The Ringing Side Show
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90.3 WBHM | Birmingham -- Here's a little tidbit of you might already know: the shopping center is a busy place these days. Parking fights, shopping lights, prices low low low. But in an enclave at the entrance of your favorite store, is a person who is not buying or selling. He or she is ringing. Or, maybe ringing and singing, And certainly, wishing. Wishing you a Merry Christmas, or wishing you would drop a little something in the kettle.

Meet some Salvation Army bellringers -- John, Deloris and Jimmy -- who perform a little storefront sideshow to raise money for those who can't afford to shop. Our audio postcard was produced by WBHM's Steve Chiotakis.

the bells

MAJOR TEX ELLIS: "I'm the planning officer for the Salvation Army Citadel Corp and the fellow that's in charge of 99 percent of the bellringing in the area. Things are going fairly well...although at last count we were probably lagging 15 percent behind last year at this time."

JOHN EDWARDS: "I'm a bellringer for the Salvation Army...trying to get people in the spirit...the spirit of giving and of love. Different bellringers have different styles. I just -- I came out last year and I just picked up a tune, and I have a number of different tunes that I play; I stay out here for so long. (He demonstrates "Jingle Bells" with his handbell) ...and I try to change up so people won't hear the same sounding bell all the time...because every bellringer's different."

The Salvation Army signMAJOR ELLIS: "Some are quiet, some are loud. Some love it. Some love it a little less. It's a hard clientele to put together every year. You never know until you get out there..."

JOHN EDWARDS: "We got some who come out here and dance. Some who come out here and sing. That's the one you should interview."

DELORIS: "I've been ringing the bells for about 7 years. Enjoy it very much and the children. And glad to have -- be able to help -- because it's a good cause (laughs). I stuttered a little bit... Well, I got this one here (rings her handbell) and this one here (rings her jingling bells). This one the kids enjoy -- ringing this one (laughs again). But the one guy sings. I don't got (sic) a good voice, so I don't get into the singing... but he gets into it. Sings all day!"

Jimmy HenryJIMMY HENRY: (Singing "Happy Holidays"...with a rainy day twist..."Rain drops keep falling on your head right now!") ...Oh, my name is Jimmy...Jimmy Henry...and I'm here at The Summit, ringing the bells at this Christmastime, chasing frowns out of town and help putting smiles on peoples' faces while we (sic) trying to raise money for The Salvation Army and filling up this kettle... and I'm doing my best even on this rainy day. (Then, sings) Happy Holidays to you!"

MAJOR ELLIS: "Jimmy is a very extraverted individual. Beautiful personality. Loves to play with the kids out there. EVen the adults as well. Jimmy's been our top bellringer for quite sometime."

JIMMY HENRY: (Aside to shoppers) "Welcome to Parisian. Where you're somebody special! Happy Holidays! I work in the parking deck for the VA Hospital and ringing bells for The Salvation Army. One day I was ringing and it felt like something wanted to jump out of my mouth...until I got out of my comfort zone...and I've been singing and ringing ever since. Haven't been able to shut up yet! (Belts out the song, "Amen")

~Steve Chiotakis, December 19, 2002