According to The Portsmouth Herald
, Portsmouth business owner Sarah Hamilton-Parker says for five weeks out of every year, from morning to night, the Salvation Army with its signature red pots, encamp in front of her store, lustily clanging away.
“I listen to this for 200 hours a year,” Hamilton-Parker told the Portsmouth Herald. “This is my fourth year and I can’t take it anymore. I’m so sick of it.”
By her calculation, she has been exposed to 1,400 hours of bell-ringing.
The frustrated business owner told ABC
News that in order to keep her sanity, the incessant ringing has prompted her to wear earplugs. “It makes me hate Christmas,” she added.
She has complained to the Salvation Army for the past four years, begging for relief; but her calls, she says, have gone unanswered.
This year she cracked, and called police. Surely, bell-ringing falls under the city’s noise ordinance, she thought. It doesn't.
“I recognize her concern, but it’s something the city has given permission for,” Police captain Mike Schwartz told the Herald. “They don’t even let me pick out my own clothes, so I don’t have a say in it.”
We don't hear many noise complaints
Jennifer Byrd, the Salvation Army's national public relations director, says about 25,000 ringers and pot-watchers blanket the U.S. every holiday season, taking up their positions the day after Thanksgiving and laying down their bells on Christmas Eve.
"We don't actually hear a lot of noise complaints," Byrd says. Most people, she thinks, look forward to the arrival of the ringers every year, since they associate them with Christmas and with giving. But, says Byrd, "we definitely value our relations with our local merchants—the folks that let us stand our kettles in front of their stores. And because we do, we try to work out complaints on a case-by-case basis."
Salvation Army Northern New England Division representative Pat James told Sea Coast Online that she is investigating the complaint, and hoping to find ways to lower Hamilton-Parker’s blood pressure.
Salvation Army Capt. Deb Coolidge thinks “a softer bell” may do the trick.
In addition, Coolidge said bell ringers will henceforth be limited to one per kettle, UPI
“The kettle effort is such an important program to help us help other people,” she said to the local news service. “The money raised is critical for our services.”
She's no Grinch
The Salvation Army, a Christian-based charitable organization, took in $147.6 million last year. Its first known fundraiser using a kettle to collect cash was in 1891.
"We have also taken our ringing online," says Jennifer Byrd, the Salvation Army's national public relations director: The Army has created a virtual pot at onlineredkettle.org, to which people can contribute, whether or not they ever encounter real ringers.
"We will be sensitive," Coolidge told the Herald. "Hopefully, that will be less stressful for her."
“That's absolutely wonderful,” Hamilton-Parker said. "Anything they can do to knock down that sound."
Don't get her wrong, she's no Grinch, Hamilton-Parker insists. She told ABC
News she understands the affection many people feel at Christmas time for the red pot and the ringing. "What a world of merriment their melody foretells," she says, quoting a line from the first stanza of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells."
She just wishes they'd foretell their merriment someplace else.
What do you think? Do you think the Salvation Army's bells are too loud?