There's no limit to the fun you can have ringing the bell at the Salvation Army Kettles at Christmas time.

Or, if there is, veteran bell ringers Joe Childs and Paul Coghlan haven't found it.

Childs began "manning" the kettle about 10 years ago - two hours a night, six nights a week. This season and last, because of a more demanding work schedule he's had to cut back however.

"I hate it when I can't ring, but it just doesn't work out right now," Childs said.

Childs started volunteering as a bell ringer he said when he was serving on the Brown County United Way board.

"I saw how Salvation Army takes care of the money they receive, what good stewards they are. I thought I could help and of course, it's one of those things, you start out helping and end up getting more than you're giving."

Coghlan, a three-year veteran at the kettles, said he was drafted by Childs.

"We were friends, we worked together at TYC," Coghlan said, "but I was recovering from major heart surgery and Joe came to visit - brought me a plate of food. 'Look,' he said, 'God's given you a second chance. You need to use the opportunity He's given you to help other people.'"

Not sold, Coghlan said he'd almost forgotten that Childs suggested he help the Salvation Army until he was walking into a grocery store and a gust of wind blew a paper into his face. The paper, it turned out, was an application to volunteer at the Salvation Army.

"I didn't feel like I needed to be asked twice," Coghlan said. Now he's president of the Salvation Army advisory board.

Wind, rain, cold or sometimes (it being Texas and all) heat, the two say they faithfully stay out in the elements to ring the bell, wishing donors or passers-by a merry Christmas.

"I'm generous with the suckers," Paul said. "It all works out I figure. Some people don't want them, some, the ones with children, may not have much to drop in the bucket but I'll give each kid a lollipop."

"Two hours out here, you really see the best of people," Childs said. "It's heart-warming to see how generous people are. Some you wouldn't think have that much to give, but they drop something in the bucket."

Over the years, the men have seen people drop folded hundred or 50 dollar bills in the bucket and keep walking as if they had just let loose of a dollar.

"It's gratifying, that's the only way I can describe it," Childs said.

Coghlan said the board set a goal of raising $50,000 in the buckets this season.

"That's an ambitious goal, and we knew it, but we need it for the work the Salvation Army does," Coghlan said.

But, this year, with the help of an army of volunteers, they may also reach the goal. A typical day's collection from the seven buckets in Brownwood and Early will be about $2,200 and there will usually be 36 collection days in the Christmas season.

"Every little bit helps," Coghlan said. "I'm always amazed at how it adds up."