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The ringing of the bell is music to his ears

For most people, the incessant ringing of a bell, especially one close to their ear, would eventually drive them crazy.

But not Desso Montgomery.

The 49-year-old Suffolk native has been volunteering as a Salvation Army bell ringer, collecting money during the weeks leading up to Christmas, for 10 years.

Montgomery was recently parked, literally, outside the Wal-Mart on North Main Street, doing the thing he loves so much.

Wheelchair-bound due to contracting diabetes and losing his left leg in 1996, Montgomery says his handicap has never stopped him.

“You can’t let it,” he said in between greeting arriving and departing customers and offering a “God bless,” to those who stopped and dropped money into the red kettle.

“I enjoy it,” Montgomery said of his time on duty. “I believe in helping people.”

Montgomery has worked the Wal-Mart spot this year, but many people have probably seen him at other locations throughout the city, including Farm Fresh across North Main Street and the Wal-Mart in North Suffolk.

On this day, the weather was perfect. The temperature was in the low 70s and the westerly breeze kept the sun from getting to hot. But weather doesn’t deter Montgomery anymore than his physical condition.

“I’d be out here even if it was cold. I’d just bundle up.”

Montgomery said he never tires of his duties. Thinking about those who will ultimately benefit from the money, himself included, is what keeps him going.

He used to work both the day and night shifts, but in order for him to be safely home before dark, he has cut his hours back to daytime only.

In the 10 years he has volunteered in this capacity, he said he has must many wonderful people.

“Most everybody knows me,” he said, topping off his statement with what might be considered his “signature” smile.

Montgomery doesn’t spend all of his waking hours in the wheelchair. He does have a prosthesis, but said he would not be able to stand in it for long hours.

Among the people who stop by and drop money in the kettle, Montgomery said he enjoys seeing the children.

“It’s teaching them the right way,” he said “It teaches them they can help somebody even if they don’t leave a lot of money.”

He said the misconception many people are under is that they must drop large amounts of cash into the kettle. Not so, he said.

“All those pennies add up.”

Donations are going well this year, said Montgomery. But there is always room for more, he added.

After 10 years, Montgomery has no plans to stop.

“I’ll keep doing this as long as I am alive,” he said, flashing that toothy grin and ringing his little gold bell.

doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com