With Christmas just around the corner, the familiar sound of Salvation Army bell ringers will soon be heard at local shopping centers.

This year, the Salvation Army has made it easier than ever for people to sign up to donate their time to take up donations. Major Tex Ellis with the Salvation Army of Grayson County said the digital sign up is a new way to get involved this season.

Bell ringers will be out at local markets just after Thanksgiving.

People no longer have to call up their local Salvation Army office to sign up to be a bell ringer. That application step and the assignment step that follows can be done online this year. All one needs to do is go to https://www.registertoring.com/WebPages/Default.aspx.

No experience is needed to take on the roll of a bell ringer and youngsters can participate as long as they are accompanied by an adult. The major skill needed, Ellis said in a previous interview, 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.”

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.

Of course, the Grayson County area is not the only area where folks stand outside ringing 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 said 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, when he was a sailor, he remembered seeing a tradition in Liverpool, England where they put a large pot on the docks of the city’s waterfront for charitable donations.

The article said 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.