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Mall Rings Up Smiles for Charity

Salvation Army: After reports the organization's volunteers would be banned, Pacific View says the bell ringers will be back for the holiday season.


VENTURA — What looked like a setback for the Salvation Army's holiday donation drive has turned into a potential windfall for the charity, known for its bell ringers and kettles.

After reports the bell ringers would be banned from Pacific View Mall, center officials said Friday the Salvation Army kettles will be back at the mall beginning today, with some extra treats tossed in.

Mall officials said Salvation Army volunteers will be allowed to operate a gift-wrapping station in the center. The charity will also be added to the mall's Web site, and the mall will turn over to the charity all proceeds from the center's largest day of Santa photos, which could total as much as $2,000.

"Once the mall management realized it was going to be difficult for us and our revenue, they ended up being really good to us," Lt. Keith Solts of the Salvation Army's Ventura chapter said.

Salvation Army officials had complained in October they were being ousted from the mall. But after newspaper stories appeared, the mall received calls from shoppers angered over the prospects of a holiday without the seasonal jingle of the the charity's bells.

Mall managers said the situation arose from an internal misunderstanding.

Salvation Army officials and mall officials have been meeting to discuss an appropriate way to handle the situation.

"It wasn't, 'Oh, we're getting bad publicity, so let's do this,' " said Alice Love, the mall's marketing director. "In the discussions, it came about that we could really help each other. [Gift wrapping] is something to offer our customers."

It's not known yet how the number of bell ringers will compare with last year's number. Bell ringers will not be allowed at the mall's main entrance but will be positioned elsewhere outside the mall.

"We don't know exactly what will happen with the . . . kettles, and we don't how good the wrapping booth will be. The jury's out on that," Dave Ide, a Salvation Army advisory board member, said. "They've [mall officials] done a lot to compensate us."

The holiday season provides the organization's largest annual fund-raiser, with the local chapter expecting to make about $10,000 this year.

Bell-ringing volunteers will solicit donations outside Macy's, Robinsons-May and JCPenney stores through Dec. 23.

Volunteers have been ringing bells during the holidays in Ventura since 1891 and at the mall since its inception, Solts said.

Money raised will stay in the community to help finance emergency lodging, food and health care for the city's homeless people and low-income population, Solts said.

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