TORONTO - "Toronto people - whenever they are confronted with a task, they step up."
So said Don Redmond, kettle drive coordinator for this year's drive for the Toronto Unit of the Salvation Army. Bill ringers were out every Friday and Saturday at both Toronto Kwik King food store locations as well as Riesbeck's grocery store through Christmas week, and this year's drive could have been the most successful in the unit's history, according to Redmond.
"I was shocked," said Redmond. "We raised $12,366 last year. I was shocked that we raised at least that much again this year."
Redmond said the exact dollar amount won't be known until Wednesday, when the funds are counted. Redmond also said unlike the past few years, volunteers came forward to ring bells like never before.
"I especially need to thank my co-chairmen Ed Stacy and the ever-dependable Carl Oprish," he said, adding there was no trouble finding volunteers to ring bells this year. "I think it was the best year ever as far as filling slots. I had my regular volunteers that I called in times of trouble, wondering what was wrong. Organizations filled the slots, and everyone showed up. It was great."
Redmond said this was the first year there were more bell ringers than slots to fill. Churches and organizations volunteering to ring bells included the Toronto First Presbyterian Church; Toronto Masonic Lodge; Riverview United Methodist Church; Toronto First Methodist Church; North River Avenue Christian Church; St. Francis Catholic Church; Toronto First Church of the Nazarene; Toronto High School students; and Signode Steel Co.
Also, the city volunteer firefighters and Bell Chapel United Methodist Church were unable to ring bells because "the only day they could ring bells had been taken," said Redmond. "I had one day I had to fill with volunteers. I needed 18 volunteers. I called 19 people and got 18 (to volunteer). It was awesome."
Redmond said only two volunteers failed to show, and one because there was a death in the family. He also expressed gratitude to city resident Beverly Andreen, who "rode her electric wheelchair up and down Fourth Street to ring bells - twice," he said. "She just loves to ring the bell."
There was music during the drive as well, said Redmond. He thanked the Brooks family for singing to volunteers, while Grant Wirth, grandson of unit co-chairman Anna Lea Wirth, came from Dayton and played saxophone while his grandmother rang bells.
"Our bell ringers do so well because they are such fantastic people to meet," said Redmond.
Doris Starr, treasurer and co-chairman of the Toronto unit, agreed.
"We don't know the final total yet, but it's as good if not better than last year," she said. "I'm just very pleased with the way the community responded, as always."