November 19, 2011 7:13:00 PM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
On Thanksgiving morning 2010, Max, Cameron and Carrington Davis woke up with something a bit different on their minds than most children. They looked forward to the holiday with family, of course, but there was something else. The siblings couldn't wait to find out how much had been dropped into their red kettle the day before.
Just as their dad, Todd, and mother, Angela, might have hoped, the children had discovered the satisfaction of helping someone else, as bell ringers for the Salvation Army's annual kettle campaign.
"I liked seeing people's faces, because they didn't really expect to see kids ringing the bells," said Max, a 10th grader at New Hope High School. "It was good for them to see that teenagers have a heart, too."
For Todd, the current president of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, "the excitement my kids had just watching people give" was gratifying, recounting how they pressed him call the agency's office the next morning to see how much had been donated in their kettle. "The experience kind of gave a different meaning to Thanksgiving for us."
The Davises are one of many families who volunteer to ring beside the familiar red kettles that have become a recognizable symbol of the holiday season. The song of the bells began city-wide in Columbus and West Point Friday morning at 10 a.m. It will continue every day, except Sundays, through Christmas Eve.
Monies collected benefit the larger community in several ways. Some will go toward gifts for children who not adopted from the Angel Trees placed around town; some will help buy food to be distributed to about 200 families at Christmas. The funds will also purchase gifts for nursing home residents who are without nearby -- or any --
"Anything left over will help us make it through the 2012 budget year," said Maj. Paul White, who heads the Salvation Army, assisted by his wife, Maj. Linda White -- and Abby, their chocolate lab, who serves as the agency's official greeter. During the year, Salvation Army will daily offer a helping hand to those who may need emergency shelter, transportation, utility and prescription assistance, food, clothing, youth programs, rehabilitative assistance or disaster services.
As he walked through the halls of the facility at 2219 Main St., Abby at his side, Maj. White praised volunteers.
"We've got people from civic clubs, churches, Columbus Air Force Base ... and then there are a lot of individuals who want to work an hour here, and hour there," he said. "Many of them are families -- husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, whole families."
Tom Green and his daughter, Patty Ann, have had a standing date on Christmas Eve afternoon for the past 20 years. Without fail, the pair rings bells together during the very last hour of the kettle campaign.
"She was about 5 years old when we started; that was her first little ministry of giving back," said Green. "It's just been a family tradition that started off as 'daddy-daughter date day.'"
Patty Ann Green is now Patty Ann Bogue. She married in July and lives in College Station, Texas, where she is pursuing a doctorate and teaching at Texas A&M. But even that distance doesn't mean she'll break her date with dad.
"We've always known that's part of our (Christmas Eve) day," said Patty Ann, via phone from the Lone Star State. She has never failed to make it home for the kettle, even through undergraduate study at the University of Alabama and graduate school at Wake Forest.
"I have a lot of fond memories of doing that with my Dad," the 25-year-old shared. "My parents introduced me to the importance of giving back to the community, and they modeled that themselves."
Her father, who currently serves on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, feels volunteering from an early age influenced Patty Ann's ongoing spirit to serve, wherever she may be living.
"And I'm sure she'll carry it forward in her own family in years to come," said Green.
There are many other stories of family members who ring together. And many others who contribute their time through groups they belong to, or simply as individuals. But more volunteers are needed, particularly in West Point.
"We're really hoping for a full volunteer staff this year so the Salvation Army has more money to put back into the community and the Angels," said Green. "Every volunteer we get saves the organization the hourly rate of $10 it would have to pay someone to man the kettle. If anybody volunteers to ring, it's really a gift to the Salvation Army."
Todd Davis emphasized, "We're really hoping even more families will get involved this year." He encouraged students who need community hours to sign up, with a parent or other adult if they're under 18. "Planting the seed of volunteerism can never start too early," he stressed.
His wife, Angela, concurred. "Our children got to see that coins given joined with other coins and do make a difference."
The lesson wasn't lost on their son, Cameron, 13. "It was good to see people giving money for people who don't have as much," he said.
If everyone understood the mission of the Salvation Army and what the kettles are raising money for, said Patty Ann Bogue, "they would all want to ring a bell."
Volunteer coordinator Fred Bell is looking for willing hands and hearts to join the bell ringer family-at-large, even for a single one-hour shift. To find out more, contact the Salvation Army at 662-327-5137, extension 202.
"We're asking people for the most precious commodity they've got -- their time," Bell said. "But by giving your time to others and your community, you're using it more wisely than anything else you could do."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.