Charity begins at Kmart for unemployed bell ringer

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For Jeffrey Taylor -- a homeless, unemployed bell ringer for the Salvation Army -- it was a miracle on Howe Avenue.

Down and out of work since October, Mr. Taylor says, he always kept his spirits up. While collecting donations at a Kmart store in Sacramento this week, the slim man with a wide grin greeted customers, opened doors for shoppers and spread holiday cheer.


His good will didn't go unnoticed.

On Wednesday, a group of businessmen watched him for several minutes before one of them approached.


"He came up to me and said, 'You like people, don't you?' and I said, 'Yeah, I do,' " Mr. Taylor said. "So he said, 'Well, I like you. How would you like to work here?' "

The on-the-spot job offer from Kmart regional manager Terry Burnell stunned Mr. Taylor, who said

yes. Unemployed since the Oakland fire that destroyed more than 3,000 dwellings in October, the 35-year-old Oakland carpenter headed to Sacramento to find a construction job and a place to live. But an unsuccessful search and chilly nights in the capital forced him to move into the Salvation Army's homeless shelter.

Mr. Taylor completed the paperwork yesterday afternoon and was scheduled to work in the store's toy department today.

"He's very friendly and enjoys helping people," personnel director Cheryl Underwood said. "We feel he'll be a real asset to our company."

Mr. Taylor reflected on the turn of events. "I certainly wasn't expecting something of this magnitude, but I'm a believer in the human spirit," he said. "If you give up when things are bad, you get pretty down. But if you keep your spirits up . . . and help others do the same, it makes life just a little more bearable.

"Besides," he added, "it's Christmas."