The past two Fridays, Jake Reddish has been standing outside, ringing a bell and wishing shoppers happy holidays as one of The Salvation Army's youngest volunteers.
A senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Reddish doesn't have cash to give to the charitable organizations, he said. So he donates his time manning a kettle at the Walmart on Signal Mountain Road and Walgreens on Frazier Avenue. He's already completed two shifts and has one more to go on Friday.
"It's fun," he said, recalling his first stint at bell ringing when he was in the sixth grade. "I really enjoyed it. I like standing out there and talking to people. It's such an easy way to give back to the community."
It's a two-way street, though, he said. People often get more than they give.
"Everyone is so wrapped up buying gifts and having family members coming in to town, but after they toss in some change, they feel better."
Sharica Smallwood, director of volunteer services and special events for the Chattanooga office, said Reddish is a model for other volunteers.
"He's got energy out the door and is always willing to help," she said.
Q: Who influenced you to become involved in community service?
A: Probably my mom. She taught me early on to be aware that there are less fortunate people in the world year-round, not just during the holidays. I grew up on Missionary Ridge and recently moved downtown. I'm able to see the need more firsthand now.
Q: What has been the highlight for you as a bell ringer this year?
A: When parents give kids the money to put in the kettle. It's that cheesy warming of the heart.
Q: Does your arm ever get tired?
A: No. In fact, it gets weird if I don't hear the bell ringing. It gets really quiet. And sometimes I don't even know I'm ringing it. Like, I'll have friends come by and will keep ringing while we're talking. They'll say, "Can you stop ringing for just a minute?"
Q: What's the largest donation you've gotten this year?
A: A $20 bill so far, and I'm hoping on one larger than that. But pennies are perfect, too. Whatever change you have in your pocket or billfold. It all adds up.
Q: How does volunteering and supporting your community make you feel?
A: It's all about giving back. Not right now, but in a few years, I can probably just write a check. But when I pick up the kettle and it's really heavy, it makes me feel good that I've raised the money myself.
Q: Would you recommend all college students give a few days a year working in the community?
A: Absolutely. Right now, it's exam time for me, and it's great to have the four-hour block to get me away from the books. It's good networking, too. I'd never even thought of putting [my volunteer work] on my resume, but everyone tells me to. It's a great resume builder.
Q: What other organizations have you volunteered for?
A: I've stuck with Salvation Army. They've always been consistent about using the money where it's most needed.
* Age: 22.
* Education: McCallie School (high school); geology major at UTC.
* Family: Mom, Edie; father, Marty; older brother, Cliff.
* Ambition: My goal is to own my own consulting firm.