VERNON TOWNSHIP — When Carmel Chafin needed help, the Salvation Army came through.

So when the Meadville man was asked four years ago if he could man a kettle during the army’s annual Christmas campaign, he signed on.

Chafin was one of the many bell ringers working the kettles last week as part of the Salvation Army’s largest annual fund-raiser. The group’s goal is to collect $35,000 by the drive’s end Dec. 24; last year, the total was $31,000.

Grizzled and covered in layers as he sat in a shelter outside Wal-Mart, Chafin works 12-hour shifts because he wants to help what he describes as a worthy cause. “It’s just to help the Salvation Army, to help the people in need,” he said of his reasons.

Former Salvation Army Meadville office director Capt. David Woof asked him to help. “I don’t work anymore,” Chafin said, noting he collects Social Security disability income. “I figured I can donate the time. He helped when I was in need.” He said Woof gave him food and shelter.

He said people are giving, estimating 75 percent of passersby donate.

“Sometimes they give dollars. Sometimes they give handfuls of change. Some of them give $20 bills,” he said. He thanks them and wishes them a happy Thanksgiving as the coins clank in the kettle. “I’ve had people congratulate me for doing this. They’re pretty polite people.”

The cold breezes are mostly held back by his bright red wooden shelter, but the temperatures are barely tempered by the electric heater at his feet, powered by an extension cord run overhead from the Wal-Mart store. “Once in a while I get cold, but I bounce a lot,” he said. “If I get cold, I go inside for a couple minutes. I usually don’t take any breaks. It’s cold, but we get it done,” he said. “I’ve stood at every stop we have.”

Many people would grimace at the thought of standing from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. out in the cold with nothing but a bell and comments from shoppers to keep them occupied. But not Chafin. “I don’t think there’s anything tough about it, “ he said. “There’s a lot of standing, but it’s for a worthy cause. I don’t mind doing it.”

Gary Johnson can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at

Sidebar of new co-director:

By Gary Johnson

Meadville Tribune

With heat and gasoline costs at or near all-time highs, the Salvation Army’s help is needed more than ever, and that mission will be accomplished this winter, according to the army’s newest Meadville leaders.

Cadets David and Darlene Means have been co-directors of the Meadville office since July, and are gearing up for a daunting winter.

“I’ve been in the Salvation Army all my life,” David said. “My parents were members of the Uniontown corps. I went there as members of the church and was a volunteer for many of the programs there. Me and my wife were both employed there. We got to know the ins and outs of the operation.”

They then worked in Latrobe from 2001 to last year, when they went to school for Salvation Army office management.

And it’s more than just the couple and his parents involved with the Salvation Army, he said.

Their daughter and son-in-law are captains in Rochester. Their son is in school readying to work with the Salvation Army and their daughter-in-law will be commissioned as a captain along with the Meanses. “It really is a family affair,” he said.

They came to Meadville directly from a year of training in New York. He’s originally from Uniontown and his wife is from Sharon. They will be commissioned as captains, ordained as ministers and receive certificates of social work in June.

Though the couple hopes to be in Meadville at least five years, “With the Salvation Army, you never know.”

“Our long-range goals are to start children’s programming here,” he said. “There’s not much of that going on at the moment. We already do programs monthly at the high rise and we’d like to get back into doing nursing home visitations they used to do. We are a church. A part of the long-range goal is to build up the church here and to expand social services.”

That work will include assistance for energy and transportation costs. “Just look around you. There’s so many needy people,” he said. “With government funding at a minimum, Welfare can only do so much. They have to look at other places for help.

“The Salvation Army is up to do whatever it can. With the rising cost so fuel and everything else, the future isn’t bright. For people on fixed incomes or no incomes, we’re looking for the need to be greater as the winter progresses.”

Gary Johnson can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at


The Salvation Army’s kettle drive is the largest fund-raiser for the army all year.

The money helps with holiday season programs but also carries over into the new year, according to Cadet David Means, a co-director of the Meadville Salvation Army. There are 10 kettles at nine locations and six regular volunteers to staff them. He said there are 16 or 17 groups that are planning to help ring the bells, he said, but added, “We’re looking for more volunteers.” To volunteer, call 724-3738. Kettle locations include Big Lots, the Meadville Post Office, Peebles, Value City, Kmart, Valesky’s, both BiLo stores, and both doors at Wal-Mart.

Means said Wal-Mart doubled the amount of time it allows the kettle drive at its door. Instead of 14 days, the army is allowed to fund-raise for 28 days at the store. “There is overwhelming need this year,” said Means, pointing to the hurricanes and the cost of fuel. “So we greatly appreciate it.”

The drive runs Monday through Saturday until Dec. 24.

To donate money, call or stop by the office at 1087 Park Ave. Money can still be given to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, though money not earmarked for that will remain local.

Royalty to ring the bell

Miss Crawford County Melissa Pierce has organized area pageant queens to ring the bell for the Salvation Army kettle fund-raiser Saturday at Kmart in Vernon Township.

Royalty from across the county will ring the bell from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with Pierce volunteering from 1 to 2 p.m.

The public is invited to stop by, chat, and, of course, make a donation.

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