Bill Dill used to be a career postal employee.
“One day, my knee went out, I landed on my other knee which then took out hip,” he said. The incident essentially destroyed his postal career. Too young for social security to kick in, he opted for an early retirement over disability which would limit his future options for employment if he ever should recover. The experience more or less drained his and his wife’s savings, and they found themselves digging into their retirement savings just to make ends meet.
“In a short time, our bills caught up with us, and we began to fall behind,” Dill said. “I went to the utility company, and they told me about a program available through the Salvation Army. They helped us get our utilities paid so our power didn’t get shut off.”
This was Dills first experience with the Salvation Army.
“I didn’t know much other than what I’d seen on old television shows, with people banging drums,” he said. Today, Dill is a regular employee with the Salvation Army and is on his second year organizing the local Christmas kettle campaign which brings in 88 percent of the organization’s annual funding.
After receiving utilities assistance, Dill learned about Senior Employment Retraining (SER), a program administered by an organization in Hays, with Sean Linenerger in charge. The program helps older displaced workers reenter the workforce. Ironically, after training, he was placed with the Salvation Army, he said. After six months, the organization offered him regular paid employment, which he happily accepted.
“I’m grateful that SER put me in the right place at the right time,” Dill said. “It’s more fun than actual work, and I get to help others. Its like getting to pay forward the help I received by helping other get help.”
Last year he was asked to be the bell-ringing coordinator for the local campaign.
“I didn’t know what to do, but I jumped in and with the help of the volunteers and paid bell-ringers, we made it work,” he said. “We did so well, we had the number one campaign in the MoKan region.” The region encompasses all of Kansas and western Missouri. “It wasn’t me, though. I have to thank all the people in the area, and the cooperation with businesses has been key.” In addition to bell-ringers manning kettles, Dill arranged to have counter kettles placed at several businesses throughout Great Bend, Hoisington and Ellinwood.
Dill and his wife have seven children, 28 grandchildren, and several great grandchildren. They’ve been to the 2545 10th Street store, and have seen and understand the work Dill is involved with. Several of his grandchildren helped him ring bells last year, and had a ball, he said.
“The people see us out there, and they know what its all about,” he said. “They begin digging into their purses or their pockets to give, or they tell us they’ll catch us on the way out, and you can see in their eyes that they are givers.”
And the givers want and need the personal connection they get from the bell ringers, he said.
“If the kettle is there, and no one mans it, a lot of people walk right on by,” he said. “As long as someone is there, they know what it is for, and they know what it means for us to spend our time there. I just can’t offer enough thanks for those who give.”
(Read more about the Salvation Army Christmas kettle campaign inside the Home for the Holidays insert in this edition of The Great Bend Tribune.)