Salvation Army bell ringer rises to the festive, charitable occasion

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Several members of the Sun City Host Lions Club served as bell ringers for the Salvation Army at the Walmart just north of Sun City, Nov. 29 and 30.

Each member took a two-hour shift. A little rain and a lot of wind made the experience more interesting.

Not wanting to chase dollar bills all over the Walmart parking lot, I stood for my two hours with one foot on the stand supporting the red kettle into which a lot of generous people put a lot of money. Every time I took my foot off to reach for my drink or bend my knees, the wind tried to knock the whole thing over.

I was sure glad to see another Lions Club member approaching for the final two-hour shift on that Friday. I limped to my car wondering if this is how people feel just before their hip replacement surgery.

Two days later, I visited the Bashas’ store near 99th Avenue and Union Hills. As I approached, I spotted a grinning stranger with a red Christmas hat and a little bell which he rung with great pleasure as he stood next to the Salvation Army kettle. Seeing his big smile, I assumed he must have just started his shift.

We talked for a few minutes about our shared experiences with the kettle. He agreed that women are more generous than men.

I asked him how long his shift was.

“Eight hours,” he said. “I do this eight hours a day, six days a week until Christmas. They move me around to different stores but I do it eight hours every day except Sunday. I’ll be here until five tonight. That’s when they come to collect the kettle.”

Two hours caused me grief and this happy fellow does 48 hours each week!

When I expressed my utter amazement and asked if he wanted me to bring him a chair from inside the store, he said no thanks.

“They prefer that I stand. If I get tired just standing, I walk in big circles here in the entry to keep the blood moving when there are no people going in or out of the store.”

He said he saw a Salvation Army ad in the Independent two or three years ago and applied for one of the seasonal paid positions to supplement his income. He confessed that he didn’t know much about the Salvation Army when he started but had done enough research to convince him that the Salvation Army uses the donated money very wisely. He said he’s hoping to be a bell ringer for two or three more years if his health holds up.

The man said his name is Mike Neal and he lives in Sun City, and one thing’s for sure: if the sun is up and it isn’t a Sunday, he’ll be smiling and ringing that little bell somewhere.

Editor’s note: Mr. Mathewson is a member of the Sun City Host Lions Club. Visit e-clubhouse.org/sites/suncityhostlionsaz/index.php.

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