"Christmas bells are ringing," the carol goes. But for the Salvation Army, keeping them ringing is not easy.

"We have a great deal of trouble keeping a full schedule" of the people who ring bells to encourage shoppers to drop spare change in the kettle for the less fortunate, said Capt. Lanny French, who's in charge of hiring the bell ringers in Salt Lake City.It's hard to get people to stand out in the cold and ring a bell for minimum wage. Some of the ringers are volunteers, but most are paid. French recruits through Job Service, at the universities and anywhere else he can think of.

He expected interest among college students wanting to earn a few extra dollars during Christmas vacation, but few have applied. He's flexible - he can work with people who are available only evenings or want to work part-time. He tries to cover 25 to 30 locations about eight hours per day.

Spokesmen for the Salvation Army elsewhere in the region say they're also having difficulty.

"It's ironic, but when the national economy is better we have trouble in two ways - finding people willing to ring bells at minimum wages and discovering that donors tend to give less," said Titus Herman in Portland.

Maj. Bunny Lane, special services coordinator for the Salvation Army in Salt Lake City, isn't sure if the local supply of bell ringers is down this year.

"I don't think we've ever really had an overabundance."