Salvation Army volunteers give others a happy holiday

December 20, 2001

Salvation Army volunteers give others a happy holiday

Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of stories running on the 12 days before Christmas to recognize individuals and groups who make the holidays and every day better for others.


After Gary Dawson was seriously injured in an accident 4 1/2 years ago he felt useless, and the 58-year-old Hagerstown man didn't like the feeling one bit.

"My wife Judy suggested I get involved at the Salvation Army," Dawson said. "So three years ago I showed up there and said 'take me, I'm yours.'"

The agency, which is busiest around the holiday season, took Dawson up on his offer.

Dawson said he wasn't particular about what he would do as long as he was being useful. "I knew I could do something for people," he said.


The first year, Dawson was assigned the task of separating all the Christmas stockings for boys and girls and packing them in appropriate boxes.

"Then they had me taking applications for the food that is given out to families just before Christmas," Dawson said.

On the day of distribution, Dawson would position himself in the basement at the George Street headquarters and make sure that operation went smoothly.

This year, he has been helping people fill out applications at the beginning of this process, which ends with the food and toy distribution closer to Christmas.

Much of the money needed to make those gifts possible comes from the Salvation Army's traditional kettle campaign, which is kicked off around Thanksgiving at sites around Washington County.

Helping out with that endeavor for the last few years is Gene Wishard, who said he had a hard time volunteering with the agency.

"My first time, I was hired to ring the bell for pay," said Wishard, 72, of Hagerstown. "I asked if I could just do it for no pay but that wasn't the arrangement."

Wishard took matters into his own hands. When he was paid, he gave all the money back.

"The next year I said yes but insisted on volunteering and that's the way it's been ever since," Wishard said. Last year he worked 104 hours.

Wishard prefers to work in the evenings and likes to work near J.C. Penney or Hecht's but will go wherever needed. "I do insist on a booth with a heater in it though," Wishard said.

Dawson and Wishard don't know each other but each is aware of the other's contribution to the Salvation Army. They agree on one thing: Their time volunteering to help others makes them proud.

Tomorrow: Manor Church Senior Citizens president Ruth South

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