Five years ago, Gladys Anne Simpson wanted to try something new while continuing a lifetime dedication to serving others.
So she decided to train in disaster relief. She soon realized the importance of researching exactly what she was getting herself into.
"Being a nurse for so many years, I thought I'd go into cleanup and recovery," Simpson said. "I was in class for five minutes when they asked me, 'When would you be available for chain-saw training?'
"I tell my husband that I'm going to chain-saw training at 75 years old. I remember thinking, 'I think I'm in the wrong class!' "
Simpson instead opted for the child-care side. She's never been called to go on disaster relief, but she says she's always ready.
Compared to chain-saw training, ringing a bell for a good cause is pretty tame.
Simpson will wrap up her second year of bell ringing locally when the Salvation Army's 2010 red kettle drive ends Friday. Though she's been ringing for only two years, her charitable work started decades ago.
When she was in her late 20s, Simpson started helping the Marines during their Toys for Tots drive. She has volunteered consistently ever since.
"Just seeing the giving faces and how eager they are to help, it just gives you a good feeling," said Simpson, a Jacksonville, Fla., native who moved to Augusta in 1950 and has lived in Leah since 1972. "I believe in the Salvation Army. I think they do a lot of good things."
Last year, the Salvation Army's red kettle campaign raised $219,000 in the Augusta area. This year, it started on Nov. 11, and volunteers spend more than 1,000 hours each year taking donations.
Most of the proceeds come from donations to bell ringers at 30 Augusta-area kettle locations, nine of them in Columbia County.
For those who opt for carrying cards instead of cash, there is still a way to donate.
Anthony Esposito, public relations coordinator for the Salvation Army of Augusta, said that donations are also being accepted via an online kettle at www.salvationarmyaugusta.org.
Esposito noted that money raised by the organization goes toward four primary things: providing homeless shelter for men, women and children; serving more than 100,000 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) at the homeless shelter; job-skills training for men and women; and substance-abuse rehabilitation.
For Simpson, the kind words from a veteran she met while ringing made braving sometimes frigid temperatures worth it.
"Last year, a man came up to me, and he was almost in tears," she said. "He said, 'It just does my heart good to see people work for the Salvation Army because they did so much for us during the war.' "
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.