The sound of Salvation Army bell ringers has become synonymous with Christmas. It's hard to ignore the steady "ding, ding, ding" of the bell as you walk into Walmart or the grocery store. I find that it's really hard to walk by that red kettle without making a donation.

The bells have been ringing around the holiday season since 1891 when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee responded to a need to help feed the hungry in San Francisco. The iconic red kettles are now found in nearly all communities across the United States and overseas.

Volunteer bell ringers are needed in the Billings area.

I spoke with Salvation Army Billings Corps Lieutenant Colin Pederson today (12/9) and he said they are experiencing a real shortage of bell ringers this year. They have 11 kettle locations around Yellowstone County to choose from. Due to staffing issues, only 7 to 10 of the locations are running at most times. SIGN UP HERE to volunteer.

  • They ask that volunteers commit to at least a two-hour shift.
  • Minors are asked to be accompanied by an adult.
  • Dress warmly. Your bell-ringing shift will be a lot more enjoyable if you're not freezing.

Put on a big smile and practice saying "Merry Christmas!"

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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You can also donate virtually.

It seems like nobody carries cash anymore. I've walked by many red kettles, simply because I didn't have any bills on me. It's awkward and I always feel like I owe the bell ringer an apology. You can donate to the Billings Salvation Army virtual kettle HERE. An anonymous donor is currently matching online donations, so you effectively double your donation.

Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images
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Donations are down this year.

Lieutenant Pederson told us donations are down around $10,000 from last year (as of today). Concerning news; the red kettles are one of their biggest annual fundraisers. I asked him if they've ever received any unique donations, like the gold coin found in a kettle in Las Vegas. He said they received a handful of antique quarters that were worth about four times their face value. He added that they haven't received any gold coins... yet.

LOOK: The top holiday toys from the year you were born

With the holiday spirit in the air, it’s the perfect time to dive into the history of iconic holiday gifts. Using national toy archives and data curated by The Strong from 1920 to today, Stacker searched for products that caught hold of the public zeitgeist through novelty, innovation, kitsch, quirk, or simply great timing, and then rocketed to success.