- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) - As shoppers approached the front doors of JC Penney on Nov. 27, they were greeted with ringing bells and a Christmas carol or two by six little elves.

Many shoppers going in and out of the store paused for a moment to listen to the crew as it rang little bells and collected donations for the Salvation Army during one of the busiest shopping days in the country.

“This is our family tradition,” said Rob Francis, grandfather to the six. “The kids do a lot better out here than I do by myself.”

For the last two years, the Francis family has spent its Black Friday ringing bells for the agency after reading a newspaper story about the need for volunteers.

“We just enjoy being able to help,” Francis said. “We try to get out twice a week and do it.”

Anticipating yet another donation to the red kettle, the youngsters sing in hopes of drawing in more shoppers.

As the bells rang out, many approached the children, handing them money and receiving a big “Thank you” and a “Merry Christmas.”

“We want to teach them that the holidays are more than just getting. It’s also about giving,” the grandfather said.

Six-year-old Katie Robertson said she enjoyed spending time with her grandparents and cousins and helping the community.

“It feels good helping out needy families,” she said. “I also enjoy ringing the bells with my papa.”

Two-year-old Johnathan Dunn, the youngest of the cousins, drew a crowd when he started dancing as the others sang “Jingle Bells.” Many handed their donations to the boy so he could place them in the kettle.

“It’s really fun,” the boy said.

“It’s great to be helping others and spending time with my grandkids,” his grandfather said.

While many families settled in for an evening of shopping or sleeping off Thanksgiving dinner, Francis and his wife, Cheryl, loaded in the car and headed to Cincinnati to pick up their grandchildren to participate in the activity.

“This is a worthy cause, and it’s important they learn from it,” Francis said.

As the bells kept ringing, more and more shoppers put money in the kettle, commenting about how cute the children were.

“They do 85 percent of the work and I do the rest,” Francis said.

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Information from: The Independent, http://www.dailyindependent.com

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