SMITH: Russ Swart? The name rings a bell

OK, now the holidays are on. Russ Swart is back engaging people outside supermarkets and ringing his tinny bell.

Swart appeared on Page 1 of the PD last Christmas Day as the local Salvation Army's most supreme holiday bell ringer ever. He had attracted a legion of friends and admirers while volunteering nearly 300 hours alongside a kettle at the Safeway on Santa Rosa's Yulupa Avenue.

Salvation Army officers astounded by his dedication were blown away when they added up what folks dropped into his red bucket: $10,720.

This year, Swart works the Safeway nine hours a day, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. He switches to the G&G on West College Avenue on Wednesdays.

"My goal is 25,000 smiles," the sociable 64-year-old said.

Though his mission is to collect money for human services of the Salvation Army, it's clear what he loves most is meeting people.

"It's amazing, the conversations I have," Swart said. He invites folks to come by while he's on duty, ring the bell and get a sense of why he loves to work the pot.

SWART IS A GUEST at the three Nativity Art & Music Festival concerts this weekend at the Mormon Church up Yulupa Avenue from the Safeway.

He's pleased to be invited because he's a people person and one of his favorites is Dan Earl, the local legend who will direct the Saturday and Sunday performances.

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