By Don Granese
The Salvation Armyhas been ringing bells in front of stores since 1891, but not many people get to know about the volunteers who ring those bells year after year.
Pat Harris and her family signed up to ring bells in front of Wal-Mart in Burlington this season as part of a family initiative to give back to a community that his given them so much.
Last year Harris had a severe heart attack that left her in a comma for about a one week. Her family could barely afford the funding it would take to keep her at Duke Medical Center or the cost of transportation from Burlington to the hospital for visits while she was unconscious.
Harris said that friends of the community came together and funded the whole family to stay at a nearby hotel while Harris recovered from her near death experience.
“Christmas meant something more to us last year than presents and cooking and the things that we always got caught up in,” Harris said. “We really forgot what Christmas was supposed to be about.”
This year, each member of the Harris family chose their own community service project that the whole family would help carry out instead of exchanging gifts.
Harris’ granddaughters chose bell-ringing as their service because they always thought it looked fun, so the entire family went with them to ring the bells. Even Harris was there, still wearing a heart monitor for the holidays.
“I’m so thankful for my life and I’m thankful God gave me more time,” Harris said. “I’m so thankful for this big family that I have.”
Just down the sidewalk, at the other entrance to the store, Anthony Adams was ringing his bells to a different tune. Adams, who had a history of selling drugs, being involved with gangs and other criminal activities, said that this year he’s focused on giving back to his community for anything he may have done wrong.
“By the grace of God I’m not supposed to be standing here talking to you now,” Adams said. “I’m supposed to be in prison for 85 months.”
Adams is spending his time that could have been in jail volunteering in Burlington. Adams said that he got so caught up in volunteering that near the end of November, his bell-ringing broke the city-wide record of $800 by collecting $902 in one day of volunteering.
According to Adams, he sees himself as a role model for other people who may be in the situation he was just a year ago. He wants people to see that it is possible for someone to redeem themselves from their wrong doings.
“Just put God first and everything else will follow,” Adams said.
He repeated this statement over and over and said that it’s the greatest advice he could give to someone who is in the situation he once was.
Adams and Harris were both at one point in need of a helping hand from their community to pull them up from a dark point in their lives, but now they’re working to pay off the debt they believe they owe to their community.
To make a donation to the Salvation Army this holiday season, click this link to go to their official site: https://donate.salvationarmyusa.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=206.