CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A world record actually exists for longest amount of time spent standing next to a red kettle, ringing a bell for the Salvation Army.
It’s 60 hours, set last year by three people in the Midwest.
Jessica Chapman of Charlotte isn’t aiming quite that high, but she will likely set a record for the city this week: Twenty-seven hours straight, standing outside the EpiCentre in uptown.
She’ll start at midnight early Thursday morning and continue through Friday morning, with 10-minute bathroom breaks every four hours. That means no coffee, she jokes.
“I have no problem standing there eating a bowl of pasta on the side of the road. I’ve got to do something for carbs,” says Chapman, a development director for the Salvation Army.
Her intent is to promote the agency’s holiday and shelter programs to the younger crowd known to frequent clubs and restaurants at the EpiCentre. Among those programs is the Christmas Bureau, which provides Christmas toys for low-income children. It is funded in part by the Observer’s Empty Stocking Fund.
“We tend to attract older supporters. A lot of the younger generation aren’t aware of the Salvation Army’s work, and I see this as a way to get in front of them,” said Chapman, who is 29.
It will be an endurance test in many respects, say experts.
Not only will she be standing (no sitting allowed) in one spot for 27 hours, but daytime temperatures are expected to be chilly – only in the upper 50s – Thursday and Friday.
Plus – and this is a biggie – there’s 27 hours of that bell.
Ringing, ring-ging, RRRRRRRIIIINNNNGING.
Matt Linville of Pilot Mountain is the state’s resident expert on Salvation Army belling ringing, having done it for 36 hours straight last year in front of a Wal-Mart in Mount Airy.
“My ears rang for two days,” recalls Linville. “By the time I was finished, I was numb. I could not tell you where we were or where the parking lot led to.”
He has given Chapman advice and it includes forcing herself to listen to a tinkling bell for long periods in advance. “I rang the bell in my car to get used to the sound,” he said. “I’d pull up to a stop sign and people would see me sitting there, ringing a bell, and they thought I was crazy.”
Comfortable shoes are also important, but far more critical is a schedule of people who’ll visit Chapman, particularly during the early hours of the morning, he said.
Chapman has already worked all that out. She has also set a goal of raising $5,000, which would go a long way toward the Red Kettle Campaign’s $435,000 goal for 2012. That’s $10,000 more than last year.
Coincidentally, Chapman does not plan to go to bed after her 27 hours are up. She has a 9 a.m. staff meeting and then a Christmas party with co-workers.
“I’m afraid if I go home and lay down on the couch, I won’t be able to get back up.”