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Flathead cities hold friendly competition to raise money for Salvation Army

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KALISPELL, Mont. - When you hear bells in the local grocery store it means volunteers are out raising money for the Salvation Army, but in the Flathead Valley it's a little different.

"It’s just a friendly competition between chambers," said Evergreen Chamber ambassador Kristina Courtright.

For five years now, five cities in the Flathead Valley compete against each other in a city bell-ringing competition to raise money for the Salvation Army. The cities competing are Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Lakeside, Evergreen and Bigfork.

Columbia Falls resident Mark Johnson was out ringing a bell at Smith's Grocery for the event.

"It brings out the community pride in each city. We might walk by a Salvation Army kettle by ourselves, but when we know we are representing Columbia Falls or Bigfork or Whitefish we will step up to the plate at that time," said Johnson.

The past four years Columbia Falls has won the competition. Last year they raised $2,677, with a total of $6,452 among all cities.

"I think it brings everyone up to a higher level of giving especially during this season," said Johnson.

The competition is the second Thursday in December every year, which helps raise needed funds for the holiday season.

Salvation Army Major Bill Lum is the new person in charge of the competition this year. He told NBC Montana he has never seen a community more giving.

"I can tell you pretty sincerely that this is probably the most generous community I have ever served in. There are people in need, but people have been very generous with their time as well as their funds," said Lum.

Outright always takes the time to volunteer and feels helping people in need is important.

"Anything that I can be a part of to help them help our community be better and survive, I am willing to do," said Outright.

She also has a very competitive spirit and it worked out in her favor. Evergreen won the competition this year, just beating Columbia Falls by about $40. They raised $4,113.15, while Columbia Falls raised $4,072.99. In all, the Flathead raised $12,735 for the Salvation Army, which will go to helping people in need in their community.

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