$Alert variable?

Hey Guys,
I'm trying to customize the look of the alerts and conversation pop-ups.

I found the account_alerts_popup template that is setup perfectly...but there's a problem.

No matter what, the $alerts variables return false, including the other related variables like $alertsUnread and $alertsRead.

How can I set things up so I have access to those variables outside their normal scope?
Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

It still isn't working, though. I found instructions for the xen:container syntax on this page:

But pasting the following code in the navigation_visitor_tab template returns null:

<xen:container var="$userAlert">{$alertsRead}</xen:container>
{xen:helper dump, $userAlert}

Declaring the variable using <xen:set> doesn't help. Also, the other variables won't pass including $alert and $alertsUnread.
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