• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Salvation Army bell ringers inspire donors

SALVATION ARMY bell ringer Stasha Hickey prepares to accept a donation from Marilyn Biles. The money donated in Woodford County stays here and helps people struggling to pay rent and utility bills – and utility bills for the Hope Ministries Food Pantry and local clothing bank. (Photo by John McGary)

’Twas the eve of Christmas Eve, a little before 11 a.m., and Stasha Hickey, 21, and her niece, Miriam, 11, could have been shopping or Facebooking or sleeping. That’s what many young people do this time of year on their school breaks. Instead, the Hickey girls were inside the main entrance of Kroger, wearing red aprons and Santa hats and ringing bells next to the familiar red Salvation Army bucket. At the pharmacy entrance, Stasha’s mother, Stanene, was doing the same. It’s a family tradition. “I just like to give back to the community. We do it every Christmas since I’ve lived here. We also help with the meals sometimes on Thanksgiving through the Salvation Army,” Stasha said. Stasha began ringing the bell six years ago, while this was the first year for Miriam – and no, she said, she wouldn’t rather have been on Facebook or playing a video game. “I like spending time outside the house,” Miriam said. When asked whether any of the donors had said something memorable while dropping change or bills inside her bucket, she thought for a moment, then said, “One person said no one can resist giving the money over here.” A few minutes later, Lela Mitchell, of Versailles, did just that, as she said she had for many years. Asked why, she said simply, “To help other people.” Fifteen yards away, by the interior exit door, Stasha spoke of the generosity she witnesses every time she rings the bell. “Lots of people are willing to give, even the people that you don’t expect, sometimes. It’s just really great to see them,” Stasha said. “Most people who walk through here do give, and we’re out here for a whole month, so they probably give more than once, so that’s a really good feeling.” Asked whether anyone ever asked for change, she laughed and said no. A few moments later, Marilyn Biles rode out in a motorized shopping cart, dug in her purse, and donated to Stasha. They said “Merry Christmas” and “God bless you” to each other, and before Marilyn rode away, she said part of the reason she donated was seeing Stasha and Miriam donate their time. All the donations raised in Woodford County – usually between $25,000-$30,000 a year – remain here, said Sarah Wills, the co-chair of the Woodford County Salvation Army Unit. They help pay the rent and utilities for people going through a tough time, and the electric bill for the local clothing bank and all utilities for the Hope Ministries Food Pantry. For Stasha, the only thing remotely resembling a downside about ringing a bell for the Salvation Army is the bell itself – but not for the reason you might expect. “It gets a little annoying. I have to switch hands every so often, because my hand gets tired, but the noise doesn’t really bother me. I kind of like it,” she said.

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