ZuZu Bailey from the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” said “every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings,” but in Grayson County this Christmas season, those ringing bells have meant help for those served locally by the Salvation Army.
“We are about $10,000 away from our goal,” Major Tex Ellis said Friday, noting the Salvation Army still had several days to go before the end of the season.
“I am confident we will hit it,” Ellis said. “It is just going to depend on the public and their generosity.”
Ellis said there have been around 13 or 14 bell ringers out in Grayson County each day of the season. Most of those, he said, have been seasonal workers because only around 15 percent have been volunteers.
“It is a good thing for a civic club or family to volunteer to do,” he said.
No experience is needed and youngsters can participate as long as they are accompanied by an adult. The major skill needed, Ellis said, is enthusiasm.
“You can stand there and not talk and ring the bell and you will do OK,” he said, but added those who talk and interact with the people walking by do much better. “People like friendliness and this is the time of the year when we need to be friendly.”
One of those friendly ringers worked the kettle outside of Sherman’s Walmart Thursday. Stormi Whitmire just finished high school and said her father suggested she work as a bell ringer. She said he has been active in the toy drive and thought she might like the kettle job.
The young woman said “hello” to almost everyone who walked by her as she rang the bell and offered a few a “Merry Christmas.”
“It’s been fun,” Whitmire said of the experience.
Ellis said those who are interested in bell ringing next year can call the Salvation Army any time to sign up.
The money collected helps with all of the work that the Salvation Army does from the purchase of Christmas toys to paying utility and rent payments for locals who are in need to running the shelter program.
This year’s goal, Ellis said, is $100,000. He said on Thursday someone dropped a rare sight into one of the kettles. A gold coin was counted Friday morning along with the other money in all of the kettles.
Of course, the Grayson County area is not the only area where folks were standing out ringing the bells in front of those iconic red kettles. That happens all over the world during this season of sharing. The Salvation Army of Minnesota and Northern Dakota has an article on its website that says the familiar sound and sight can be traced back to December 1891 when a Captain Joseph McFee wanted to provide a Christmas meal for 1,000 poor people in San Francisco, California, but didn’t have the money to buy the food.
However, he remembered seeing, when he was a sailor, a tradition in Liverpool, England, where they put a large pot on the docks of the city’s waterfront for charitable donations.
The article says that inspired by his memory, McFee put a brass urn at the Oakland Ferry Landing. Next to the pot, he put a note that told people to “Keep the Pot Boiling” and he soon had plenty of money to fund his Christmas dinner.
By two years later, the article says, his idea had spread to 30 locations on the West Coast. He was helped in growing the idea by two Salvation Army officers named William A. McIntyre and N. J. Lewis. In 1895, those two men were transferred to the East Coast and took the kettle idea with them. McIntyre, the article said, went to Boston and set up three kettles there and it was a huge success. Next the kettles spread to New York City where the idea really took off. Now the kettles are found in many of the 126 countries served by the Salvation Army.