazing, they said, how people respond to a smile and a friendly greeting. The Salvation Army's holiday bell-ringing campaign kicked off Friday. (Maria Lockwood)

A watched pot may not boil, but it does clink and crackle. Friday, the red kettle in front of Tom and Nancy Grota received a stream of coins and bills for the Salvation Army.

"People are nice, they really are, and it's amazing how people react to a smile," said Nancy Grota, 78.

"And a hello and a greeting," said her husband Tom, 68.

As a man walked past them into Super One Foods, Tom made sure he knew they were there.

"Don't spend all your money," he said. "We'll take it."


When a man wearing Burlington Northern Railroad gear stopped by and pushed a bill into the kettle slot, he got more than a smile.

"Three cheers for BN," Tom said.

The Grotas moved from the Madison area to the village of Superior seven years ago. About four years ago, they volunteered to ring bells at a Salvation Army kettle, and they've been doing it ever since.

"It's a small part to pay for helping others," Tom said. "There are so many in need. They need all the help they can get."

And, they said, it's a pleasure to spread some holiday cheer.

"Anything you do can be fun if you want it to be," Nancy said.

About three times each season, the couple volunteers to ring bells. The weather hasn't always cooperated. Once, they manned a kettle in temperatures that dipped to minus 8 degrees. They bundled up and toughed it out.

"We had on everything but the bedroom quilt," Nancy said.


The Grotas are among the dozens of volunteers who faithfully ring bells each year.

"There are lots of stories," said Patti Hierl, who has been coordinating kettle volunteers in Superior since 2004.

Superior High School senior Erica Mittlestadt has been serenading Super One Foods shoppers with her saxophone since she was in middle school. Hugh Smith volunteers at Walgreens in honor of his father, who also rang bells there. Just about every Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. Bud Brand with the Rookie Basketball Association can be found ringing bells at K-Mart. A group of musicians known as the Wassailers plays a concert each year at the Super One Foods on Oakes Avenue. Members of the Richard I. Bong American Legion Post 435 spend an entire day volunteering at a kettle.

"They will tell you stories," Hierl said.

Sometimes, she'll drop by and bring them coffee or hot chocolate. It's her way of saying thanks.

"How do you pay them back? They're volunteers," she said.

One group even does outreach. A troop of Boy Scouts takes a kettle for a trip to the village of Lake Nebagamon and spends a day collecting donations.

There is still time to add your own story. Volunteers are needed to ring bells from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at eight different spots around town -- all three Super One Foods stores, K-Mart, Walgreens, afternoon shifts at the Mariner Mall, and starting Black Friday, two entrances at Wal-Mart. To sign up, contact Hierl at 715-817-0174.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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