STERLING, Ill. — For eight hours a day, nearly everyday until Christmas, you’ll find Keith White and his red kettle outside the Kroger grocery store in this town northeast of Quad Cities.
Even during snow, White forgoes a winter coat, preferring to stay warm by shaking his whole body to the beat of the bells.
“People would stop me at different places, we’d be out to eat or shopping, and they’d say, ‘You guys have a great bell ringer out there. Who’s that guy out there ringing the bell?” said Envoy DeShawn Johnson with the Whiteside County Salvation Army.
White says the volunteer work all started when he found himself in line for the Salvation Army’s help last year.
“I knew how I was feeling at that time of the year, so I said, ‘Well, if I’m feeling this way, I’m sure the rest of the world is feeling this way, too,” said White.
Now, his infectious laugh and spirited performances often draw onlookers at the store. Johnson said workers sometimes have to switch out White’s kettle mid-shift because it is so full of donations.
“When I expressed my joy, then joy was given back to me,” said White.
White even has blisters on his hands from all the bell ringing, but he says it’s all worth it.
“The best part? When I see these smiles come in and out of the store. Sometimes I don’t see a smile come in, but I’m gonna make sure they come out with one,” said White.