By Ted Streuli
There aren’t too many places you can find the Goodwill CEO ringing a bell to fill a Salvation Army kettle. But that’s how I got to know Mark Barth. Thanks to Club 29’s annual red kettle campaign, I found myself one chilly December day a couple of years ago in from of Bass Pro ringing a bell alongside Mark, who was the Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma CEO until a couple of months ago when he left to take on a Goodwill in his native Virginia.
The irony was lost on neither of us, but as we chatted over the tinkling brass we agreed that charity leaves no room for parochialism. There’s too much need; if we’re not willing to help each other, we’ll never be able to help the audience we’re trying to serve.
That day also put a couple of seeds in the ground that took two years to germinate. Mark and I continued to get to know each other on Tuesdays and last year, through Mark’s request and recommendation, I became a member of the Goodwill board.
The other seed was the value I saw in ringing a bell for the Salvation Army, which I hadn’t done before. When it came time to sign up the following year I was eager and rang with vigor in front of the Walmart at I-35 and 15th street in Edmond. And for 2019 I had an even better plan: I was going to have my sons, ages 13 and 10, ring with me. They’re ready for the next set of lessons in service above self, and red kettle bell ringing is pretty simple.
I was distraught when I realized that this year’s Club 29 bell ringing would take place on Dec. 6. The older one, Raymond, and I were scheduled to be on our way to Omaha that day for a hockey tournament.
“There’s nothing stopping you from signing up on your own,” a little voice (probably my mother’s) prompted. I had no argument against, so I went to the Salvation Army’s website and signed up for a four-hour shift. Missing a one-hour gig on Club 29’s day had multiplied four times.
I needed to know whether the boys could accompany me, which led me to call the Salvation Army administration office. By the time we finished talking I had scheduled a tour of their facility, which taught me a great deal about what the Salvation Army does in central Oklahoma, from family shelters to homeless outreach, to a food pantry and a diner for those who need a hot meal and a great deal more. I also learned that recruiting bell ringers is one of their biggest challenges, even though all the money from the kettles stays in central Oklahoma and provides a significant piece of their revenue.
Which led me to say, “Could you use some hockey players?” And that turned out well for everyone involved.
I rang my bell for four hours on Dec. 13. My boys each participated for an hour; Pugly, who helped attract attention and got petted a lot, did the whole afternoon.
The next day, the UCO hockey team and the women of the Sigma Phi Lambda sorority staffed multiple kettles, raising hundreds of dollars. They donned their bright yellow Bronchos jerseys for the task and garnered some attention for the team.
A week later, Oklahoma City Youth Hockey Association players took over in their Oil Kings jerseys, also raising hundreds of dollars for the Salvation Army’s local programs while reminding shoppers that yes, there’s hockey in Oklahoma.
Club 29 won’t get any credit for it on paper, but because Rotary introduced me to the red kettle campaign, the benefits grew exponentially. My family got to engage in a bit of community service. I was given an opportunity to serve on the Goodwill board. Three organizations gained exposure while helping their community, and the Salvation Army netted 14 times the donations it would have received if I had been available to ring a bell for an hour on Dec. 6.
Rotary’s symbol is a gear, that combination of spokes and teeth that works only in concert with others. When the gears mesh, power transfers and things move forward. This little bit of bell ringing struck me as a terrific manifestation of that metaphor; thanks to Rotary, small acts of service can multiply, becoming a great force for good.