Let's Talk: Salvation Army bell ringer Terry Povey

Terry Povey hopes the community will heed the sound of the bells this season.

For 14 years, the Columbia resident has served as a volunteer bell ringer for The Salvation Army. The agency uses money collected during the annual kettle drive to provide basic emergency needs, including assistance with rent, utility bills, prescription medication, food and job transportation, and vouchers for clothing and furniture from its thrift store.

Povey - the director of Web business development, market research and statistics at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina - is this year's Salvation Army Christmas Committee chairwoman.

We spoke with her about the importance of The Salvation Army.

Why is this cause so important to you?

Povey: "We make a direct impact in our own community with the funds raised at our kettle sites. Here in Columbia, The Salvation Army serves an average of 4,500 meals to the homeless each month. Last year, The Salvation Army brightened Christmas morning with gifts for over 5,200 children."

What's one of the most significant contributions you can remember?

Povey: "A $20 gift, and this was from an individual who, from his appearances, looked like he was the least able to give that amount. We actually stopped him from dropping the $20 into the kettle. He told us that The Salvation Army had helped him and that he made a promise that when he was able, he wanted to repay the Army. Of course, the tears started to flow and he smiled and said he was paying us back."

About how many shifts do you take each year at the kettles?

Povey: "Sometimes, it can be five or more. The number of shifts varies each year as I jump in and ring at kettle locations assigned to BlueCross."

What are some of your childhood memories of hearing The Salvation Army bells?

Povey: "It signifies Christmas. Once the bells start ringing, you know that Christmas will be here soon."

What hand do you typically ring with?

Povey: "I start with my right. I'm right-handed. But, when you ring for two consecutive hours, you find yourself switching back and forth often."

Why do you think this community continues to give, even during tough economic times?

Povey: "The Midlands community is amazing and always willing to help someone in need. Most of our kettle donations are one-dollar bills. We have wonderful volunteers that go out and ring the bells for The Salvation Army. And, if you have ever been a bell ringer ... you cannot walk past a kettle without making a donation."

BlueCross has long had a special involvement with The Salvation Army. Can you tell us about that?

"We have always had an employee on The Salvation Army Advisory Board. In addition to adopting kettle locations since 1996, our employees also support the Christmas stocking program, filling hundreds of stockings each year for The Salvation Army that are distributed during Christmas. This year, BlueCross adopted both the retail and grocery entrance kettle locations at the Two Notch Road Walmart and the Killian Road Walmart for three weeks to fill 480 hours."

Are there still opportunities for people to get involved this year?

Yes, we still need volunteer bell ringers at many kettle locations. Visit The Salvation Army's Web site at www.DoingtheMostGood.org to view kettle sites and openings. The site also lists all volunteer opportunities available."

- Compiled by Bertram Rantin