At 83 years old, it might seem like a good time for Raymond Brown to slow down. But as long as the doctor says he’s healthy enough to work, Ray is dedicated to ringing bells at kettles for the Salina, Kan., Corps. This season marks his 32nd year as a fulltime bellringer.
“You just have to use common sense,” he said. “There will be days when the kettle isn’t full. But you have to take your breaks and your lunch so you don’t wear out.”
Ray met The Salvation Army when the company he was working for folded and he needed employment. He saw an ad in the paper for bellringers and decided to give it a try.
“I was the only one to stick it out for the whole season,” he said. “So the next year they invited me back.” And he’s been invited back every year since, despite changes in officers and corps employees.
Ray found his niche ringing the bell at Kmart. He’s become such a fixture at the store during the holidays that Captain Lynn Lopez, corps officer, says people swing by just to see him and drop a donation in his kettle.
“My first year here the manager told me, ‘We want Ray. He’s family!’” she said. “And I thought, ‘I need to meet Ray!’ He’s faithfully there every day with a smile on his face.”
Last year, Ray received the Bellringer of the Year award from the corps. He was the only bellringer to work the entire season without missing a shift.
“I enjoy doing it,” he concluded. “When I finally can’t do it anymore, I’ll volunteer at the corps.”