After being laid off from his job as an exterminator in 2009, Ralph Smith was telling his friends at the Broward Lighthouse for the Blind that he needed work.
Their advice brought him Tuesday to the Salvation Army in Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s a challenge, some people have reserves about blind people,’’ Smith said as he interviewed for one of the 125 jobs as a bell ringer. “I can do anything anyone else can do.’’
The Salvation Army of Broward County is looking for high-energy, friendly people from age 18 to 80 to ring bells at its red kettles throughout the county. The season begins Nov. 16 and the job pays $8 an hour.
The Red Kettle program is a holiday tradition as the Salvation Army raises money to provide assistance to underprivileged individuals and families.
“I think I’ll do well. I love to interact with people and converse,’’ said Smith, who lost his eyesight three years ago when a brain tumor damaged his optical nerve. “ I read the details and benefits, the donations are really good.”
Last year, the Red Kettle campaign raised $230,000 to help provide food, shelter and programs in Broward County.
“My goal for this year is a million,’’ said Karen Bloemeke, kettle coordinator for the Broward Salvation Army. “We’d like to raise $260,000, but I’m going for the $1 million.”
With shifts that can last up to 12 hours, it can be challenging to stay motivated and stay on your feet. Yet Bloemeke is ready at any hour to put on some comfortable shoes and ring the bell.
“My greatest reward is knowing how many people you are helping,’’ Bloemeke said. “Where else can you go and have a job where they give you a hug everyday to say thank you.’’
Bloemeke has recruited personality-plus bell ringers from shopping malls and grocery stores.
But on Tuesday, the Salvation Army held a five-hour job fair at its Community Center in Fort Lauderdale. More than 250 applied for the jobs.
Many applicants were hoping for other opportunities that the Salvation Army could provide.
“I’ve been unemployed for a couple years, and I’m looking for a position,’’ said Gordon Frost of Fort Lauderdale. “These are good people to work for.”
Frost used to be the vice president of sales for ServiceMaster, a disaster-restoration and carpet-cleaning company. After working there for three years, Frost lost his job because of downsizing.
“You just have to take it in stride, keep on keeping on,” Frost said.