In our Citizen Christmas edition that will be in your mailboxes on Christmas Eve, you'll find our annual Christmas Greetings supplement wrapped around the outside of the regular edition. Featured in that edition is a story on stepped-up efforts to increase giving to the annual Salvation Army red kettles. Since Thanksgiving, bell ringers have been regularly manning red kettles at Hy-Vee and Shopko Hometown in Windom. In some cases, the red kettle has been unmanned, but at most times when I've visited one or both stores, the kettle has had someone sitting or standing next to it ringing a bell, offering a little extra encouragement to passers-by to donate. When you read the story in our Christmas edition on Monday, you'll read all about who is largely responsible for the local increased efforts to support the Cottonwood County branch of the Salvation Army. But this is my opportunity to say a big Thank You to those who volunteer to ring the bell. They don't get anything for doing it other than knowing that they've done a little something at the holidays for their fellow man. And make no mistake, their efforts are making a difference. According to directors of the red kettle collection at Cottonwood County Family Service Agency, the bell ringers had already brought in more this year with three weeks left before Christmas than they did all of last year. However, while the kettles were out last year, they often times were not manned and that makes a big difference. There's something about having a face next to the kettle, not to mention hearing a bell as you pass, that encourages someone to give. Trust me, there's no arm-twisting going on here. But perhaps a smile and a Merry Christmas from a bell ringer is all that's needed to coax someone to give a little and spread their own monetary Christmas cheer. And rest assured, every little bit helps. Even if it's a little bit of loose change in your pocket or maybe a dollar or two from your billfold, if everyone gives that as they pass the kettle, that makes a huge difference in helping families in need throughout the year, right here in Cottonwood County. Sunday afternoon, I stopped at Hy-Vee to pick up some softener salt. As I walked in, there was Rick Clerc with the bell. He gave barely a ring of the bell - about the same sound as the bell ringing at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, indicating that Clarence had gotten his wings. That's all that was needed. It apparently had been a good day. As I stuffed my contribution into the kettle I could see other donations filling to the top. That's a great thing. So, in the final days before Christmas, if you see a red kettle, manned or unmanned, make a contribution. Consider it your Christmas gift. It will give you a little Christmas cheer and others who need help a lot of Christmas cheer. Enjoying the lights Here's another big "Thank You!" to many of you who decorated your home's exterior for Christmas this year. I don't care if it's just trimming your roof line with a string of miniature lights, it's greatly appreciated. It's a beautiful sight to see light in the darkness of night. In some ways, it's too bad that the outdoor lights end shortly after the holidays. Indeed, the lights give a certain beauty to the season. When the lights are turned off shortly after the holidays, a long, cold couple of months get underway. Without those lights at night, it seems like a March thaw (hopefully) will never get here (except for last year). In any case, one of the great things about the Christmas season is taking a drive around the community to check out the light displays. They all are enjoyable. And, if you didn't take the opportunity to check out the lights, Buckwheat Johnson has put together his annual Christmas gift to the community - a video tape of the light displays. He completed the video over the weekend and dropped off a schedule of when the video can be viewed on Windom Cable Channel 3. The dates and times have been posted on Citizen Online and also can be found on page 8 of this edition of the Citizen. An interesting '12 Days' I regularly listen to radio station KNSG 94.7 out of Springfield and Sleepy Eye, the "Christmas Station" as they tout themselves during the holidays. They play Christmas music 24/7, which I thoroughly enjoy. Monday morning, while driving to work, I heard a unique version of "The 12 Days of Christmas." It's performed by Straight No Chaser, a 10-member male a cappella group. It is just a fun spinoff of the ever popular holiday song. If you want to check it out, go to www.youtube.com and in the search window type in "straight no chaser 12 days of christmas" and look for the video that says "Straight No Chaser - 12 days (original from 1998)." Here's a hint: If you like the Toto song, "Africa," you'll like this one. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!