Bell ringer’s last ride sets SA benchmark

Published 5:43 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2017

GROVES – Thomas Dunlop’s last effort at kettle collections for the Salvation Army was his best.

Dunlop, 91, has been ringing the bell during the Christmas season for 30 years, but health issues forced him to make last Saturday his last effort.

It was also his best.

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Salvation Army Capt. Franco Higdon said Dunlop collected more than $2,300 at the kettle in front of Bruce’s Market Basket, an extraordinary amount.

“Never to my knowledge, no, has anyone collected that there,” said Higdon. Seldom has SA needed it more.

Higdon said the 2016 kettle campaign collected some $54,159 for Greater Port Arthur. This year, he said, with people struggling in the wake of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, kettle collections have dropped to a little more than $34,363.

“It’s been an unusual year,” said Higdon, with some people unable to donate and others unable to volunteer. He said the SA depends upon five bell ringers to cover some dozen locations.

“We knew we would be down,” Higdon said.

Among volunteers was Dunlop, a Texaco retiree who has also served on the SA board for three decades, in addition to other community service.

Last week, Dunlop said he hoped old friends and regular contributors would come out to say hello on his last day, even if they didn’t have money to give.

He rang the bell at Bruce’s from 9-4, his regular shift at his regular location for six years, huddled under the overhang outside the exit door. Weather was pleasant and donations rained down on Dunlop’s kettle.

His total was aided by a $500 matching gift from an anonymous donor.

Higdon offered this perspective on Dunlop’s final collection: Kettle collections outside Walmart or Sam’s generally generate about $300-$400 a day. Kettle collections outside grocery stories generate about $100-$400.

Dunlop’s last collection was the most “he had been associated with” at a location.

Dunlop declined comment on this story, saying his last effort was “about the Salvation Army,” not himself.