When We Met
I met Carrol Staggs on a rainy afternoon outside Fred Meyer in Twin Falls. I heard Staggs’ bell before I even knew his name. He was standing outside the store’s sliding glass doors, gently shaking a small red bell with the words “The Salvation Army” stamped inside the white outline of a shield.
“Merry Christmas,” he said to a woman walking into the store.
When Staggs told me his name and spelled it for me, he said with a smile: “It’s like Christmas carol, but with two r’s and two bucks.”
Staggs started ringing the red bell and collecting money outside stores for The Salvation Army when he lived in Phoenix. That was more than 40 years ago. He did it to earn extra money while he tried to get into college there.
“Have a Merry Christmas,” Staggs said as a woman pushing a cart of groceries stopped to push a few bills through the slot of the hanging red bucket.
“I like meeting people. You have to have a pretty cheerful attitude and like speaking with people,” he said. “I see a lot of my friends.”
Staggs said the toughest part about being a bell ringer is standing in cold weather for six hours.
On Dec. 5 he had on a red jacket, covered by a red Salvation Army apron, and red gloves.
He said he likes this spot in front of Fred Meyer.
“It’s on the sunny side,” he said, looking up at the cloudy sky spitting raindrops. Luckily, where he was standing an awning protected him from getting wet.
On a cold day, Staggs said, a little sunshine is a welcomed guest.
Other storefronts where he has collected donations weren’t as warm because they didn’t face the sun.
“You get cold out here, but this year and last year were really nice so you can’t complain,” he said.
Often, he said, people donate their change, and a lot put in dollars. Once in a while Staggs’ bucket will get $5, $10 and sometimes $20 bills.
He wishes passing adults a “Merry Christmas” or greets them with “How are you doing today?”
A number of donors are children, and he said they like to savor their donation experience.
“Nineteen out of 20 times they put (the coins) in one at a time,” he said.
How You Might Know Him
Staggs, 62, moved to Twin Falls in 1973 after passing through and deciding that he really liked it here. He is originally from Kentucky, though he has lived in several states including Ohio and California.
When he lived in Cincinnati, he worked as a machinist for Proctor and Gamble. Staggs said he used to work for an auto repair shop in Twin Falls that specialized in Volkswagen vehicles, but it’s been closed for years and has since been torn down. He is currently looking for a job.
Staggs has been a Salvation Army bell ringer for about 25 years and has stood outside numerous stores in Twin Falls.
I asked: “What is the best part about being a bell ringer for The Salvation Army?”
He replied: “If you didn’t think it was going to help out, it wouldn’t be as much fun, would it?”
When We Said Goodbye
Staggs pleasantly answered my questions but said he was neglecting his duties.
“How are you doing today, sir?” Staggs said to a passing man, as he picked up the bell again and started ringing.
And as I walked away I could hear coins hitting the bottom of the bucket.
Tell Tetona Dunlap whom she should meet next for her weekly column: 735-3243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.