Blessed at the Red Kettles — Capt. Debbie Engle

Dear Santa,

As much as we need volunteers, I know that standing outside in the mostly cold weather is not everyone’s cup of tea; but as for me, I love ringing the bell.  No, it’s not always the best of weather, but if you know how to dress, it is tolerable to be outside for at least a couple hours each day.

Why do I enjoy ringing the bell so much? It’s the people.  Some of the comments are quite interesting … one of my favorite remarks which is the one I probably hear most, is when it’s 16 degrees outside and you’re standing there obviously freezing and someone walks by and says “stay warm!” I’d like to be able to reply with a clever response but I usually just say “thanks!” Of course there’s the opposite when we’re lucky enough to get a 70 degree weather day like we did recently and someone walks by and says “I bet you get more money when the weather is cold, huh?”  Well Santa, whether the weather is hot or cold, the need is great all year round.

There are usually several people who bless me every time I stand at the kettle. Just the other day I was ringing and I saw this lady bent over, hobble over to the kettle, and as she pushed some cash into the kettle she gently said, “Here you go, dear!” She seemed to be struggling, and when I saw her come back out of the store, she came over and put more into the kettle. I asked her if I could help her with her bags, and she smiled and humbly replied, “No, I can handle it.” We spoke some more, and I came to find out that she had volunteered quite a number of years for us in the past at our office.

Then I ran into another lady who smiled broadly at me as she put her money in the kettle, and I felt like we had met before. I asked her where I knew her from, and she reminded me I met her last season at Walmart.  Then I remembered and said, “Oh yes, I think I remember you are the wife of a minister!” She had such a positive countenance and spirit, but when I asked her what she was doing for Thanksgiving, she told me about several of their aging parents that needed round the clock care. It sounded like that took quite a lot of their time. I asked her if I could pray for her, and I did. It gave me a warm feeling to know that I could encourage someone with that simple prayer.

Later, an older lady and a younger girl, who was in a wheel chair (who had challenges with her body but was determined to be positive and independent) came over to give a donation. The woman told me their church was supporting The Salvation Army through an upcoming event and she told me they were trying to recreate a kettle and stand. I asked her if they wanted to borrow one of our kettle stands, and she said maybe. They also sounded excited about the possibility of spending the time together through the means of arts and crafts to create their own “replica.” They were so cheery about it that I was immediately encouraged and inspired.

I was surprised at the gentleman who took over volunteering for me at the end of my shift, because I knew the challenges he had in the several years or so with back operations and such … yet here he was standing, ringing and serving. When I asked him about it he told me it was a privilege to just be able to give back. It’s amazing how much of a blessing I get just from meeting uplifting people as I ring each day. It reminds me to follow this verse:

Galatians 6:9 — “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Santa, I know you are doing a lot of good as well, so don’t let me keep you from staying on task. Talk to you soon.

— Your friend always,


Please help by giving generously to the Sun-Gazette and the Salvation Army Santa Fund.  You can help make this a brighter holiday season for local families by making a contribution in person to any branch of M&T Bank or by mail to M&T Bank at 405 River Ave.; at the Salvation Army, 457 Market St.; or the Sun-Gazette office, 252 W. Fourth St., Williamsport, PA 17701.  The Santa Fund is a fundraiser organized by the Sun-Gazette and the Salvation Army to help local families in need.