Elmhorst, Joel – Ringing Holiday Spirit (Dec 2020)

Bio: Elmhorst, Joel – Ringing Holiday Spirit (Dec 2020)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
E-mail: dolores@wiclarkcountyhistory.org
Surnames: Elmhorst, Morrow

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 1/06/2021

Ringing In The Holiday Spirit (Elmhorst – November/December 2020)

Bell ringer helps raise $3,700+ in year with few volunteers

Joel Elmhorst rang bells in the Hansen’s IGA lobby two or three times a week for most of November and December to encourage people to donate to the Salvation Army. More than $3,700 was raised during the times that Elmhorst rang bells. Submitted photo

By Valorie Brecht

This holiday season, a local woman showed what a difference one person could make by donating her time to ring bells for the Salvation Army’s Red kettle Campaign.

Throughout November and December, Joel Elmhorst rang bells in the entryway of Hansen’s IGA in Neillsville. The donations raised during her bell-ringing shifts totaled $3,751.87. The total kettle money raised was $4,223.43.

“It’s something I always wanted to do. My husband passed away in June and I had seen it in the paper and decided to do it,” said Elmhorst, who lives just outside of Neillsville. “I figured, I can’t just sit here at the kitchen table, look out the window and cry all day.”

“I really enjoyed it; it gave me something to do,” she added.

Elmhorst contacted local kettle campaign coordinator Judy Morrow, who happily scheduled her to ring bells. The Salvation Army kicked off its campaign early this year due to the increased need because of COVID-19, so Elmhorst’s first day was Nov. 9.

Although wheelchair bound, Elmhorst did not let that be a deterrent.

“I can drive, but haven’t driven in years,” she said. “I got my daughter-in-law to pick me up and she would drop me off there and make sure I was settled and had my blanket tucked in. She worked in town, so she would go to work for a couple hours and come back and pick me up.”

Elmhorst quickly settled into her role and found that she wanted to do more.

“I started out doing two hours a day. But then my daughter-in-law would come back to pick me up and I’d say, ‘It’s that time already?’ So, then I upped it to four hours a day,” Elmhorst said.

When Elmhorst found out there was a lack of Neillsville bell ringers – she was the only one who had checked in with Morrow – she decided to up her bell ringing to three days a week.

She rang bells up through Dec. 23 and got to see firsthand people’s generosity.

“It was really interesting. I greeted everyone who came through the door. I always greeted them with a ‘Hello!’ Some people would say, ‘Oh, you startled me’ because of course they were looking down at their shopping list. But as soon as they saw me, they would automatically reach for their back pocket. Or they’d say, ‘I’ll catch you on the way out’ because so many people just have credit cards nowadays.

“ I saw people drop five-dollar bills, tens and even twenties. I thought, ‘I couldn’t afford that.’ My husband and I raised 11 kids and we drove bus for about 30 years. And we farmed; well, farmers don’t make that much money. So, I wouldn’t have been able to put in that much.

“I was surprised. Some people, all they had was a few cents. So it was that all the way up to $20. But whatever they put in, I still thanked them the same. It makes people feel good, that they give something.”

It was easy for Elmhorst to connect with people as she said she was raised in a restaurant and has always had the “gift of gab.” She got to chat with people that she hadn’t seen in years but recognized from driving school bus.

She even went out of her way to treat children coming into the store. Elmhorst loves puzzles and had accumulated more than she knew what to do with over the years.

“I started giving puzzles out to the kids. I picked out the kids who their parents looked like maybe they were having a rough time. The kids’ eyes would light up when they got them,” she said.

When asked if she would want to ring bells again, she had no hesitation.

“Absolutely, I loved every minute of it,” she said.

All of the funds raised will stay in Clark County to help people in need. The Salvation Army helps people with rent, transportation and food needs; or helps out in situations like when a natural disaster strikes someone’s home.

Elmhorst even got to hear a personal example of the impact the Salvation Army had.

“One young man came up and put in money and said, ‘I always help the Salvation Army because it saved my dad,’” said Deanna, Joel’s daughter-in-law.

Now, the Salvation Army will be able to help more people locally because of Elmhorst’s efforts. Morrow said she was appreciative of all the bell ringers who raised money. She also extended a special appreciation to Elmhorst for all the time she donated.

“When we thought there would be no one ringing bells and raising money for Salvation Army this wonderful woman stepped up and rang sometimes three times a week … She would fill those buckets until there was no room left,” she said.

To donate to the Salvation Army, go to salvationarmy-usa.org/usn/and click the “Donate Locally” button in the top right-hand corner.




© Every submission is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.


Show your appreciation of this freely provided information by not copying it to any other site without our permission.


Become a Clark County History Buff


Report Broken Links

A site created and maintained by the Clark County History Buffs
and supported by your generous donations.


Webmasters: Leon Konieczny, Tanya Paschke,

Janet & Stan Schwarze, James W. Sternitzky,

Crystal Wendt & Al Wessel