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Bell ringers get gold coins, ring

You may toss some spare change into the Salvation Army red kettle outside your local grocery store, but would you believe what other people throw into them?

By Giselle Smith Dec 6, 2011 5:11PM

The Salvation Army's annual Red Kettle Campaign, which posts bell ringers outside stores and on street corners all over the United States, has seen some generous -- and unusual -- donations this year.

In the Spokane, Wash., area, bell ringers reported finding a diamond ring, worth $5,000, wrapped in a dollar bill, KREM 2 News reported. They also found a 1-ounce silver coin wrapped in a note explaining that the donor had held onto it for 20 years, and though unemployed for more than a year, facing foreclosure and bankruptcy, "I still know there are families in worse shape," the donor wrote.

In the Chicago area, bell ringers found their first gold coin of the season on Dec. 2 -- a 1-ounce solid gold South African Krugerrand worth almost $1,800, The Beacon-News reported. The Aurora Salvation Army has been receiving anonymous gold coin donations -- usually wrapped inside a dollar bill -- for the past four or five years, said Antonio Romero, a Salvation Army captain.

Tulsa, Okla., has also seen gold coin donations in recent years, possibly by a repeat donor, KJRH News reported. A Liberty gold coin, worth about $1,800, was dropped in a kettle there on Dec. 3.

Elsewhere, a kettle in Fort Myers, Fla., revealed a $20 gold coin, according to The Miami Herald. (Meanwhile, a Salvation Army bell ringer in Naples, Fla., was arrested Dec. 3, allegedly for stealing about $600 from his own and another kettle, the Naples Daily News reported.)

Other interesting donations so far this year, reported on the Salvation Army Blog:

Donations reported in past years have included South AfricanKrugerrandsin Colorado, Hawaii and Louisiana; gold wedding bands in Indiana; and a gold nugget family keepsake in Florida. Post continues below.

Salvation Army donations down

The annual Red Kettle donation drive, now in its 120th year, raises millions of dollars nationwide to help more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to the Salvation Army. Red kettles also collect donations in other countries, including Korea, Japan and Chile.

Though Reuters reports that "several recent surveys indicate that charities and nonprofits can expect giving to be more bountiful at the end of 2011, particularly compared to the last two years," some Salvation Army chapters are reporting that donations are down in their communities.

Together, Salvation Army chapters in Columbia and Jefferson City, Mo., are $60,000 behind on local donations, KOMU TV reported. The local chapters' annual budgets depend heavily on money raised during the Red Kettle Campaign.

And in Lakeland and Winter Haven, Fla., the Salvation Army chapters are behind on donations of both clothing and toys, The Ledger reported.

New ways of giving

The Salvation Army opened the door to new high-tech ways to donate to the kettles last month when it announced that bell ringers would use on-site smartphones equipped with credit card readers to accept non-cash donations in select cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas and New York.

The Salvation Army is also collecting holiday donations online through its Online Red Kettle program, which accepts credit card payments. The online campaign has raised $332,177 toward its $3 million goal for this season.

Have you thrown any spare change -- or diamond rings -- into a bell ringer's kettle this year? And do you expect your overall holiday season donations to be more or less than previous years'?

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