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Tom Sullivan, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A favorite new holiday tradition for Tom Sullivan is donning his red “I am a volunteer” Salvation Army apron and ringing his red and white hand bell as customers go in and out of Lucky’s Supermarket at 234 Saratoga Ave., Santa Clara.

Except when posing for photos, he sits six-feet across from an iconic Salvation Army red kettle. His smile is masked by a face covering, but you can see it in his eyes.

Sullivan enjoys meeting people and continuing friendships with store customers who knew him before he retired last year at 67. He was a bagger for seven years at the supermarket where he now volunteers.


“I know everybody,” said Sullivan. “I brought customers with me from the store where I worked before.”  Before working for Lucky’s Supermarkets, he bagged at PW Markets for eight years.

Sullivan’s responsibilities as a bagger included greeting customers and rounding up shopping carts from the parking lot.

“I did whatever was needed,” said Sullivan. “I’m good.”

“I got to meet people. I’m popular in Santa Clara. People know me,” said Sullivan, who has lived in Santa Clara his entire life. “I’m good with people. I’m good with everybody.”

It was at Lucky’s just before he retired in November of 2019 that Sullivan met Salvation Army Lieutenants Chris and Gina Noble. They invited him to become a volunteer bell ringer.

“They help people,” said Sullivan about the Nobles and the Salvation Army. “They are like family to me. I help people all the time, too.”

Sullivan’s volunteer schedule of about 10 hours weekly runs through December. After his two- or three-hour shift is over, he goes home, where he enjoys watching movies on TV and doing jigsaw puzzles.

But Sullivan is at his happiest chatting with store customers and thanking them for dropping a

donation into the Salvation Army red kettle under his watch.

To make an online donation or to start your won virtual red kettle, visit


Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a column where we casually interview people we meet in Santa Clara. The column hopes to highlight what makes Santa Clara special — the people who live, work and play here.


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