Ten years ago Jim Hennigan started the Parkway Kettle Campaign, filling a West Roxbury void for the Salvation Army. Since then the local campaign has raised more than $250,000.
"I look back on it now, and I never anticipated it to be an ongoing thing," said Hennigan. "In 2002, there was a news story that there was a need they weren’t getting volunteers for the Salvation Army."
The neighborhood was plentiful with people who were very community-focused, said Hennigan, so he called up everyone he knew, and a bell-ringing campaign started at the old Roche Bros (where CVS is on Centre Street now). Eventually the campaign moved with Roche Bros, where you can hear the sounds of the bell ringing before you see the wreaths for sale outside of the supermarket.
From James W. Hennigan Insurance Agency's new office at 1915 Centre St., Hennigan reminisced of a bell-ringing legend, "There used to be a gentleman from Salvation Army, who stood out there every day. People still recall him. His name is Major Ed Gooding. He was in his 70s at the time and he would stand there every single day, and was friendly and outgoing."
That was before Hennigan started to get West Roxbury community members to ring the bell to raise money. He added that people give more when they know the person ringing the bell, like Steve Slyne, who owned Slyne's Deli (now the Real Deal). "He knows so many people, they don’t want to walk past him and not give. They might’ve given a dollar, but give three."
But donations have not been as great this year, as they were in the past, most likely linked to the weakened economy. "We’d have days where we took in $1000, we haven’t had one of those yet. We’ve had good days. But I started noticing it three years ago. Without question it’s about the economy. But overall, people are still generous."
The Parkway Kettle Campaign's funds all go to the local Salvation Army based in Roxbury, which services families in need in Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, Needham, Westwood and other local areas. Said Hennigan, "All the money that comes in from this region goes out to this region. If there is someone in need in those places, this is the part of Salvation Army that answers the needs of people in the community."
There also still open spots of one-hour intervals for bell ringing. Please contact Jim Hennigan by calling 617-327-9200 or email email@example.com. You can volunteer to ring the bell at Roche Bros as a family, an individual, a business owner, a resident, or any charitable reason. Read about West Roxbury Patch Editor David Ertischek's 2010 experience ringing the bell (and will be ringing this week).
Hennigan joked he doesn't hear the bell ringing in his head while he's trying to sleep. "It’s funny. I notice the bells, when I’m up on Centre Street, it’s amazing how far you can hear them. You can hear them blocks and blocks away. I can be on the corner of Corey Street and I can hear it. Sometimes I think I’m hearing it, but sometimes I’m just so in tuned to it this time of year."
In total, there are close to 400 hours that need to be filled for bell ringing from the Monday before Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Hennigan estimates that close to 200 peoople will volunteer to ring the bell this holiday season. Some people ring more than one hour, even taking entire days.
"The best part of this year is the majority is young kids," said Hennigan. "We have had Girl Scouts, Brownies, Cub Scouts, high school students and elementary school students. And one group was the Holy Name Volunteer Service Project - they took an entire weekend, Saturday and Sunday. They filled it from early in the morning to the last ringing hour on Sunday."
Hennigan added that on Dec. 11, the Sargent family of Will, Noah and John, took the entire day. The Sargent men contacted their friends and family, and rang all day Sunday.
"The nice part is you have the family down there. Mom, dad and kids. It’s a teaching experience for kids, especially this time of year, giving back is a good thing. I think a lot of us remember the Salvation Army as when we were kids."