He's going to try to collect $1500 Friday at Taft Albertsons

Times are tough, and it even effects the donations collected by the bell ringers at the Salvation Army's red kettles.

Donations can be low, and sometimes its hard finding volunteers to ring the bells.

But every year, there's one bright spot for the red kettle drive, and he wears a uniform.

Kern County Sheriff's Sgt. Martin Downs spends a long shift each year ringing the bell outside Albertson's and each year he brings in a bunch of donations.
Last year the set a record with $1,275 collected in one day.

To put that in perspective, some days a kettle drive can raise as little as $35, said Sandy Koenig of the West Side Community Resource Center, who coordinates the kettle drive.

Downs' collection makes a big difference in the amount of money raised to help the needy in Taft.

“Its a huge percentage of what we get,” Koenig said.

Downs means so much to the Salvation Army that Koenig even gave Downs his own little bell, which he keeps in his office at the Taft substation.

She calls it a commemorative bell.

Downs calls it his magic bell.

He got the bell after his first year of ringing.

This year he's going for a new record and has set a goal of $1,500 for a six-hour shift on Dec. 21. He'll be in front of Albertsons from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We're going to try to get it to $1500,” Downs said. “That's going to be tough.”

Koenig said if anybody can do it, Downs can.

“He is so committed to the community and helping the community,” Koenig said. “He is such a generous, caring person and a shining example of what a law enforcement law officer can do.”

Sandy has one request of the community.

“Be generous. Be very generous.”