ALBANY — When Jessie Massey was a little boy growing up on Mary Street, he remembers the Salvation Army showing up at his house on Christmas Day bearing gifts and fruit baskets.

“They were dressed in uniforms and had boxes of stuff for us,” Massey said. “It was an exciting day.”

Friday at the main entrance to Albany Mall, Massey and several brothers of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity rotated bell-ringing duties in front of a familiar Red Kettle of the Salvation Army, hoping to create the kind of Christmas joy he received as a child.

“This is what I call giving back to the community because I still remember those visits by the Salvation Army ladies on Christmas Day,” Massey said.

The brothers of Omega Psi Phi fraternity have been ringing the balls since 1996. As people flowed past and dropped change and bills into the kettle, the givers were greeted with smiles and hearty thank yous from the fraternity members.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s folding money or spare change from a little kid, because it all counts,” said Ronald Burke. “This is all about giving back to our community and trying to help people out. The Salvation Army does a lot in our community and it all costs money — except for this. Ringing these bells doesn’t cost anything, but it means everything to a lot of different people.”

According to information provided by the Salvation Army, this “miracle” of Christmas is repeated over and over again around the world through the joy of caring and sharing. The traditional red kettle is an integral part of the Christmas scene, with millions of dollars donated each year to aid needy families, seniors, and the homeless.

Donations and financial assistance provide Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need, including families of prisoners.

Volunteers distribute gifts to shut-ins in hospitals and nursing homes, and shelters are open for sit-down dinners. The Salvation Army endeavors to bring spiritual light and love to those it serves at Christmas so that the real meaning of the season is not forgotten.

“This is part of what we do as an organization, and that is to help those in needs during the Christmas season,” Omega Psi Phi chapter vice-president Jeff Boges said. “Whatever goes into the kettle, every little bit goes a long way to helping those in our community.”

The Salvation Army will have volunteers manning red kettle collections at various Albany locations throughout the Christmas season.

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Writer with The Albany Herald.

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