Woodburn bell ringer brings joy with song
Visit the Woodburn Safeway between now and Dec. 23 and you might encounter Dina Miller, a bell ringer for the Salvation Army who can often be spotted singing while on duty.
She aims to bring some Christmas joy to shoppers of the Safeway, often by singing carols like "Silver Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Sometimes, she loses her voice, but that doesn't mean the music stops — it just means she'll play Christmas music on a portable radio instead.
This is Miller's first year working as a bell ringer, but she said it's long been a dream of hers.
"I've always wanted to, since I was a little kid," she said.
She said she grew up poor, but as a child she always loved pouring her pennies into the bell ringers' red kettles each Christmas season.
"I loved to give," she said.
Miller said being a bell ringer has allowed her to provide a glimmer of hope and a listening ear to people in trouble.
"One time, a lady stops and she says to me, 'I felt like killing myself today. And I'm listening to you sing and it's giving me hope,'" Miller said. "And I said, 'Yes, you have hope! Stay here and we'll talk.'"
Miller isn't unfamiliar with hardship herself. Her husband passed away four years ago, soon after Miller had retired from her 31-year career as an office manager for the Gervais School District. "I didn't know what I was going to do," Miller said.
But she thinks her struggles seem less insurmountable now that she's heard what others are going through.
"People come and tell me their stories. And I'm like, wow. I'm so blessed," she said.
And she believes in the Salvation Army's mission of helping those in need. She's heard from people who have used and benefitted from the organization's services. That's why she encourages everyone to give — even if it's just a few pennies.
"The Salvation Army is a huge giving place. Huge," she said. "Anything helps."
And, she decided to infuse her bell-ringing duties with music because of the additional joy she thinks it brings
"I know that music has made a big difference in my life," she said. "And it does bring joy. … It was always so important for me to bring joy."