Philanthropy beat: Salvation Army's Reggae Ringer gets in the groove

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2011 photo of child putting money into a Salvation Army kettle.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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He calls himself the Reggae Ringer, and every year about this time, you can find him next to a 5-foot palm tree, lighted flamingo and a Salvation Army kettle.

Wearing his trademark Hawaiian shirt and several leis, accompanied by Christmas classics arranged to a reggae beat, Scott Clausen is one of the Salvation Army’s more creative volunteers.

Not surprisingly, he also gets some of the more creative responses from folks passing by his makeshift tropical island — typically outside Macy’s at Ridgedale Shopping Center — in the dead of winter.

“This week I had a grand slam,” said Clausen, referring to an unusually large number of head-scratching encounters.

“I’m a businessman, but I had two distinguished-looking gentlemen put money in my kettle and then hand me money ‘to buy yourself a hot meal,’ ” he said with a laugh. “Did I really look that bad?”

“Then I had a lady from a Lions Club give me her card, telling me, ‘You have to come to a meeting!’ ’’

“Next I had a retired motivational speaker open his wallet and pull out a business card, offering me advice on ‘Eight Ways to Lead a Successful Life.’ ”

It’s all in a day for Clausen, a Maple Grove business owner who has been bell ringing for four years.

Clausen said he began volunteering shortly after turning 50, when he realized he was drinking too much and not giving enough back to society.

Each year, he donates about 25 hours to his toe-tapping mission. A restaurant nearby lets him store his props between shifts, and also gives him free coffee.

With Christmas here, Clausen soon will pack up his tropical setting and put it in storage. He welcomes a break from the reggae music, he said, but not from the work. Being a bell ringer has been tremendously rewarding, he said.

“I really have enjoyed myself,” said Clausen. “When I’m asked or thanked, I always say the same thing: ‘We are all called to serve. It just depends if you listen or not.’ ”

JEAN HOPFENSPERGER • 612-673-4511

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