Salvation Army bells ring in $26,000

Glynis Crawford Smith/The Highlander

Salvation Army volunteers are all smiles Wednesday, Jan. 11, at the presentation of $26,000 raised in the Burnet County Salvation Army 2016 Kettle Campaign. Anthony Torres, service extension representative the Salvation Army, above left, congratulated Brooks Blake, Rotary Club coordinator of the campaign, above right, for checks presented to Sue Kennedy, Marble Falls Unit advisory board chairman, below left, and Vickie Seiley, below right, of the Burnet Unit of the Salvation Army.

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

The Salvation Army is alive and well in Burnet County, evidenced Wednesday, Jan. 11, by the delivery of $26,000 collected by bell ringers in Marble Falls and Burnet.

The idea of ringing bells before kettles to collect money for the disadvantaged at Christmastime began in 1891 in England. Today, you may pass by volunteers at Walmart in Marble Falls and Beall's in Burnet without realizing what represent, but Brooks Blake knows.

“Everyone is so good, so generous, teaching their kids to give,” said Blake. “So many people stop and say how they have been helped. It is heartwarming.”

For some time now, volunteers come from the county's three Rotary Clubs—those that meet at noon in Marble Falls and Burnet and Daybreak Rotary in Marble Falls.

“But in Burnet, Superintendent Keith McBurnett has done a great job of involving students from the National Honor Society and the Rotary youth organization, Interact,” said Blake. “In all, 175 volunteers gave 350 hours to the 2016 Kettle Campaign, including 40 hours by students in Burnet. The combined effort raised the $26,000 in four and a half weeks.”

“Many people ask what happens to all the money,” said Anthony Torres, service extension representative for the Salvation Army. “The answer is that 100 percent of the money collected locally, stays local, and helps the people who really need it.”

Salvation Army assistance is offered in circumstances that range from major disasters like flood and fire to unfortunate circumstance such as stranded travelers or personal financial disasters in the face of utility bills that can't be met, according to referrals from local nonprofits, churches and law enforcement. Volunteers in local offices coordinate with one another and other organizations to verify the authenticity of various needs, whether connections with services or vouchers for bills or travel.

“God takes care of the rest,” said Torres.

Torres had come to see Blake deliver $13,000 checks to each of the local Salvation Army Units. Sue Kennedy accepted one of them as advisory board chairman in the unit located at St. Frederick Baptist Church in Marble Falls. Volunteer Vickie Seiley, from the unit in the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office, accepted the check on behalf of her advisory board chairman, Preston Ingram.

Torres is responsible for the Salvation Army's massive western Texas Region 3 and he said he sees the spirit of giving everywhere, even in tiny towns with no Salvation Army unit.

“This year an eight-year-old boy in Sanderson told his mother he wanted to be a bell ringer,” said Torres. “Now, Sanderson is a tiny town (population 837 in the last Census). It probably didn't hurt that Dallas Cowboy running back Ezekiel Elliott jumped in the giant Salvation Army kettle after a score in December, but the boy aimed at raising $100 and ended up raising almost $700.”

“I got involved right after I came here through Rotary,” said Blake, who says he has been a resident of “greater Smithwick” for 10-11 years. “As soon as I did, I was bitten. Now I am coordinator for the Kettle Campaign for all the clubs. It's Christmas to me.”

Of course, the Salvation Army needs support and volunteers year round. Right now, Kennedy is assisted by Gloria McCain, but she could use volunteers to donate a few more hours each month. Seiley and Ingram are assisted by board member Rita Ingram and Sonya Wadman.

For more information, contact Kennedy in the Marble Falls Unit, 301 Avenue N, at 830-798-1865 or Seiley in the Burnet Unit, 1601 East Polk Street/Texas 29, at 512-756-8080.

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