Ringing in the holiday spirit this year are members of the Basalt High School Key Club, with the help of the Glenwood Springs Kiwanis Club and the Salvation Army. Every Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday, students stand outside of the El Jebel City Market with their bells and red kettles to ring in donations to help those in need. While it may be cold and sometimes long even during these shorter, winter days, count on them to be there if you would like to make one last donation of the year or just say hello.
Key Club is a sponsored youth organization at BHS that Kiwanis International supports in Basalt and in Glenwood Springs. Key Club provides opportunities to high school students to learn how to provide service to their community, both at school and in town.
“Key Club and the Kiwanis Club are fairly well connected,” Kiwanis member and Key Club advisor Mike McDill said. “The Key Club has taken on as a community service project to ring the bell and collect money for Salvation Army. [Donations] go to Salvation Army to fulfill their purposes and do more good work.”
“Salvation Army fills the gap with lots of social programs available,” McDill’s wife and co-advisor, Penny, added. “Sometimes people are in between jobs or in between life and they just need a little help. So they kind of fill that gap before they can get more long-term service. Salvation Army helps out, and the Kiwanis Club and the Key Club help.”
Last year, bell ringers — including students from the Key Club — helped raise just over $20,000 at the El Jebel City Market location alone. This year, the goal is to raise just as much, if not more. It takes time and a smile, which comes with the positive result of giving back to the Mid-Valley community.
“One time, I had someone come by who used to be helped by Salvation Army,” Key Club Executive-at-Large, Tucker Bruce, said. “He came up to me and said, ‘Thank you. Salvation Army helped me out, so thank you so much for doing this. It means a lot to people who were like me that you’re here’, and he gave a dollar. That was really special to see firsthand how this really helps people.”
Other times, there have been donations of $100 bills, hot chocolate on a cold day or just an enthusiastic “Thank you!,” but there are difficult parts to bell ringing for the students, too.
“It’s hard to be out there in the cold to have people glare at you,” Executive-at-Large, Karina Bauer, said. “When people donate, it’s hard not to think ‘Wow, that’s a good person right there.’ When people walk past, glaring at you, it can be hard not to wonder why they look that way and if it was something you did.”
Key Club President, senior Steven Garcia Machuca said, “I know that sometimes people can’t donate due to their own circumstances, but being always nice and saying ‘Happy Holidays’ helps just as much. When people glare at you, it does hurt a little.”
Understanding that sometimes it’s due to a focus on shopping or having different charity causes in mind, there’s one lesson to take away this holiday season.
“It’s really important to just take some time and appreciate everything you have,” Key Club Social Media Manager Abigail Coulter, said. “Take some time to give back to the community that’s helped you to get you to where you are. That’s our purpose in this club.”
“It’s amazing to see how simple and easy it is to give back to the community,” Key Club Treasurer, Daniel Sherry, added. “It takes a little bit, but you get out a lot more than you put in.”
Michelle Collins, who has served as the teacher-advisor of Key Club for 14 years, leaves decisions up to the students to do what they see as best fit to help the community.
“These guys do this all themselves,” Collins said. “I’m just the intermediary. “I get the information and pass it on to the students, then ask, ‘What do you want to do?’ Then they pass that decision on to me. They do everything.”
Mike McDill described watching Key Club’s process of organizing their bell ringing efforts as “energized.”
“The amazing thing for us to see is when they set up their white board and set up the time slots,” he said. “It takes the club about five minutes to fill all those slots. They attack it like a hive of bees, ready to help.”
Other Key Club projects include working with the Thirst Project, an organization that helps raise money to bring clean water to communities that don’t have access to it, and Pennies for Patients, which is a fundraiser for leukemia that Key Club will organize when they return from winter break in January. Not to mention the Lift-Up food drive, the blood drive, river clean-up — you get the idea.
Any students interested in becoming involved with Key Club need only attend one of their weekly meetings during lunch time. Any community members who would like to help can reach out to Collins at BHS or Mike and Penny McDill of the Kiwanis Club. A new, Mid-Valley branch of the Kiwanis Club is also reportedly in the works.