It was the sight of a lone Salvation Army bell ringer standing in the cold in downtown Hagerstown years ago that prompted James "Jim" Shifler to make a financial contribution to the organization.
He was then asked to be on the board, said yes and has never looked back.
"There's nothin' like 'em. They can't be beat as far as I'm concerned," said Shifler, who is one of 24 Salvation Army board members.
Shifler might be remembered as the Nationwide insurance agent in the stone house on Alternate U.S. 40 at Boonsboro. He's also known for his 23 years of volunteering with the local chapter of the American Cancer Society and 15 years with the Salvation Army in Hagerstown.
Shifler said he was "shocked" when he learned he was being recognized as the Salvation Army Person of the Year 2010 for his years on the advisory board and his help with Christmas efforts and other ministries throughout the year.
"It just comes naturally. I think people should participate in your community to make it a better place," Shifler said.
Shifler gets members of his church, Benevola United Methodist, to take turns as bell ringers during the Christmas season.
A capital campaign to raise $1.8 million — of which $1.35 has been committed — is under way for a new building with 45 beds for women and children and an indoor gym, among other services.
Shifler was born in Frederick, Md., the middle child of five. His family moved to a farm near Boonsboro, and he attended Boonsboro schools when all 12 grades were in one building. He graduated in 1946.
Shifler worked for Potomac Edison for more than 11 years as a meter reader, service man and "jack-of-all-trades." Through his community involvement he was suggested as the person to find 12 captains in southern Washington County for the annual United Way campaign.
The Nationwide district sales manager was in charge of the United Way's fundraising in the rural parts of Washington County and was so impressed with Shifler's efforts that he offered him a a job. Shifler worked part time for three years for Nationwide, then spent 25 years as a full-time agent. He retired in 1987 with 2,300 policyholders.
"I really enjoyed working with people and believed in what I was doing," Shifler said.
When Nationwide started a Hall of Fame in 1992, Shifler was one of eight agents selected from about 4,800 across the country to receive the inaugural recognition, he said.
Shifler's first wife, Ruth, died of cancer 37 years ago. He has two children. Shifler remarried a year later to Ann, a widow who had sought his help with insurance. They live on a 1-acre property on Roxbury Road, with sweeping vistas of the countryside.
He chose to honor his first wife by volunteering with the American Cancer Society years ago. He helped start Relay for Life Washington County and the Grand Sunday Brunch, Shifler said.
He said faith plays a role in his volunteer work.
"My faith is very important. When my wife's nephew — a missionary in China — asked how God had helped in my life, well, a lot of qualities that made me a good salesman — you just have to give that back to God," Shifler said.