Rick Reinhardsen stands quietly beside a red kettle held on a tripod and gently rings a small bell while Christmas music plays on an iPad. People greet Rick with a nod or a salutation, and drop a dollar or two into the kettle as they make their way in and out of Stop & Shop in Edgartown. Islanders know Rick, and after 50 years of volunteer work on the Vineyard, he knows many of the donors, and lights up when a child beams at him while dropping alms into the red kettle.
Rick recalls the history of the Salvation Army, its co-founders William and Catherine Booth in England in 1865, how the original volunteers got their name as a Salvation Army, providing living assistance or “salvation” to thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards. With the arrival of Lt. Eliza Shirley in the U.S. in 1879 began the first meeting of the Salvation Army in Philadelphia, and the U.S. chapter was born.
Rick, an easygoing, friendly man, has much to be proud of as he talks about the 12 years he’s been chairman of the M.V. Salvation Army chapter. “We help year-round families, people in need, mostly with rent allowance, fuel, clothes, food — we don’t have a building,” he said, nodding to his truck with a Salvation Army magnet on it. “That’s my office,” he laughs.
The Salvation Army meets clients by appointment at the Good Shepherd Parish Center, which is located on the corner of School Street and Pacific Avenue, across from the Oak Bluffs Town Hall.
“They let us use their space so we can conduct interviews. It’s a simple intake, and we cross-reference with many other NGOs on the Island, such as Affordable Housing, to draw on as much support as we can in as many areas as possible,” Rick said.
The M.V. Salvation Army is conscious of the seasonal economic swing on the Island, and they see an uptick for their assistance at this time of year. “For some, they might miss a rent payment due to a child’s illness,” said Rick, “or find the cost of living is not matching their now-reduced income, or they simply become ill and fall behind on rent or fuel payments. These are the potholes in life, and we can help.”
The 14 bell-ringing volunteers this year range in age from 14 to over 90. They are high school students, retired individuals, working people, and business owners. Many already volunteer for other organizations.
Bell ringing is not the only active service department. The Salvation Army conducts disaster training at different levels, from introductory assistance to advanced levels for disaster management. “When there are sufficient individuals interested in training, we schedule a training day on-Island. We did this last February, and trained eight individuals to assist in shelter operations and Serv-Safe food handling. Should a regional shelter be opened on-Island, the Salvation Army will provide the food service for that shelter,” Rick said.
When the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, Rick was deployed, and spent two and a half weeks renting equipment and starting a food program. Their goal was to feed 100,000 a day, which the program is still doing.
Volunteering is a way of life for Rick; he was a volunteer in the West Tisbury Fire Department, and is on the board of directors of M.V. Habitat for Humanity, and he’s a third-generation bell ringer. He is most proud of his 3½-year-old grandson, Gus Reinhardsen, who has now become the fifth generation to “keep the pot boiling” for people in need.
The Salvation Army bell ringers will be at the Edgartown Stop & Shop, Mardells in Vineyard Haven, and Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven from 10 am to 4 pm until Dec. 23. Stop by for a chat and drop some coins in the pot. One hundred percent of every donation goes to an Islander in need.