“You can hear the bell as soon as you get out of the car and, believe me, the folks are responding to it,” said Edwin Ray of Pell City.
Ray is the head ringer — bell ringer, that is — for the Kiwanis Club of Pell City.
For more than a decade Ray has rung the pleasant sounding bell that attracts Christmas shoppers to a big red covered kettle. It is a place where he’s hopeful passing shoppers will slide a buck or two into a small opening of the metal container.
Ray and other Kiwanis Club members, along with young volunteers from the Pell City High School Key Club, are the bell ringers of the Christmas Spirit, braving the cold and rain to help raise money for the needy.
The local bell ringers, young and old, faithfully stand in front of the Pell City Kmart Store, ringing away.
“This is my first time,” said Tabitha Golden, a senior at Pell City High. “I got here at 2 p.m.”
Golden was one of about 15 Key Club members from the high school to volunteer during the Christmas holidays to help raise money for the Salvation Army — as bell ringers.
“I signed up for it,” she said.
Golden laughed when asked if she had any special training to become a bell ringer during the Yule tide season.
“It’s not hard,” she said. “It’s a little bit cold, though.”
It was apparent every bell ringer had their own style of ringing.
Golden sort of cradled her small bell in her arms, and with small, short movements of her wrist, she made soft-sounding bell music.
Steve Hoover, who was just about finished with his 2-hour shift, had more of a manly bell ringing technique.
He held his arm down to his side and with the bell pointed to the ground shook it like someone shaking a dusty floor mat. He produced a much louder bell ring.
“Some people have developed a dance with their bell ringing,” Ray said.
But the 79-year-old head bell ringer wasn’t doing any jigs Friday afternoon, despite the cold north wind. As a matter of fact, a little dancing would have probably helped warm things up for the bell ringers as a cold front moved across the state Friday.
Bell ringer volunteer Frank Rutherford dressed warmly for the occasion, but he appeared tired from his bell ringing.
He would ring his bell a little bit, stop momentarily, then repeat the process.
Rutherford pulled up his jacket sleeves and exposed wrist braces on both arms. Surgery is a possibility but despite his wrist and hand troubles, he was giving his all to this bell ringing stuff – besides it’s all for a good cause, he would say.
And while Rutherford was a little slow with his bell ringing duties, he made up for it with his pleasant personality, which seemed to lift the spirits of those who passed by.
“Merry Christmas,” Rutherford would say to passing shoppers.
“God bless you,” he said to a woman depositing some leftover change from her recent store purchase.
In between ringing bells and greeting shoppers, bell ringers would talk. Conversations ranged from school to careers to the cold weather.
Ray said bell ringers work 2-hour shifts, and some work three or four times during the Christmas season to help raise money for the Salvation Army.
“I marvel at the folks who can stand out here and not have their teeth chatter,” he said jokingly — and with his teeth chattering.
Ray, who is originally from Sylacauga but moved to Pell City 10 years ago from Ozark after he retired as an engineer, said they are always looking for volunteer bell ringers.
“We always need volunteers,” he said. “This week is especially hard to fill because everybody has Christmas shopping on their mind.”
Volunteer bell ringers work 2-hour shifts, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., up until Christmas Eve.
And despite the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the bell ringers are there to remind those who pass, Tis the season to give and to be thankful for what you have.
“Merry Christmas,” Golden said, as she rang her small bell again and again.