The Salvation Army makes the holiday season merrier for many Calgarians.  A considerable portion of the money raised for Christmas hampers and gifts comes in the form of coins and small denomination bills tossed into the army's kettles.

Those kettles require bell ringers and one retired Calgarian has spent countless hours manning the kettle at the same location each year.

Ken Thwaites has been ringing the bells at the same spot for twelve Christmas seasons. He says it's a rewarding experience because it gives people a chance to enjoy the opportunity to give.

“People seem to enjoy giving, they enjoy it,” says Thwaites.  “The way I look at it, what we do, we provide a method, a vehicle for people to give to less fortunate Calgarians.

Shoppers drop money into the Salvation Army kettle on the upper level of Southcentre mall.  Many go out of their way to come to this kettle to visit an old friend.

For the mall, Ken's presence is a good fit.

“I think there are people who probably come back and look for him every year,” says Krista Moroz, a representative of Southcentre.  “He has a great personality, he's always very friendly you want to go up to his kettle, you want to put money in for him.”

Thwaites loves it when children come to put money into the kettle.  He says for many parents it's a way of introducing their kids to the importance of giving.

“A lot of them will, as they walk away, say you know ‘Where does that money go?” says Thwaites.  “They tend to explain to the kids that it goes to people that don't have as much as we have.”

It's always a challenge for the Salvation Army to get enough bell ringers, so having Ken volunteer so much time is a real benefit.  Captain Pam Goodyear says Ken’s contribution to the cause is immeasurable.

“Ken is always recruiting volunteers too because he's able to talk to his friends and those he meets about what a positive experience it is,” says Goodyear.  “You get to hear some great stories when you stand at the kettles as people donate they'll often tell you how they've been helped.”

Ken Thwaites says his greatest satisfaction is the knowledge that he's made a difference.

“When I sit down to Christmas dinner it's gonna be a good feeling to know that there's other people sitting down to Christmas dinner that may not have been if it wasn't for those of us who stand here with the kettles.”


For what he does to help many families have a Merry Christmas, Ken Thwaites is this week’s Inspiring Albertan this week.