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Lt. Crowsen: Zender not banned from Walmart


MASSENA - Each year for the past seven holiday seasons, shoppers visiting the Walmart store here would often be greeted by a man singing and dancing as he was ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign.

This year though, shoppers looking for Mr. Zender won’t find him at Walmart, as the store’s corporate office made the decision to ban the use of boom boxes by bell ringers.

And while Mr. Zender is no longer ringing the bell at Walmart Salvation Army, Lt. Cynthia L. Crowsen said she wants to make one thing clear - “Carl is not banned from Walmart.”

“This was not a Massena decision at all, it was a national decision. There’s no music allowed at any Walmart locations nationwide,” she said. “It was a decision they made for the safety of all their employees, customers and our bell ringers.”

With the decision to not allow music coming from Walmart’s corporate office and not the Salvation Army’s national headquarters, Mr. Zender is still allowed to sing and dance, just not at Walmart.

“Carl has decided that since he likes singing and dancing, he will ring the bell some place else,” Lt. Crowsen said, adding his new bell ringing home is Price Chopper, where he also happens to work.

The decision to not allow singing or boom boxes was made between Walmart’s corporate office and the Salvation Army’s national headquarters.

“There are minor adjustments made to the agreement each year. This is just one that caught someone’s attention,” she said. “It’s nothing that’s anything out of the ordinary.”

Kayla Whaling, a Walmart spokesperson said that while the use of boom boxes is banned, Mr. Zender could sing if elected to return to Walmart as a bell ringer.

“We want to provide a pleasant, distraction free shopping environment for customers and we want to provide them and environment that is free of cords, wires and the actual boom box itself, which could be a potential hazard for people entering or exiting the store,” Ms. Whaling said.

The decision has since led to a group of Mr. Zender’s friends, family and supporters to organize a protest tonight in front of Massena’s Walmart.

Sarah Boyea, who said she is “a distant cousin” of Mr. Zender helped organize what is being known as “Caroling For Carl.”

A group of people will be meeting at the Home Depot this evening and walking to Walmart at 6 p.m., where they will then stand outside the store singing Christmas carols.

While the event is mostly in response to the no music rule, Ms. Boyea said there are other reasons for the event.

“Walmart makes them stand outside and that’s terrible. Those people stand out there freezing while they’re trying to help the community,” she said. “What harm is a boom box to anyone?”

“It’s not just me, there was a group of us who helped put this together,” Ms. Boyea said, adding she was assisted by Todd Brown, Jessica Barney, Shalyn Peets, Brandi Paige and Melanie Smith, as well as Bob Rusaw, who she said brought the issue to the attention of the community.

Lt. Crowsen said the Salvation Army is in no way supporting the event, but both her and her husband, Lt. Russell Crowsen will be at Walmart tonight.

“We are not supporting the event, but we will be there to support our bell ringers and Walmart,” she said.

“Walmart is one of the best organizations in terms of giving back to the Salvation Army,” Ms. Lt. Crowsen said, adding despite a corporate policy that limits solicitations to 14 days, the Salvation is allowed to have their kettles at Walmart stores each year from Black Friday through Christmas Eve.

Ms. Lt. Crowsen added, she’s worried about the protest impacting their collection for this year.

“If we don’t get as many donations we won’t be able to help as many people,” she said. “The money we collect during these two months helps us help the community all year-round.”

Ms. Boyea said the last thing her or anyone wants to do is hurt the Salvation Army.

“I’m totally for the Salvation Army and I think by Walmart doing this it is taking donations away from them,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to stop at Price Chopper to see Carl sing and dance and while there donate to the Salvation Army.”

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