TRAVERSE CITY Tom Mountz rang his first bell for the Salvation Army as a little boy with his granfather downstate in the mid-1950s.
He took some time off while growing up, but started again about 20 years ago when he and his wife, Julie, had children of their own.
“I wanted my young children to see and experience it,” he said. “Now they’re 24 and 26.”
For the next five Wednesday nights this Christmas season, the Benzie County resident will ring the bell and mind the Salvation Army Red Kettle from 5-8 p.m. outside Horizon Books downtown.
“It’s fun," he said. “For me that’s a big part of it. I get to see people I haven’t seen for a year. And it’s nice to see so many people digging into their pockets and putting money in. Maybe their parents modeled that."
Mountz, a 38-year National Park Service employee, usually works the bell solo, but this year he’s decided to help recruit more volunteers in his own way. He’s persuaded some friends to join him at the Red Kettle.
“I hope it will be a soft entry to get more people to volunteer,” he said. “You just ring the bell, greet and thank them. People can’t always donate money, but they can donate time.”
He has tips for future bell ringers, including: wear layers of clothing, extra socks and heavy boots. Bring foam pads like the kind you’d use for gardening to stand on to keep your feet off the pavement.
“Anyone who is considering it, absolutely should do it,” he said. “It is fun. Sometimes it does get cold and you don’t have that many customers, but by the end of the evening, you have money in the bucket, and it’s nice to know that somebody who needs it is going to get it.”