ANDERSON — Frankie Smith has spent almost three decades ringing bells for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.
This week he had to walk away from his job.
“It’s killing me because I want to do it,” Smith said choking back tears. “This year it will be 28 years and felt like I was devoted to Salvation Army and to God. I would tell people God bless them for giving.”
Smith, 69, was paid to ring bells for the agency, but he said it was something he loved to do.
“I brought in lots of money through the years,” he said. “I could bring in three buckets a day. I was that good of a bell ringer. It got to where I knew everyone in town.”
Smith said he used his wages to pay for his grandchildren’s Christmas presents.
On Monday, Smith said he was ringing his bell at the Red Kettle outside of Wal-Mart when he started to have terrible chest pain.
“I was hurting so bad I thought I was having a heart attack,” he said. “But it’s not my heart, I have acute bronchitis.”
Doctors have told Smith, a former smoker, that his lungs cannot support working in the frigid Indiana temperatures.
“He said I breathed in too much cold air and at my age I should not do that anymore,” Smith said. “I never had a cold in my whole life until this year.”
While Smith struggles with the advice of his doctor, he said he is more worried that the Salvation will be short workers for the holiday season.
“They can’t get the volunteers like they should,” he said. “Back in the olden days, as a kid growing up, there were bell ringers everywhere.”
Salvation Army Captain Dennis Marak said each year manning the kettles has become harder and harder.