Streams of people scuttled by Salvation Army Red Kettle worker Keith Bussey as he jingled his bells outside the 25th Street IGA.

Although the wind was blowing, making it feel colder than the 50 degrees, Bussey remained jovial as he wished the shoppers a "Merry Christmas" or offered a "God bless you" when someone would donate.

"I love it; I love being around the public," said Bussey, who is in his first year as a Salvation Army bell ringer. "…I don't mind talking to people, making them laugh. That's part of it; you want to make them feel good."

Bussey, 55, said he's worked outside most of his life so he wasn't concerned about the cold or the rain during his bell-ringing shifts.

"I did construction for 25 years so I know how to dress in this kind of weather," said Bussey, who was bundled in a heavy-hooded coat. "And with the cold, you just got to keep moving. If you stand still, you're gonna freeze."

The Salvation Army kicked off its Red Kettle season on Nov. 15 with a handful of bell ringers collecting for the cause.

But on Friday, it expanded to 13 locations, using both paid and volunteer bell ringers as the local Salvation Army tries to reach this year's goal of $115,000.

Salvation Army Capt. Aaron Abram said meeting that monetary mark takes both the generosity of the public as well as who's ringing the bell.

"We tell them that ringing the bell just serves as getting people's attention but it's what you do after that will get people engaged and wanting to give," Abram said. "And you have to do something to stand out because everybody's in a hurry these days."

Red Kettle worker Cindy Stauffer began using two bells during her shift as one of her ways to stand out.

"You have to be a people person; you can't just stand here," she said.

And in her six years of doing the job, Stauffer, 60, has been among the top bell ringers for donations collected.

A good day is considered around $400 in donations but Stauffer has done double that in the past.

"I always start out with a dollar in my kettle every day," she said. "That way I know I have something in the kettle."

With the expansion of locations, the Salvation Army's Red Kettle season is in full swing.

That means Bussey, Stauffer and other bell ringers will be manning their kettles longer hours -- from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on most days.

"I've been working until 6 p.m. so a couple more hours won't hurt me," Bussey said.

Anyone who would like to volunteer as a bell ringer for one day can contact the Salvation Army at 270-685-5576 or via Facebook messaging.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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