About 250 people gathered for a roast beef dinner and shared memories and laughter at the 100th anniversary Salvation Army dinner.
“If you think I’m skinny now, I was really skinny then. A skinny little kid and I was very shy,” said local TV newscaster Paul Butler, master of ceremonies, who grew up playing sports there.
“Yes you were,” a woman called out from the audience, amid the merriment.
“The Salvation Army allows people who have no chance, or just don’t think much of themselves, to gain confidence,” Butler said, recalling how Mr. Benny, as he was known, encouraged Butler, as well as Clyde Mitchell, when he played basketball for The Spiders.
“Every game, Mr. Clyde would give us a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. It was people like that that made us feel so good,” Butler said.
Bob Brown, committee member, presiding over the alumni testimonies portion of the program, called the Sept. 5 dinner, at the Moose Club, “a great reunion.”
He played baseball and basketball there, he said, and recalled days in the early 1940s when only three awards were given at banquets. During the years, there has been so much growth that now 350 trophies are presented.
Brown introduced Madelyn Shiles, who recently retired after 37 years with youth programs, and who’s known for being loving by firm with youngsters.
“How many times we heard her say, ‘Pull your pants up,” Brown said, raising his voice as he imitated her, and the audience laughed and stood to applaud Shiles, who smiled and nodded from her table.
Former coach Billy Gene Jackson said it’s been his pleasure to be part of the Salvation Army. He talked about coaching The Vikings and said the team “made people on the other side of town part of community.”
John Hynes, advisory board chairman, had an announcement that pleased the audience, that Divisional Headquarters, for the next few weeks, will match every $1 donated with an additional $4, up to $9,200. Tilghman Oil donated $500 to begin the fund-raiser, he said.
Mayor Jim Ireton and City Council President Jake Day presented a proclamation, as did Rick Pollitt, city administrator.
Ireton said the first place he went, with his mother’s blessing to cross Route 13 on his bike, was the Salvation Army, and that violent crime in the neighborhood where it’s located has decreased 70 percent.
Day praised the organization for empowering youth.
Major Gene Hogg, formerly with the Salisbury organization, talked about growing up the son of an alcoholic father, being homeless until he was 8 and not seeing a bed until he went to a Salvation Army. He enjoyed camp there, became a Cub Scout, learned to play a brass instrument and gained hope for his future.
“I stand among great people tonight. You’ve lived such incredible lives. You are more beautiful and stand taller than all those statues carved by human beings,” he said.
Major Vic Tidman said he thanks God every morning “that I’m able to put on this uniform.”
“I get the opportunity to be a change agent. I get the opportunity to work with wonderful little, tiny kids and with some people who haven’t been kids for a long time,” he said, drawing chuckles from the audience.
“Everyone here has contributed in some way to the Salvation Army,” Tidman said.
“And there’s something about the Salvation Army that drives people to continue.”
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