It was almost a tie, with only $36 difference between the winner and runner-up in the 2018 Hannibal Salvation Army's bell-ringers' contest.

 It was almost a tie, with only $36 difference between the winner and runner-up in the 2018 Hannibal Salvation Army's bell-ringers' contest.

The Hannibal Rotary Club members took home the “Golden Kettle” trophy, after raising $2,959, closely followed by the Early Bird Kiwanis Club's $2,923. Hannibal Evening Kiwanis Club finished third.

During Volunteer Appreciation Night on Jan. 31 at Fiddlestiks, the 21 individual volunteers or organizations that raised more than $200 each in this first annual Salvation Army contest were honored by Salvation Army Auxiliary Captain Mike Roinila, who coordinated the kettle campaign and contest. Numerous clubs, church groups, student organizations and businesses were among this group.

In addition to the top three clubs, more than $500 each was raised by Mount Zion Country Clovers 4-H Club, Marion County Ambulance District and NEMO Shrine.

Salvation Army Area Commander Major Andy Miller reported the $46,746 raised in the Christmas Kettle Campaign represented 44 percent of the total $108,308 raised, helping to exceed the $105,000 goal.

The traveling trophy is to be returned in a year when the 2019 contest winner is announced.

Rotary Club President Eric Abts was joined by members Mike Kettelkamp, Andy Straube and Eddie Lennox to receive the trophy and certificate.

Early Bird Kiwanis President David Maple received the certificate for his club.

Finishing third with a total of $2,193 was the Hannibal Evening Kiwanis Club, represented by Paul Buckman.

As the top individual bell-ringer, volunteer Nathan Ross was honored for raising $451 and helping at the Salvation Army food pantry.

The Tom and Becky Ambassadors were represented by Tom and Becky (Corgan Kramer and Macy Walden). Corgan said he had volunteered for the Toys for Tots campaign in Palmyra, and Macy had been a bell ringer at Walmart.

A special gift was presented to 11-year-old Robert Wealer, who has collected food and cash donations for the Salvation Army since 2015.

Before the honors were announced, Robert Wealer said he collected 6,332 foods and $2,130 in 2018. Since 2015, he has collected 27,000 foods and $2,500, he said. He was accompanied by his parents, Camilla and Matt Wealer, and his brother, Justin, who takes photos of Robert’s pick-ups or drop-offs.

Robert said he does not ask for donations. People make donations through PayPal, and in the Christmas season foods are dropped off at local businesses for his collection. He was happy to report a special donation. “A guy won a two-minute shopping spree at County Market and used some of it to get food for the Salvation Army.”

One paid bell ringer also was honored. Emma Mah has been a bell ringer for 11 years and had considered making 2018 her final year. She said she raised only $11,723, short of her $12,000 goal, so she will continue. “I think I'm addicted to bell ringing,” she said. “I enjoy being out there, meeting people and giving out suckers.”

The 2018 Christmas campaign leaders, Pat and Connie Benson, also were honored for their role in the successful campaign.

Miller said the money raised “helped provide Christmas food baskets and toys and will be used throughout the year to help provide rent and utility assistance, clothing and food for families in need.” He noted that this year a record 755 Christmas food boxes were distributed, and toys were provided to 1,428 children in the Toys for Tots program by organizations like the Salvation Army. He said 456 volunteers donated 957 hours of service during the Christmas season.

See photo gallery for more photos of Appreciation Night.   

Editor's note: Bev Darr is a member of the Hannibal Salvation Army Advisory Council.