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Salvation Army ran short on valuable donation

December 24, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - People gave generously to the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign in Franklin County this year, but Bob Weagly hopes they will also be generous with their time next Christmas.

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Finding volunteer bell ringers for the kettles has become increasingly difficult and the army has hired ringers each of the past three years, said Weagly, the campaign coordinator.

"Just a couple" were hired in 1997, but the number grew in 1998 and this year it was "a substantial percentage" of the more than 200 people who man the kettles.

"Even having hired people, it's been impossible to man all the sites available for all the hours," Weagly said. This year there were four kettles at Chambersburg Mall, two at Wal-Mart, and one each at Kmart stores in Waynesboro, Chambersburg and Shippensburg; Ames stores in Chambersburg and Waynesboro; Sunnyway stores in Greencastle and Chambersburg; and the Butcher Shoppe in Chambersburg.

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"There's a number of good things that come out of hiring people," Weagly said. "These are people who need work and they are earning money for Christmas."

Along with $6 an hour, those who do a good job also get a letter of recommendation from the Salvation Army they can take to other potential employers, he said.

Still, jobs are hard to fill because of already low unemployment and work that involves standing outside in the cold and rain, Weagly said.

"I've worked all the outside spots. I only work the evenings because I have a regular daytime job," said Marion Watkins of Chambersburg. She was at the Salvation Army Corps headquarters at 159 Lincoln Way West on Thursday, waiting to be driven to a site.

Although she works seven days a week cleaning homes and caring for the elderly, Watkins has missed only two nights since the campaign began Nov. 11. "If it wasn't that I needed the money, I wouldn't take the money, but my family depends on me right now," Watkins said.

With temperatures in the low 30s and a cold breeze blowing Thursday night, Watkins said her biggest problem is "keeping warm." Weagly said ringers are given pocket handwarmers and ponchos to ward off the cold and rain.

"I was told the colder and rainier it is, the more people put in the kettles," said Katy Harding of Chambersburg, another ringer.

"People take pity on you," Watkins said with a laugh.

Despite the volunteer shortage, Weagly said the campaign is "running neck-and-neck" with last year, raising about $90,000 in pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and small bills. The campaign ends this afternoon, but Weagly was still looking for volunteers Thursday.

"An hour of their time can mean a lot to us," he said about volunteers. He encouraged church groups, individuals and others to volunteer now to be ringers for the 2000 campaign.

This season the Salvation Army provided assistance to 231 families, according to Office Manager Caseworker Pat Hughes. That includes 218 food baskets and toys and clothes for 403 children.

More than 350 of those gifts came from the "Angel Tree" program, Hughes said. Christmas trees at area stores were hung with cards listing a child's name, along with their request for a gift, or clothing sizes. People took those cards, bought and wrapped the gifts and returned them to the stores, she said.

Hughes said 967 more gifts were distributed to nursing home residents through the Salvation Army's League of Mercy ministry.

Volunteers won't get paid and paid ringers won't get rich, but Weagly they receive a greater benefit.

"It brings you in touch with the goodness of mankind," he said.

The Salvation Army has been ringing bells and filling kettles for 108 years, according to Weagly.

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