December 23, 2012
I Care: Bell ringer enjoys holiday giving

20121220_AOC_ICareBell_273w.jpg Bundled up in red outside of Sam's Club in Arden Arcade, Carl Virgin (right) is a Salvation Army bell ringer. He bobs his head to jingle the six bells sewn atop his corkscrew mistletoe hat, enthusiastically luring donations from holiday shoppers. Virgin, 59, has spastic quadriplegia, a severe form of cerebral palsy. He communicates though head motions, eye movements and a large smile. His personal attendant gives out candy canes from his apron pocket to those who donate. It's his favorite thing.
Gail Johnson says her brother loves giving to others. "If he has money in his pocket he'll give it to someone." He and his roommate, Eugogio Lizarraga (below at left) agreed to ring the bell after learning The Salvation Army needed volunteers. "They are both happy, outgoing guys," Johnson says. "By doing this, they're giving back - and they really like that."

Kim Bradley, a supervisor for STEP (Strategies To Empower People), said that they use the opportunity to educate the public about those living with disabilities. "A lot of people are afraid or they stare," she said. Virgin is very bright, but is unable to speak. The STEP personell who came with the pair during the four-hour bell ringing session encourage interaction with the public and answers questions that people have. "Kids see that (people with disabilities) are involved in the community and that they're like everybody else," she said.

20121220_AOC_ICareBell_124w.jpgThe money raised by Salvation Army bell ringers stay within the Sacramento area to help local people in need. They go to programs such as the food pantry, or the Christmas Assistance Program.
Virgin and Lizarraga are both very soft-hearted said Johnson. "They know everything that's going on," she said. "If there's something sad going on on TV they cry." For these two, ringing the Salvation Army bell is the perfect combination of helping others, being social and spreading their Christmas cheer.

For more on the Salvation Army and bell ringing visit www.salvationarmyusa.org

To suggest a volunteer with a story to tell please email Autumn Payne at apayne@sacbee.com.

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