Well that old familiar tinkling sound has ceased. Salvation Army bell ringers have boxed up their kettles, wrapped up their bells and put away their Santa hats and friendly ho ho ho’s.
While the money is still being counted — there are an awful lot of pennies to sort through — the local branch of the Salvation Army believes money raised this year should be on par with last year.
While that is great news for local families and individuals struggling to pay rent or get by, the Salvation Army has lost one of its longtime friends.
Annual bell ringer organizer Ray Kinsman has decided to retire after more than 10 years of organizing thousands of ringers.
At 86 years old, Kinsman said it is time he passed bell duties off to someone younger and in better health.
With failing eyesight and hearing, Kinsman said he isn’t the young whippersnapper he used to be.
In addition, last year Kinsman lost his wife Teresa to cancer.
“I lost my mate and that makes a big difference,” he said.
“There are a bunch of reasons for me not to do it and only one reason to do it.”
Helping out his neighbors in need has always been the driving factor for Kinsman’s return year after year.
More than a decade ago, Kinsman took over bell organizing duties for Payson. At the time, the four-week fund-raising drive brought in only $8,000 and 25 volunteers. Today on average, $26,000 is donated to the Salvation Army and at least 200 people sign up to ring the bell.
This year, Kinsman had 494 slots to fill, which he almost managed to cover. Some 211 residents covered 432 slots.
Bell ringers hit the major stores in town every morning, ringing merrily until evening. Kinsman was charged with making sure every kettle was manned by at least one ringer. That meant 12-hour days driving from pot to pot in his minivan.
“I start at 7:30 a.m. and call people to ring. I don’t get done until 8 p.m.,” he said. “I am not a young chick anymore, although I like to think that I am.”
Kinsman hopes he has found a replacement. A 60-year-old retiree expressed interest in taking over and will soon meet with Kinsman to go over the event.
“I have got it organized now and we just need someone to pick up the ball and run with it,” he said.
Even when he no longer coordinates it, Kinsman said he plans to pick up a bell and ring.
All of the money raised for the Salvation Army is used locally for families in need.