Meadville Tribune

November 29, 2013

For Salvation Army, young musicians try new 'instrument'

By Mary Spicer
Meadville Tribune

CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS — With the landscape looking more like late December than the day after Thanksgiving and the temperature hovering in the mid-30s, a planned appearance by members of the Cambridge Springs High School Blue Devil Marching Band didn’t go off quite as planned Friday afternoon, but this band doesn’t give up easily.

Although the musicians volunteered to present a musical alternative to the traditional ringing of the bell at the three Salvation Army kettles in Cambridge Springs, as long as the temperature is under 40 degrees, it’s just too cold to perform, according to Alice Dennis, president of the school’s band boosters. However, four band members manned the kettle Friday in front of Mercer County State Bank and others will be on duty at kettles at Kwik Fill and Dollar General from 4 to 8 p.m. today.

“For the past five or six years, the marching band has been doing fund-raising,” Dennis explained. “This year, we were able to purchase a brand-new trailer so we could transport our instruments and equipment to and from games. To thank the community for its support and to show them that we support the community, we wanted to come out and do something for Cambridge Springs.”

The first group of students on the kettle happened to be all sophomores.

“It’s nice to come into the community and help out,” trumpet player Caine Walters said. “Some people aren’t as fortunate as others, so it’s nice to lend a hand out in the community.”

Baritone sax player Bobbi Doubet agreed. “It’s a nice way to give back to the community for everything they give to us,” she said. Other bell ringers included tenor sax player Ethan Dennis and Liam Riddle, who would have been playing his trombone if the weather had cooperated.

Helping the community

Their efforts, and the efforts of all the volunteers to come out in what can be sometimes brutal weather and staff the Salvation Army’s kettles, is deeply appreciated, according to Mary Alice McMunn, who chairs the Cambridge Springs Area Salvation Army Service Unit, which serves the communities of Cambridge Springs, Venango and Saegertown.

Unlike larger Salvation Army Corps facilities such as Meadville, a service unit is an all-volunteer group, McMunn explained, noting that they work very closely with the Salvation Army in Pittsburgh.

The annual kettle drive between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the only thing they do to raise money, McMunn said, although they also have kettles with them during the Cambridge Springs Firemen’s Parade and place smaller kettles around town from time to time.

The Cambridge Springs organization has ringers in all three locations on Fridays and Saturdays during the holiday season, which only includes four weekends. Salvation Army bells are not rung on Sundays. Volunteers are also on duty in Saegertown at H&H Grocery store and Saegertown Hardware.

Funds raised in the area stay in the area, McMunn stressed, noting that while the Salvation Army keeps 10 percent of the proceeds to offset administration costs, “We use 90 percent of the money raised to help people in Cambridge, Saegertown and Venango.”

It was Dennis who put the plan into place after McMunn got a brilliant idea about adding a musical note to the traditional bell ringing when band members started playing Christmas carols while she shopping at the band’s craft show last year. But Dennis stresses that she couldn’t have done it without the support of Band Director Jeffrey Beltz.

The musicians are competing for the coveted Traveling Bell youth award , which is presented to the group collecting the most donations.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at