BellRingerFriends-12-15-16: Eddie Gutierrez, left, and Art Hammerschmidt have long been mainstays of the annual Salvation Army Red Kettle program as they dispensed good cheer and entertained shoppers. The community will miss Gutierrez’s saxophone this year as he died in January. Photo by Linda Faas.

It’s that time of year when the air fills with the sound of ringing bells all around Mesquite with many volunteers standing by the Salvation Army red kettles taking donations to help the less fortunate.

Sadly, for the first time in 12 years, the bells won’t be accompanied by Eddie Gutierrez’s saxophone playing cheerful Christmas tunes. Gutierrez died in January and he will be sorely missed. He was 97 years old and served in World War II.

Gutierrez and his longtime sidekick and friend Art Hammerschmidt were a mainstay of the Salvation Army kettle program and coordinated many volunteers from throughout the community to help raise funds of which all stay in the local area.

The role of kettle coordinator this year is filled by Bill Wooley, whose wife Stephanie is the director of the Mesquite Salvation Army office. Jessica Powell, also with the Salvation Army, is the main contact point for people who want to help ring bells at many locations throughout Mesquite.

Hammerschmidt said during this year’s campaign lasting 27 days from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve there are 1,512 hours for ringing bells. Less than half of those hours, only 601 hours have been claimed. “We need to fill the other 911 hours with volunteers to ring the bells,” he said.

The seven store locations that will have the red kettles out front are Smith’s (2 doors), Walmart (2 doors), Walgreens, Ace Hardware and Lee’s Liquor. Volunteers can select their own time and location.

Mesquite has always been one of a very few communities who rely solely on volunteers to man the kettles. Many other communities pay people to ring the bell and take donations.

If you would like to help with the kettle program contact Jessica Powell at 702-345-5116. Eddie will thank you for it.