BILLINGS - For more than 125 years, the Salvation Army has been in Billings helping the hungry, the homeless and others who need a hand.
Carolyn Anest has been a part of that effort for a long time.
She started volunteering for the Salvation Army as part of a church project when she was just a teenager.
More than six decades later, you will still find her ringing the bell and manning the red kettle as the Salvation Army holds its annual campaign.
“I’ve always tried to ring bells. Even when I was working, I would work night shift and sometimes go out and ring bells during the day before I’d have to go to work,” she says.
She says it’s something she enjoys doing every holiday season.
“Seeing the smiles on people’s faces. And when you talk to them at least they smile at you, and you can have a conversation with people you don’t even know,” she says.
That’s not the main reason why you can find her ringing the bell year after year. She knows that every coin or dollar collected adds up to make a difference for people in the community.
“This money helps the community in a lot of ways. It helps people with housing with rent and paying utilities sometimes that they are behind on or food if they need food or something,” Carolyn says.
Lt. Colin Pederson of the Salvation Army says Anest has been a continual help throughout the year, ringing the bell or getting involved in other activities.
He says it’s critical to be able to find people to ring the bells this time of year.
“She has tremendous dedication. You don’t find too many people with that willingness to give their time, their energies, their all to help others in need in the community,” Pederson says.
“It’s just a joy being able to spread some joy at Christmas time and let them know that God loves them. That’s the important thing about our mission is that people learn to love God to find out who Christ is,” Carolyn says.
It’s something she has been doing for 66 years and has no plans to stop now.
“And I’m going to keep right on doing it until the good Lord decides to take me home—as long as I can do it,” she says.