- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) Cash registers are the only thing that will be ringing at River Ridge Mall in Lynchburg this Christmas season.

Mall executives decided not to allow Salvation Army volunteers to ring bells while standing next to collection kettles inside the mall.

"The mall has decided that it's a bit too nerve-racking for the people who work there," said John Rhemick, Salvation Army major and commanding officer, in charge of the bell ringers.

Maj. Rhemick said the Salvation Army is allowed instead to put a kettle near the line to see Santa Claus and another near the interior entrance to the food court, but without bell ringers.

Mall executives said these two high-traffic locations, without bell ringers, will enable the Salvation Army to collect just as much money as it did last year, with the bell ringers.

But Maj. Rhemick has his doubts.

"I haven't found any place that does better without a bell than with," said Maj. Rhemick.

Last year, the kettle at the mall collected more than $5,300.

Dwayne Marshall, marketing director for the mall, said the Salvation Army has the option of setting the kettles up outside, with bell ringers.

"Competition in retail is very high this time of year. We need to make sure transactions can be heard. We want to be good corporate citizens and also keep our tenants happy," Mr. Marshall said.

Reggie Hunt, manager of Optical World, located on the corner where the bell ringer usually stands, said the bell ringing is worse than just distracting.

"It's nerve-racking. Some of it's louder than others. Some people ring like they're calling in the cows or pigs," Mr. Hunt said.

Maj. Rhemick said he is still grateful for all the help the mall gives the Salvation Army.

"They do the whole angel tree for us. I really am thrilled with their involvement," Maj. Rhemick said.

The angel tree raises between $40,000 and $60,000 in toy donations, Maj. Rhemick estimated.

"I just don't want people to think the bell is a detriment to Christmas. That bell is significant," Maj. Rhemick said.

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