Salvation Army: 88-year-old Pensacola bell ringer sets record with 19 volunteer shifts

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Janelle Smith stood outside Publix off West Nine Mile Road in Pensacola Friday afternoon, ringing a bell to help the Salvation Army. She wore a friendly smile.

The 88-year-old tells News 5 she’s always wanted to be a volunteer bell ringer.

“Life has always just got in the way,” Smith said. “But this was my year.”

Smith, who is originally from Texas, was so ambitious in her bell ringing, she might have broken a record, according to Capt. Herb Frazier with the Salvation Army. She has signed up for 19 bell-ringing shifts.

“Ms. Janelle is breaking records (in Pensacola),” Frazier said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve never seen anyone that said, ‘sign me up for 19 different time slots.’”

Smith’s willingness to volunteer for the Salvation Army comes at a time when it needs it the most.

The Salvation Army in Pensacola is $40,000 behind where it was in donations this time last year. Frazier said it will take the community’s help for the organization to reach its goals this year.

“Christmas has an army — the Salvation Army. And right now, the Salvation Army is at mission critical,” Frazier said, noting it being behind in donations. “So we’re a little bit behind, but I believe with the help of the community here in Escambia County that we can make up the difference.”

Frazier says Smith has been doing a great job collecting funds for the Salvation Army. She says she’s enjoyed it and believes other would, too.

When asked by News 5 what her favorite part of bell ringing is, she said it is interacting with everybody who walks by.

“(I like) saying hello to everybody, especially the little old men because they’ll always reach in their pocket,” Smith joked with a smile. “Are you going to edit that?”

You can register to ring in Pensacola and elsewhere across the Gulf Coast at RegisterToRing.com.

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