Quote Unquote: Have you Seen This Bell Ringer in Downtown Honolulu?

Edward Gaines spreads Christmas cheer one bell-ring at a time.
Photo: David Croxford 

Edward Gaines has been working the Salvation Army red-kettle drives since 2008. A custodian by day, he’s got a distinctive style of ring, a ready smile and an engaging air. He first took an interest in the seasonal gig after hard times landed him in the men’s shelter at the Institute for Human Services. He plans never to stop.


IT WAS a way of giving back to society. 


ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is be a people person. Say “Good morning,” say “Happy Thankgiving,” say “Merry Christmas,” and be able to do that from your heart. If you can do that, you’ll be fine.


I COULD BE in the middle of the desert and I think I could get somebody to donate. It’s my personality and the way I ring my bell. I have been blessed with a unique technique of ringing my bell. It’s a song that’s inside of me.


I GREET EVERY PERSON, man, woman and child. Even if they don’t respond. Even those who don’t respond will get something out of it.


I SEE THAT I’m making a difference in somebody’s life. Somebody may be going through a trial and a tribulation. And they get it and they’ll smile.


THEY MAY HAVE had a loved one die, and they’ll come over to my kettle. And I may help them get past that moment. They may need a hug. They may need to talk. I got that. I’m here for them.


DEPENDING ON WHERE I’m located, I can work from 9 or 10 in the morning till about 2 in the afternoon at Bishop and King streets; and 5 to 9 at night at Longs Mō‘ili‘ili.


YOU AS A BELL RINGER better be ready to go wherever you’re needed. Mānoa Valley Longs? That’s the most isolated place I’d ever seen.


WOMEN, especially in the banking area, will be your most giving. I find men most challenging. Your corporate heads are givers, but your average worker, they’ll smile … It depends on the economy. We’re in a good economy, a good year, when there’s plenty of money in circulation. 


I AM SURPRISED by people who are homeless who give to me. They are homeless and they will take out of their pockets whatever they have and put it in the kettle. And they need! They will give their last. 


YOUR AVERAGE donations, I don’t know, because I don’t pay attention to that. I don’t know and I don’t really care, as long as they give. It can be a penny, it can be a hundred dollars. You know that, when you put that money in the kettle, you feel better.


I’VE HAD gentlemen ask me strange questions about what’s in the kettle. They are born to be at a loss if they ever try to take away my kettle. How much could you possibly get out of one kettle? If you think you’re going to get a million dollars out of that kettle, you’re sadly mistaken. I know their intentions, but they don’t do it. They haven’t done it and they won’t do it.


PEOPLE ASK ME: Don’t you get tired? Don’t your arms get tired? Don’t you get tired of the bells? It’s a pleasing song. I could not get tired.


I LOVE THIS! I love what I do!


Did you know? Salvation Army bell ringing runs from Nov. 23 to Christmas Eve. A mix of volunteers and folks paid $8 to $9 an hour staff the kettles. Signups generally begin in October at hawaii.salvationarmy.org.