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Helmut Schmidt, Published November 30 2010

Salvation Army letter rings opinion bells

A letter to the editor by a Moorhead man that painted Salvation Army holiday bell-ringers as noisy “beggars” who harass shoppers for cash was met with a mix of puzzlement and scorn on talk radio Monday as supporters of the disaster-relief agency sprang to its defense.

Richard Kodadek got the pro-Salvation Army army riled with lines like this in Monday’s Forum:

“Went to my local Hornbacher’s store and was instantly accosted by the first beggar of the year. You know, some guy wearing red and clanging around with some ridiculous bell begging for my hard-earned money so that they can give it to people that do not work as hard as I do,” Kodadek wrote.

He verified in an interview that he was referring to the Salvation Army.

The words lit up talk-radio phone lines, hosts said.

“Oh, my God, did we get phone calls. Tons and tons of them,” said Jay Thomas of WDAY-AM (970).

Most of the callers and e-mailers said they thought Kodadek “is a bitter, bitter man,” Thomas said.

Mike McFeely of KFGO-AM (790) said he was also inundated with opinions.

“Most of them, 99.9 percent of them blasted the guy, calling him the biggest Scrooge ever,” he said. “It’s one of those topics I could have done it for three straight hours.”

Erv Inniger, the head of this year’s Salvation Army bell-ringing campaign, said he would apologize for the noise, but not the good works. He urged Kodadek to just ignore the bell-ringers and walk on by.

“We apologize, but we think we’re out there for the right reasons: to help other people,” Inniger said.

He said the organization helped 67,000 people in the area last year.

“We’re out there to make a difference in other people’s lives; people who need help right now,” he said.

Inniger said the Salvation Army is behind in its fundraising compared with last year. The agency’s goal for this year’s kettle drive is $650,000.

Kodadek held firm to his opinions and said the letter isn’t a joke.

In the letter, he questioned why noise ordinances or panhandling laws weren’t brought into play. And he said he’ll call on businesses to stop the bell-ringing.

He did add that he could abide the red-kettle drive without the bells.

“I think they have a great cause. … There’s other ways that other companies raise money,” he said.

Kodadek’s letter also prompted responses on social networking sites.

Katherine Tweed, who teaches communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead and North Dakota State University, linked the letter on Inforum.com to one of her Facebook updates.

“When we’re not generous, we can’t help each other,” Tweed said, adding that Kodadek may miss the chance to meet many other people.

“I count my blessings every day, and I think other people do, too,” Tweed said.

Walking by a red kettle and contributing, “I think that’s a blessing for all of us,” she said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583