the salvation army

Volunteer Joy Garrett speaks to customers. Garrett likes to dress up in costume to ring The Salvation Army bell.

Most Salvation Army volunteers ring the bell outside stores calmly. Volunteer Joy Garrett, however, dresses up like an elf and dances while she rings the organization’s bell outside Walmart.

For Garrett, volunteering is a tradition and something she enjoys and encourages others to do.

“I feel like if you’re going to be doing this, you got to be enjoying it,” Garrett said. “Now you don’t have to dress up to enjoy it. I bring my radio, I dance and everything. If people see a happy bell ringer, they don’t mind helping out. This is the season for giving.”

Garrett is so well known for dressing up, playing Christmas songs on her radio and dancing Walmart employees were asking her three months ago if she was going to continue her tradition this year.

“You have to make it fun and by golly I intend on making it fun,” Garrett said. “This is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love it.”

Garrett is one of many Salvation Army volunteers ringing the bell outside of Walmart and Winn-Dixie in Alexander City and Renfroe’s Market in Dadeville.

Garrett has been volunteering on and off for about six years and plans to be out for two hours every day this season. She said she volunteers because she enjoys spending her free time volunteering.

“It’s Christmas, you’re supposed to get out and help people,” Garrett said.

Garrett wasn’t the only volunteer with Christmas spirit Friday. Dorothy Heard rang the bell loudly and temporarily gave it to a small child to ring for fun.

“I get so much joy and I get smiles,” Heard said. “I get to give out God’s love and I can’t put it all into words what this means to me to look forward to do this.”

Heard and her husband Andrew Heard have volunteered together for 10 years. Dorothy Heard originally started doing it with a friend.

“I love giving out love,” Dorothy Heard said.

Andrew Heard said he enjoys volunteering and meeting people outside the store.

“It’s a great thing,” Andrew said. “You get to meet people and you know you’re doing it for a good cause helping somebody.”

All of the money raised from bell ringing goes to back to the Alexander City Salvation Army, which provides emergency services such as utility bills and shelter for local people.

“I tell people I don’t care (how much they donate),” Dorothy Heard said. “It’s not the amount they put in here (that matters), but it’s going for such a good cause, and, most of all, when I see people who have change it touches my heart so much.”

Donations to Salvation Army were steady enough Friday Garrett’s bucket was already changed out before noon. Volunteer Tim Hammond said he’s helped over the years and last year his bucket was so full he had to push money in to keep it there.

“I like helping folks in need and helping the children out,” Hammond said.

Director Grace Gokey said there are still volunteer slots available at Walmart and Renfroe’s Market. Garrett encourages others to volunteer.

“We only have three weeks for Christmas instead of four like we had last year,” Garrett said. “We need volunteers. If they want to do something that will make them feel great, volunteer.”

To volunteer, contact the store at 256-215-3730 or visit its location at 1725 Hwy. 22 W.