Singing bell ringer comes back!

By Anna Carrera

Published 12/24 2013 05:26PM

Updated 12/24 2013 10:33PM

CHAMPAIGN -- Last year, Jimmie Rodges was living at the Salvation Army. The singing bell-ringer spent all of the last holiday season outside Sam's Club. But what a difference a year can make.

We first introduced you to Jimmie last Christmas. He wasn't sure what his future would hold, but told us he had big plans -- to get a job and get back on his feet.

For anyone looking for a good reason to smile this Christmas, just listen to the carol of the red kettle bells. If one of the men ringing them looks familiar, that's because you may have seen him before. Jimmie was there every day last year, ringing and singing for the Salvation Army. After a season out in the cold, he told us this Christmas would be different.

"I said I wasn't going to be ringing the bell next year because I'm going to be working," said Jimmie.

And now he has a job.

"Working in the inside is great!" said Jimmie.

Jimmie started working at the University of Illinois four months ago. He helps clean dorms there. 

"It's so great to get up in the morning and go to work," said Jimmie. "Last year, I really didn't have such a good job and I was homeless. Now working at the university, I've got a better job now and I got a new apartment so I'm doing pretty good right now."

He says that's especially true on days he gets to share space with students who like to sing too.

"Wow," said Jimmie. "The last nine months have really been a blessing. It's really been a big turnaround. That's the great thing about this, being responsible for yourself. In my lifetime, I've had a lot of failures and now I'm succeeding."

Jimmie says he's getting in the groove of the working world.

"I am truly truly blessed," said Jimmie. "I really am and I thank God for that."

But he hasn't forgotten the road he took to get there.

"It's truly just a big blessing to give back to the Salvation Army that's done so much for me," said Jimmie.

So he donned his red apron one more time and headed back to Sam's Club. He enjoyed a day's worth of familiar faces and full of his favorite songs.

"I love people and I love to sing and you know what? This is my stage here and nobody can stop me from singing here," said Jimmie.

After a year like this, Jimmie's not sure what 2014 will hold.

"Bigger and better things, I hope," said Jimmie. "I might even try to run for mayor of Champaign. How's that?"

No matter what happens, Jimmie says he plans to come back every year to share the joy of the season with everyone he sees.  

Jimmie helped fill his red kettle with more than $750 last Monday, plus a lot more change. Even though he loves being a bell-ringer, he says he plans to stay at his new job for a long time.

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Featured Coupon


Featured Business