Bell-ringers gather for start of season marked by giving

The ballroom at Glen Sanders Mansion was filled with supporters and hope Wednesday morning as the Sa

The ballroom at Glen Sanders Mansion was filled with supporters and hope Wednesday morning as the Salvation Army launched its 21st annual holiday kettle collection campaign. The organization hopes to raise $125,000, up slightly from the $123,000-plus raised last year.

The room rang with the voices of the 330 community members who came together for breakfast and to support the work of the charitable army. The Salvation Army Band played Christmas carols, and above that, the tinkle of miniature bells — a favor at each place setting — could be heard.

This year, more than 30 groups including service organizations, churches and schools are expected to ring a larger version of those bells at 11 collection sites across Schenectady County.

The money collected in the kettles will help further the services the Salvation Army provides to the needy, including meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and assistance with Christmas gifts.

“We have a toy shop where parents come and can actually pick out toys for their children,” said Major Michael Himes, commander of the Schenectady Corps.

Himes came on as commander just two months before tropical storms Irene and Lee hit the area. He and his wife, Cathy, who is also an officer in the organization, immediately jumped into the Salvation Army’s flood relief effort, which included passing out emergency food, water, flood relief kits and clothing vouchers. The group is also providing flood survivors with 500 mattresses donated by Sealy.

“We were all the way down to Prattsville, Schoharie, Esperance, and of course in our own Stockade section,” Himes said.

Himes expects that many people affected by the floods will apply for Christmas assistance. “We’re looking forward to a fun and busy holiday season,” he said. “We are just so thankful for Schenectady and their support.”

Kettle Kick-Off master of ceremonies Jack Aernecke told the crowd, “You are the army behind the Army.”

Amy Brule of Niskayuna was among the ranks. She rings the bell at the Eastern Parkway Price Chopper with Schenectady Rotary. “I’m just amazed that the folks that can’t give, give the most,” she said. “And they are so happy and I love it when a little child comes through and you let them ring the bell momentarily, but sometimes they don’t want to part with it once you let them ring it. We have a great time doing it.”

Supporter Robert Naylor of Schenectady is a big fan of both the bell ringers and the organization they stand for. “They’re doing wonderful work here for the people of our city, people that are needy. It’s wonderful work and I fully support them,” he said.

Ruth Campbell, 81, of Glenville, who also attended the kick-off breakfast, grew up in the Salvation Army.

“My parents and my grandparents were officers for the Salvation Army, so I was an ‘O.K.’ — an officer’s kid — growing up,” she said with a laugh. “I played in the band, I sold ‘War Cry,’ their magazine, when I was a teenager,” she recounted.

Campbell even got married in a Salvation Army building in Chicago. “My dad’s assignment was with men off the street, very much like the City Mission in Schenectady, but it was the Salvation Army,” she said. “And the congregation the night we got married were mainly these men off the street, plus any family members that we had. It was just part of life. You didn’t think anything of it. It was different, but it was important.”

The Salvation Army is still an important part of Campbell’s life. “I love the music,” she said. “I have a lot of Salvation Army CDs. If I really want to get some work done, I put one on where there’s a good march and I can get a lot of work done.”

Chuck Steiner, president of the Chamber of Schenectady County, was heartened to see so many enthusiastic supporters at the Kettle Kick-Off. “Salvation Army has been in it from day one and continues to be and it’s an opportunity for all of us to contribute,” he said. “If the room was twice this size, you’d have the room filled. People care. People take care of people and this community is very giving.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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