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Are you ready for serious holiday bell ringing?

Linda Lewis of New Richmond will be ringing the Salvation Army bell for 30 hours straight beginning at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20. She hopes to talk to individuals and businesses in the area ahead of her shift in order to help raise a good chunk of change for the local organization's programs.

Linda Lewis gave up caffeine a couple weeks ago.

Talk about bad timing.

Lewis has agreed to ring the bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign for 30 hours straight Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 20-21, at the New Richmond Wal-Mart.

"The caffeine may have to make a re-appearance for those days," Lewis said with a laugh.

Lewis recently responded to a request from the St. Croix County Salvation Army organization to find a replacement for marathon bell ringer Helen McCombie of Hudson, who decided to end her annual 30-hour shift this year. McCombie had rung Salvation Army bells for 30 hours at a time in each of the past five years, raising more than $100,000 in the process.

Lewis said she was thrilled to step in when McCombie challenged others to take her place, even though Lewis doesn't know how she'll fare over the course of her shift.

"I was laid off at the end of May from my job in the Cities," she said. "And my husband's business (Lewis Heating & Air Conditioning) is doing very well. I wanted to pay it forward and be thankful."

Because she has the time, and she has her health, Lewis signed on because she was once down on her luck and received help from others.

"Seventeen years ago, I was a single mom and struggling," she said. "I used the services in Hudson at that time. Now I want to reach out and do something meaningful."

The marathon effort is also a good object lesson for her kids, Lewis said.

"I have a 17-year-old and a 2-year-old," Lewis said. "It's good to show them that you have to get out there and do what you can."

Lewis has volunteered as a bell ringer over the Christmas season before, but never for an extended period of time. She's hoping the weather is warm, and that the excitement of the event will carry her through her full 30-hour shift. She begins ringing the Red Kettle bell at 5 a.m. Tuesday and she will conclude at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Two other people have agreed to ring bells for 30 hours straight in Hudson as well on Dec. 20-21.

Duana Bremer, administrative director of the Salvation Army in St. Croix County, said she hopes the combined efforts of the marathon ringers will help the local organization meet its fundraising goal this year.

Through Monday, and with less than two weeks to go until Christmas, the local Red Kettle Campaign has raised approximately $42,000 The goal is $100,000.

"That leaves a gap of over $58,000," she said. "Donations are needed in order to meet the needs of those in need right here in St. Croix County."

The Salvation Army helps to provide local individuals and families in need in a number of ways, including rent assistance, utilities assistance, transportation and medical assistance to families and individuals in need.

The Salvation Army also provides milk coupons to the food pantries in the county that are redeemable at a local merchant, along with the highly utilized "Happy Kids Backpack Program" which provides more than 100 families who are on the free or reduced lunch program with a backpack full of food once a week.

The Salvation Army in St. Croix County also operates a Family Shelter called Grace Place. Currently the home is housing 24 individuals and families and there is always a waiting list.

"Eighty-nine percent of the dollars you donate during the Red Kettle Campaign stay in St. Croix County to help your friends and neighbors," she said. "This year has been a very tough economic year as it is followed by several previous years of economic crisis. Many people have not found work yet and are struggling to make ends meet. Many who have never sought help before are suddenly looking for help."

Bremer said if the local organization misses its goal, families and individuals across the county will suffer during the year.

"If the Salvation Army is unable to raise the funds needed, there will not be enough funds to help those who are in the most need," she said. "Not just during Christmas but, throughout the year."

If you are unable to get to a Red Kettle this holiday season, donors can mail their tax deductible donation to: Salvation Army, 203 Church Hill Road, Somerset WI 54025.

If you are able to volunteer a couple hours of your time during the holiday season, the Salvation Army is currently seeking help for bell ringers. You can volunteer a couple hours and know that you are helping your friends and neighbors in need by donating just your time. If you are interested in helping in this way, contact 715-247-2944 to set up a time to ring.