If you were at Foodland IGA at just after 5 p.m. Friday, you might have heard an energetic, bell-heavy version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
FuBao Goldsberry was the vocalist and the instrumentalist, ringing a small red and white bell with incredible speed. Though he only sang the song for a few moments, it was a fitting way to kick off his final Salvation Army shift of the season.
It’s hard to believe that anybody in town could have more holiday spirit than the 19-year-old Goldsberry. Even before his shift started, he was heartily wishing people a happy holiday season and a great new year, stopping once in a while to throw in a “ho, ho, ho” or two.
In his interview with the Empire, Goldsberry repeatedly and earnestly requested that this reporter pass along his holiday wishes to the paper’s readers. He also wanted people to know how valuable he believes the Salvation Army is.
“This is a big cause,” Goldsberry said. “This is a good cause and I really feel like people need to realize it’s really important for donations. Every donation counts.”
That last phrase is his go-to line when he’s ringing, and in conversation beforehand. Not only does every penny matter, he said, but every person is valuable. During his shift, he did his best to make sure everyone felt that, whether they donated or not.
Goldsberry has been ringing for the Salvation Army since 2014, adding it to the ways he gives back to the community. Since he was adopted as a baby from China, Juneau has been his home. He said Juneau offers a variety of organizations and activities for people with disabilities, including him, and he tries to give back as much as he can.
He volunteers with Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) as well, especially with the ORCA program that sets up outdoor activities. He was volunteering with ORCA just before coming over to Foodland on Friday.
That desire to give back has been in him from a young age, his adopted mother Claire said. One instance from his younger days stands out.
“He found out that our friends had a house fire,” Claire said, “and he showed up at school the next day and just asked his teacher, ‘Can I raise money for the Red Cross?’ That was without prompting.”
When he’s not volunteering, Goldsberry likes to go boating, work with beads, ski and play music. He plays drums, and has performed at Folk Fest a few times in a band known as FuBao and Friends.
If his bell-ringing is any indication, Goldsberry probably can play drums at a fast tempo. His wrist moves rapidly, sending a flurry of dings into the grocery store and parking lot. He’s impossible to miss, even from the frozen food section.
Maj. Shane Halverson, who leads the local Salvation Army corps along with his wife Gina, said this year has been more or less on pace with the fundraising amounts from the past couple years. The number of volunteers was about average this year, he said, and he said they’ve greatly appreciated the efforts of all the volunteers.
“None of them are quite as energetic as FuBao,” Halverson said.
That positive energy extends to others during Goldsberry’s shift. Multiple people stop in their tracks, put down their groceries, dig into their wallets or pockets and find a little money to give. Goldsberry thanks them profusely, often tapping his chest just over his heart as a person drops money into the red kettle.
On Friday, Goldsberry wore a blue shirt under the Salvation Army’s red apron, with a black jacket on. A Santa hat topped off the outfit. When the automatic doors open to the outside, chilly air rushes in. Goldsberry, who has rung the bell at Fred Meyer and Foodland, said he’s almost never cold when he’s ringing.
“I’m not too hot and I’m not too cold,” Goldsberry said. “I’m just perfect.”
• Reporter Alex McCarthy wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Contact him at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.