If you did any holiday shopping at Walmart in Muscatine this season, you probably saw Joe Fankhauser. One of the Salvation Army of Muscatine County’s (SAMC’s) most dedicated bell ringers, Fankhauser rang for 25 hours a week for the duration of the Red Kettle Campaign, a commitment he has stuck to for the last several years. For Fankhauser, ringing and other activities for the SAMC help him honor his loved ones and give back to the community he cares about.
Five years ago, Fankhauser moved back to Muscatine after living in Des Moines. His elderly parents needed more care and he wanted to help them. His mother, a long-time supporter of the SAMC, rang for the Red Kettle Campaign for many years before she had to retire. To honor her work and to keep her tradition going, Fankhauser began ringing for her. As he explained it, “My mom, she’s in a wheelchair, used to come out and ring the bell here all the time. Her doctor told her she could never do it again, so I do it for her, for the public, and for the Salvation Army.”
Since he began ringing, Fankhauser has rung at Walmart from 3:00-7:00 p.m. every Monday through Friday of the Red Kettle Campaign. Even though he comes directly from a full day’s work at HON, he finds his time ringing enjoyable. “I like it because I get to meet new people and I love to be outside,” he shared. “I love to see the kids’ smile when they see my lights and (when) I let them ring the bell.”
A colorful character, shoppers love meeting Fankhauser as much as he loves meeting them. With a flashing light necklace, a wireless speaker playing holiday music, and plenty of cheer to go around, Fankhauser helps bring in many donations for the SAMC each year.
Along with ringing for the Red Kettle Campaign, Fankhauser also helps prepare the SAMC’s free community Christmas dinner each year. He sees it as one more way he can support his community.
Through his ringing and cooking, Fankhauser hopes to truly make a difference for the SAMC. In turn, he encourages anyone interested in donating to do so. Though ringing has ended for this year, the SAMC still welcomes donations via mail to their headquarters at 1000 Oregon Street, Muscatine. “I would encourage people to donate to the Salvation Army to help the public, for the after-school program for the kids, for the summer day camp, and for Muscatine County,” Fankhauser added.
As a longtime Muscatine resident, Fankhauser feels honored that he can have such a large impact on the city and county that mean so much to him. As he put it, he enjoys Muscatine because, “it’s small. Everybody gets along with me, and I get along with them.” By doing his part to make sure his neighbors throughout the region have what they need all year long, Fankhauser embodies selfless giving, something that makes him a Pearl of Muscatine.