Answering the bell at Christmas time

By: Susan Belknap, Placer Herald Editor
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Have you ever met someone you instantly knew was a good person? That’s exactly what happened to me a few months ago when I met Rocklin resident Chris Aird. Aird is the captain of the Roseville Salvation Army Church located on Lincoln Street in Roseville. I was introduced to Chris when I wrote a story for The Placer Herald about the Salvation Army and its needs for the holiday season. Chris took me on a tour of the church’s food pantry, kitchen and dining room facility that services those in need. As I’m sure you could guess with all the woes in constant headlines about the tough economy, donations to the Salvation Army, as well as many charitable organizations throughout Placer County, are down. I learned through Chris that this year especially, the demand for services of many charities is higher than ever and the holidays present an extra challenge for many people. In addition to providing a hot shower and meal for those in need throughout the year, during the holidays the Salvation Army is also known for its bell ringer program. You know, those people who stand in front of the grocery stores with a red donation kettle ringing a bell asking for your money? I was not aware that the Salvation Army pays many of those bell ringers. With donations on the slim side this year, the money paid to those bell ringers is money that could be spent on food and other programs the organization provides. Because I was so impressed with Chris and his devotion and dedication to those he serves, I decided to volunteer my time to be one of his bell ringers. It’s been just a few days since my shift at the Raley’s Supermarket in Granite Bay ended. While my toes and fingers are still a bit numb from the cold night air, my heart is still aglow with the experience and the people I met. It was an interesting evening standing next to the red kettle, ringing the silver bell continuously for three hours. When I first arrived it seemed most people were in a hurry rushing into the store. Those shoppers avoided my glance and rushed inside as quickly as possible. After a short while I began to catch the eye of a few people with children in tow and I could tell the kids were curious about what I was doing. In some instances it seemed as if those children convinced their parents to put money into the kettle. A few had even walked away out to the parking lot only to have their child come running back to drop in a few coins. At the beginning of my shift I also noticed more men would stop to donate, especially the older ones. But as evening approached, the women appeared to be just as generous. Some patrons were extremely friendly, inquiring about my day while others made the drop into the kettle as quickly as possible. Throughout the evening it did seem that most were in a particular uplifted mood, wishing me a Merry Christmas. No one complained about the souring economy. They seemed to be happy to give. Some gave a few coins, others donated several dollars. But the amount is not what’s important. Just knowing that people were taking time out of their busy day to reach into their pocket or purse to give anything at all during these times impressed me. Thank you Granite Bay Raley’s shoppers. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.