The sound of ringing bells outside supermarkets in Northern Virginia is a sign that the holiday season has arrived.
For Anthony Alexander, a seasonal Salvation Army worker, his small bell symbolizes his way of giving back. Entering his fourth year as a bell ringer, Alexander, who is not employed, says helping raise money to help others is what drives him to come back every year.
“It’s not about the money,” Alexander said Thursday outside a Giant Food store in Falls Church. “It’s about giving back.”
In 2011, the Salvation Army’s National Capital Area – which includes Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William counties and Alexandria City as well as Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Md. – raised $1.4 million from their 250 kettles. Ken Forsythe, spokesman for the Salvation Army, said Northern Virginia accounted for about $400,000 of that amount. The goal in 2012 is to raise $1.6 million that will go toward Salvation Army supported programs, he said. The goal in Falls Church this year is to raise $155,000, he said.
As he has done for the last three years, Alexander, 51, of Fairfax, stood in front of a supermarket ringing his small, hand held bell flashing his smile and greeting just about everyone that walked by. Those who dropped some money into his kettle that hung from an easel by a gold colored chain got a “God bless you,” from Alexander as they walked away.
Alexander spends hours over a five-day span each week talking with people while he rings his bell in front of different locations. From time to time he sees familiar faces that greet him with a smile, a kind word and another donation. He’s not sure how long he’ll keep ringing his bell and has instead left that up to a higher power.
“As long as the good Lord allows me to,” he said. “This is what I do.”
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