Eighty-one-year-old John Johnson of Brainerd could have used a little help when he was a young father of five children and only making $45 a week.
So for the past five years, Johnson is doing his part to help today's families in need. He is a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army. He rings the bell four hours every day, except Sunday, at Cub Foods in Brainerd. He began ringing the bell this year on Nov. 16.
"These are good hours for me," said Johnson. "I bring my own stool so I can sit when I need too."
Johnson doesn't drive so his wife, Majel, drives him to the grocery store.
Johnson said he enjoys his time bell ringing and he meets a lot of people. Johnson worked as a custodian at Garfield Elementary School for 25 years before he retired, so he knows a lot of people in northeast Brainerd.
John Johnson, 81, Brainerd, rang the bell for four hours each day last week. Johnson has volunteered for the Salvation Army ringing bells the past five years.
» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls
"I may not always know their names, but I do remember faces," said Johnson. "They always know me."
Johnson said when people come and go he always greets them.
"That's the secret to getting people to give," said Johnson. "All you have to do is be friendly. I've watched that over the years. You greet them and they stop and you get a donation."
Johnson said there are people who never donate and then there are others who give no matter what.
Favorite Christmas food: Swedish toast.
First think you do Christmas morning: "Decide which family we're going to go too. Each of our children decide who's going to have mom and dad each year so we're not alone."
Favorite Christmas cookie: Date-filled cookies and peanut butter blossoms.
Favorite TV program: "Gunsmoke. Every afternoon if I'm here it's 'Bonanza' first, then 'Gunsmoke' and then nap.'"
Favorite author: Karen Kingsbury.
Real or fake Christmas tree: "Fake. We used to have real trees when the kids were small. Now that we're in this apartment the real tree would be too messy."
What are you thankful for: Good health.
A perfect date: A cruise in the Caribbean.
"Most people are generous," said Johnson.
Johnson has been trying to get more people to volunteer as bell-ringers.
"If everyone I know who's retired would volunteer two hours a week, the Salvation Army would have enough people," said Johnson. "People will say to me, 'I should be doing this.' And I tell them, 'Why aren't you? It's easy.'"
Another thing Johnson does to help people is he collects pop cans for Heritage Assembly of God Church for its youth programs.
Johnson and his wife also have participated in the church's summer camp in Alexandria for the past 12 years.
The Johnsons, who have five children, 13 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren, said religion has always been a part of their lives. The couple helped their daughter build a church 15 years ago in a small town called Ball Club, in northern Minnesota.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.