Bell ringer charms donors with Christmas carols

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Bell ringers reappear outside justabout every store during the holidays trying to collect money for the SalvationArmy.

This year, one bell ringer promised the Jonesboro chapterthat he could raise more money than anyone else, and so far he's delivering –one Christmas carol at a time.

Timothy Torrence, a 62-year-old retiree, has turned theentrance to the Kroger on Caraway Road in Jonesboro into his stage. He keeps upa grueling performance schedule, singing six days a week for 10-hour shiftswhile also ringing a bell to raise money for the Salvation Army.

"Hunger has no season," Torrence said. "People are hungry everyday of the year, and the Salvation Army does so much for so many people. They'llhouse them, get them clothing and feed them on a daily basis."

He retired this year and decided to serve as a bell ringerto fill up his free time.

"Years ago, I needed some help from the Salvation Army, andthey did not deny me and they helped me," he said. "So, I appreciate it. Asoften as I can, I try to get out and do this."

Torrence has given back to the Salvation Army before, servingas a bell ringer in the late 1990s while he lived in Little Rock. This yearmarked his first time doing so in Jonesboro. He promised the local chapter thathe would raise more money than anyone else, and his singing has helped him meetthat goal.

"I would say Tim is one of the best bell ringers I have hadin 30-something years as a Salvation Army officer," Major Eugene Gesner said.

Gesner said every night when the staff collects Torrence'skettle, the haul is usually 75 to 100 percent higher than all the others.

"We're glad to have him," Gesner said. "It will make a bigdifference in our season."

Torrence has noticed that people give more when he sings,particularly when he performs his favorite Christmas carol "Silent Night."

"I guess I put myselfinto that song more," he said. "I try 'Jingle Bells,' 'Joy to the World,' 'OCome All Ye Faithful,' but it seems to me they just give more when I startsinging 'Silent Night' so I kind of sing that song the majority of the time."

The effort he puts into his singing does not go unnoticed toKroger customers, like Angie Dickson, who says she donated more to theSalvation Army because of him.

"I usually slip a dollar in every time I'm in and out aroundtown," Dickson explained, "but I actually came out the other day and I threwhim a 20 [dollar bill]. I just thought he is so great…We need more people likehim, more enthusiasm like that."

To sustain his voice after hours of performances, hetries to sing the songs in different keys, drinks a lot of coffee to coat histhroat and has even taken a break from singing with his church choir.

"When I stop singing, most of the time the giving stops," hesaid. "I kind of stretch myself to go on and start singing more. It's achallenge at times. Sometimes I wake up in the mornings after I get off, I can'thardly talk, but after I start coming here and drink a little coffee, my voicecomes back to me and I try to make it last all day."

What he loves more than anything, though, is all theattention he's getting for his voice and this cause.

"When I saw the article in the paper," Torrence said, "Isaid it's a good thing because I wasn't in the obituary, and I wasn't in thepolice beat – so that's a good day. It's a good day because I'm above ground,and the ground's not on top of me."

Torrence has had a lifelong love for singing. As a child, heperformed with a children's choir in his hometown of  Little Rock, which allowed him to travel todifferent events and places all over the country.

That experience may not have much effect on his job as asinging bell ringer now, but he says to get through the long days and sore throats,he just has to keep pushing.

"There's a song that says keep on pushin'," he said, "so Ijust keep on pushin', keep on truckin'."

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