Ringing in the Christmas spirit

Published 1:35 pm Monday, December 24, 2012

Outside the North Suffolk Walmart on Christmas Eve morning, Smithfield’s Maxine Hill, 67, pushes a donation into Salvation Army bell-ringer Antonette Johnson’s collection bucket. Suffolk last-minute shoppers were keeping up a steady stream of donations to Johnson and Lynette Reed, her bell-ringing colleague at the store’s other main entrance.

Salvation Army bell-ringers outside the North Suffolk Walmart on Monday were pleased with the generosity of folks out for some last-minute Christmas shopping.

Collecting for the Salvation Army at one of the store’s two main entrances was Antonette Johnson, who grew up in Portsmouth’s housing projects.

The 36-year-old, who works in a Portsmouth homeless shelter has had connections to the Salvation Army since age 7.

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“I try to take a few days out of my schedule to ring bells,” she said. “I see the need all the time, and I see how much the Salvation Army gives.”

The Salvation Army, for example, was the only church that would come into her neighborhood when she was a child, Johnson said.

At the other Walmart entrance on Christmas Eve, ringing her bell with the best of them, was Lynette Reed, who also said she has been attending the Salvation Army church in Suffolk since age 7.

“It’s a good cause, and this time of year, so many people don’t have (what they need),” said Reed, 35. “I just want to be a blessing wherever I can.”

Reed stressed that the Salvation Army gives away to the needy all that it takes in from the gracious.

“There is nothing they keep for themselves; they give it all back,” she said. “Even I myself am a recipient of these things they do, and this (raising donations) is just to give back.”

Christmas is the time “that people open up their hearts” and give, she said. “We need it every day.”

Both bell-ringers were grateful Monday for a steady stream of donations into their collection buckets from last-minute shoppers coming and going from Walmart.

Maxine Hill, 67, of Smithfield, paused briefly to push a few crumpled bills through the slot. “I think it’s a good cause, and this time of year, so many people don’t have (what they need),” Hill said. “I just want to be a blessing everywhere I can.”

The Salvation Army in Suffolk is doing all it can this Christmas to brighten the lives of those it serves, Johnson said.

“A lot of people who go to the Salvation Army don’t have a lot of family support,” she said. “It’s not just an organization, it’s a home. It really is.”