Season of giving shifts into high gear

Anderson Enlarge photo

Anderson

Sometimes you think the world is going to hell. So it’s nice to have your faith in humanity revitalized.

Is there hope for the future? Current events, inhuman killings and the state of political discourse would indicate otherwise. But every now and then something surprises you – people put their fellow man before themselves.

This is the story of three anonymous good deeds and a man who continues to make an impact despite a debilitating stroke. We’ll start with the latter.

What would it take to keep Bruce Anderson away from his bell-ringing spot Christmas Eve? Even a massive stroke can’t do it. Anderson will be at north City Market today at 3:30 p.m., jangling the tiny bell to raise money for the Salvation Army. He did it last year, too, just three months after the stroke.

“It’s kind of a tradition,” Anderson, the former Four Corners Broadcasting chief engineer, said Thursday. When it started, “I have no idea. I lost track years ago.”

Physical progress has been slow, and Anderson remains at Four Corners Health Care Center, undergoing daily physical therapy. The left side of his body was damaged by the stroke, and he remains in a wheelchair. His hope is to recover enough so he can move back into an apartment. As you might expect, he’s getting a little bored with dumb TV. Watching sports provides some entertainment, but his Colorado Rockies, at least in 2012, were “an abysmal failure,” he noted.

Since moving to Durango in the early 1980s, Anderson has become a community fixture. He has toiled for a slew of charitable organizations – Big Brothers, Boys & Girls Club and FFA for starters – and served on the Durango School District 9-R board for several years.

“That guy’s done so much for the community,” said friend Mike McGuire, a retired Colorado State Patrol officer who has worked with Anderson on safety programs for kids. “He was always there.

“And he did it without fanfare. ... It’s pretty spectacular, the things that he’s done.”

McGuire, who volunteers for the Salvation Army, will pick up Anderson in the Adaptive Sports Association van this afternoon and whisk him over to north City Market.

Anderson said that through the years he has seen $100 bills and three-figure checks make their way through the kettle’s narrow slit.

But it’s hard to top what recently made its way into the kettle.

Jim Vorwald, who rounds up the kettles each night and counts the money, Wednesday night found an envelope with “In recognition of a gift given Christ” printed on it. Inside was an 1899 $10 Liberty U.S. gold coin.

“That discovery brightened my night,” Vorwald said. “Generosity and the unknown like this makes all the work involved ... each night fun.”

Another donor who wished to remain anonymous gave a 1798 Liberty dollar to the Salvation Army. It was in a plastic case, which obviously wouldn’t fit into the kettle slot, so it was handed to a Salvation Army representative.

Both coins are worth several hundred dollars.

But overall this year, donations to the Salvation Army of La Plata County Extension Unit are down about 10 percent. Beth Lamberson, a board member, put this into human terms.

“This could mean not having the gas to get to a job interview, not getting a badly needed prescription or not having a warm hotel room for a family when the shelter is full,” Lamberson said.

She emphasized that the overhead for all-volunteer Salvation Army is tiny, and that 98 percent of donations go to local community efforts. Since Thanksgiving, 650 locals have taken two-hour shifts at one of seven locations in the county – one in Bayfield, six in Durango.

OK, sorry to be keeping you from Christmas preparations. Got time for one more quick story?

A local woman was having difficulty in the checkout line at the Durango Walmart on Dec. 15. Her credit card wouldn’t swipe correctly, and the cashier suspended the purchase.

The woman scurried to an ATM to get cash, and her daughter, who’d gone over to talk to a friend, noticed a tall man in a cowboy hat over by the register. The daughter, who wishes to be identified only as Skye, then saw the cashier wheel the $170 in groceries and Christmas presents over to her mother. A man in line behind her – perhaps the tall cowboy? – had paid the bill and split.

“Where’d he go?” the woman asked, not wanting to feel like a charity case. “I need to give him his money.”

“He’s gone,” was the cashier’s response.

So many wanton, random acts of kindness around here. I mean, what is this place coming to?

johnp@durangoherald.com. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.