Wendy Hoff and her dog Lily greeted City Market patrons during a previous Salvation Army red kettle fundraiser. [Courtesy photo]

Joe Kingsley never forgot the woman he helped out years ago with $150 for food and medicine when she was down and out. He met the woman when he was volunteering as a bell-ringer seeking donations for The Salvation Army’s annual holiday fundraiser. The woman had fallen upon hard times and was homeless, Kingsley said.

“I never heard from her and then one Christmas while I was ringing the bell she came up with tears in her eyes, and said ‘I want to give you a blessing. I have a housekeeping job, my own place, and I’m on my feet,’” Kingsley said. “She gave me $150 to pay me back, and said ‘I hope this will go to someone else in need.’”

Kingsley rings the bell every year for The Salvation Army and one thing he said he’s noticed is that oftentimes those who give the most have the least.

“They know what it is to be without and they know that 100 percent of donations goes back into helping other individuals,” he said.

This year, members of the Moab Rotary Club, of which Kingsley is a member, will take turns for an entire day covering bell-ringing shifts. Some Rotarians will volunteer additional days as well, Kingsley said.

“I look forward to doing my duty again,” Kingsley said. “The money donated to Salvation Army is used to fund emergencies, and families and children in need.”

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, and running through Thursday, Dec. 24, The Salvation Army will collect donations in its kettle outside Moab’s City Market store, 425 S. Main St. Thus far, 40 volunteers have signed up for various two-hour shifts that start at 1 p.m., and end at 7 p.m.

Like Kingsley, Moab resident Cassie Paup also volunteers regularly to be a bell-ringer.

“It’s an incredibly social event – everyone goes to City Market,” Paup said. “It is community-affirming – almost everyone puts something in the bucket. It all adds up. It is astonishing to me – even those who don’t have much, (give).”

The Salvation Army Moab Service Extension Unit operates without an office through the efforts of Sara Melnicoff and Lenore Beeson. The Moab City Police Department, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, Utah State Patrol, Seekhaven Family Crisis and Resource Center, Moab Regional Hospital, Four Corners Community Behavioral Health, and individual therapists regularly send referrals to Melnicoff, who is on call 24-7, to help people in emergency situations.

Sometimes money is used to help stranded travelers, like the young family moving from Tennessee to Washington, whose car broke down in Moab. Or the young man who had accepted a ride from someone who ended up taking off with all his belongings after a stop in Moab. Salvation Army funds are also used to enroll people with substance abuse issues in rehabilitation clinics.

Most often, however, assistance is sought for local residents, many of whom struggle to pay rent or buy food during the winter months when a lot of people are laid off from jobs after the tourist season, Melnicoff said.

Last year, in Moab, The Salvation Army raised $10,930 in the kettle, and another $13,500 in other private donations – $12,000 of which was a one-time, large donation from an anonymous donor, Melnicoff said. One-hundred percent of private donations stay in Moab, while 90 percent of kettle donations remain in Moab. The other 10 percent goes to the Salvation Army home office in Salt Lake City, which returns to Moab when needed, Melnicoff said.

Since Melnicoff and Beeson took charge of the unit in 2012, The Salvation Army has assisted more than 600 individuals, some with mental health issues. In addition to helping with rent and groceries, assistance is sometimes given for utilities, deposits, emergency lodging, gas, bus tickets and doctor visits.

“We get all manner of cases,” Melnicoff said. “A lot of people just need a little bit of hand-up at times.”

Melnicoff said she particularly enjoys seeing children’s excitement when they put a handful of coins in the kettle.

“Little kids are thrilled to donate,” she said.

Kingsley, who used to run The Salvation Army Moab unit, said Melnicoff has taken the Moab chapter to a “whole new level.”

“Lenore and Sara are proactive – they look for problems and try and solve them before they become crises,” he noted.

Melnicoff said she is still looking for volunteer bell-ringers, and that if they fill all their shifts, they may add an 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift. To make a donation to the Moab chapter of The Salvation Army, or to volunteer for the holiday fundraiser, call Melnicoff at 435-259-0910, or, checks can be mailed to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1549, Moab, Utah 84532.

Salvation Army raising money through Christmas Eve

A lot of people just need a little bit of hand-up at times.