MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – You often won’t hear bell ringing at one Miami Valley Salvation Army red kettle because Steve Osborne usually already has his hands full. Osborne looks like a typical bell ringer; with his white beard and red hat he also looks a little like another familiar holiday figure. But he sounds different.
He plays the violin. For 15 years Steve has manned Salvation Army red kettles throughout the Miami Valley. “Even though I only knew about half of one song, they sent me down to the Kroger in Miamisburg. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Bow in hand, he plays Christmas classics for five hours at a time to keep people in the holiday spirit. “They like the music. They think it’s a nice change from the bell. And story after story after story of what the Salvation Army had done for them or their family in the past.”
The music means a lot to them, but their gratitude means more to Steve. “It’s always filled with love and compassion really. ‘They saved our Christmas, they did this, they did that. They helped us.’ One little old lady, she had to be in her 90s, said they wouldn’t have had Christmas when she was a kid, and she’s talking about back between the two World Wars.”
Some years are more challenging than others. Steve says, “A lot has happened in my family. I lost my father not too long ago and I know that time marches on.” But Steve still tries to hit the right note around the holidays. “I know if nobody’s ringing the bell, it sits in the closet and it stays empty. There’s got to be somebody here manning that kettle.”