Ever wonder if that Salvation Army bell is still ringing at 3 a.m. outside the entrance to the grocery store? Is it like the proverbial tree falling in the forest? Does it make a sound if no one is around to hear it? Here is your chance to find out.
If you've not yet met Noah Wiedenfeld, Management Analyst for the City of New Richmond, you will have precisely 26.2 hours to make his acquaintance this holiday season starting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 14 outside of the Walmart store on the south end of town. It is unclear at the moment if he will be dressed festively (elf ears, Santa slippers) or just practically for whatever the weather might be that day. One accessory however will certainly distinguish him, the Salvation Army's golden bell that he has volunteered to ring for 26.2 consecutive hours.
"As a younger person with student loans, I don't have the fortune of writing a big check, but I thought I could probably do a long period of time (ringing the bell)," said Wiedenfeld.
He was inspired by Hudsonites Jeremy Lilyquist and Derek Gilbert, whose 30-hour, tag team, marathon bell ringing exploits raised more than $60,000 for the Army's Red Kettle campaign in 2014.
"I read that they (Lilyquist and Gilbert) were stepping down. A lot of that money raised in Hudson comes right here to New Richmond. To me, it just made sense that if the money is staying here in New Richmond, that someone from New Richmond should step up to the plate. So I'm officially at the plate. I reached out to Salvation Army, Grace Place this fall. I think more often than not, we think about just giving financially when a lot of times giving them some of your time is just as valuable. It doesn't have to be 26.2 hours, it can be just one or two," said Wiedenfeld.
Wiedenfeld has some experience with the bell having volunteered for several hour shifts in the past, but nothing on the scale of 26 hours, solo. However, he does have some endurance credentials including competing in 15 marathons.
"The 26.2 came from the fact that I run marathons. So I thought we could call it a "bell-ringing marathon."
Wiedenfeld's marathon will run simultaneously with the slot formerly filled by Lilyquist and Gilbert, only this year, stepping in to occupy that slot in Hudson will be the officers of the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department.
"So we'll kind of have the same thing going on in both cities at the same time. They'll be rotating through doing either 30 or 36 hours. Here in New Richmond, it will just be me," smiled Wiedenfeld.
Regulations will prevent Wiedenfeld from entering even the cart staging area inside Walmart to ring his bell, so he will be at the mercy of the elements outside, whatever they might be that night.
"Hopefully the wind won't be too bad. We'll find out," said Wiedenfeld.
He will be able to use the restroom and Wiedenfeld is not required to stand the whole time.
Wiedenfeld expects that the Salvation Army will take steps to promote his donation including posting his photo hourly to social media over the course of his 26-hour endeavor. He is hoping friends, family and strangers alike will consider visiting him, particularly during the wee hours early in the morning and maybe bring by some food and drink.
"I think the busier times will go by quicker. I'm guessing City staff will drop by and I'm hoping my wife will stop by. People are going to stop and talk, but I don't expect there'll be too many people coming in and out at 2 a.m. in the morning. If someone wanted to be nice and drop off something to eat, I'd welcome that. Maybe bring some Taco Bell over," suggested Wiedenfeld.
Wiedenfeld sees this as a great opportunity for people to get creative. Maybe the band will consider an impromptu concert at 3 a.m. Maybe the football team could stage a mini snow bowl. All kinds of Christmas caroling comes to mind and what would caroling be without cookies.
The Salvation Army is encouraging as many people as possible to participate with Wiedenfeld, have fun, but also keep in mind the idea is to raise money to address local needs. Consider donating $26.20 or finding 26 friends to donate, maybe a pool based on bathroom breaks, you get the idea; keep the dull moments to a minimum.
"I'm guessing they'll have some kind of a countdown, every hour, turn the number, you know, show how many hours are left. I think enough people know me. I've been here a couple years now, either through the city or the Rotary club, even if you stop by for few minutes to pat me on the back let me know how cold I'm looking. I'm open to ideas and willing to do whatever it takes. It should be a good time," predicted Wiedenfeld.
Wiedenfeld is currently accepting suggestions for wardrobe from head to toe. To communicate your suggestions, contact him at 715-246- 4268 or email@example.com.
According to Salvation Army Development Director Angela Moulton, this year's fundraising goal for St. Croix County is $75,000. Moulton is also looking for volunteers to help support Wiedenfeld during his campaign as well as more volunteers to take shifts bell ringing in New Richmond. You can contact her with questions regarding Noah's shift, other volunteer opportunities or to make a donation at 715-247-2944 or on her cell at 715-497-4438.