Salvation Army bell ringer still going strong at 89
A Cape Coral resident of seven years has dedicated his life to donating his time and money to organizations of interest due to his passion of giving to others in need.
Bob Stuart, 89, said once he retired and moved to Cape Coral from Chicago he had much more time to give to organizations he grew passionate about, which included the Salvation Army. When he lived in Chicago he was a member of the development board for 25 years, which got him involved on another level.
Before moving to Florida, he was a bell ringer for The Salvation Army in Chicago where he donated time when he could during the holidays. Since retiring at the age of 65 he has been able to give more of his time to ring the bell.
He just finished donating his time this holiday season at the Publix located at Chiquita Boulevard where he rang the bell for three hours a day for 25 days.
“I love doing it because of all the nice people you meet and people are excited to help,” Stuart said, adding that there is an amazing number of people who donate when they see the red kettle.
He explained that he thoroughly enjoys when parents send their small children over to the kettle with either a dollar bill or loose change.
“It’s so nice to deal with people like that,” Stuart said.
Stuart greeted everyone as they passed with a “Merry Christmas,” which received a reply by at least 95 percent of those who passed him with the same greeting.
“People who turn their face and walk the other way bothers me a little bit,” he said.
Although many individuals donated small amounts during the many days Stuart stood at the south entrance of Publix, he said he did not understand why there was a fall of volunteers for ringing the bell this year.
“Most of the time I would relieve a bell ringer in the afternoon,” he said, adding that there was a surprising number of days where he was the only bell ringer for that day.
Since he was left with setting up the kettle on the days he was the sole volunteer, he said individuals came and found him to donate money to The Salvation Army.
“They weren’t just inspired by someone there ringing the bell,” Stuart said with a smile.
His volunterism has spread to more than 30 organizations over the years, which were a combination of organizations that sparked his area of interest or others that he founded. The organizations that he choose mainly dealt with education, health care, international peace, criminal justice and crime fighting and religion.
The National Minority Suppliers Development Council was founded by Stuart in 1972. The organization is based on businesses helping minority businesses succeed. When the organization was first founded, businesses approximately spent $10 million in purchasing products from minority businesses.
He explained that when businesses purchase products from a minority business, they are helping that business grow, which then results in more individuals being hired for that particular racial background.
“I enjoy helping the minority,” he said, adding that when you can “help them increase their income it is even better.”
Shortly after the organization was founded, which included 15 representatives from various businesses, they were all invited to the White House by President Gerald Ford. Stuart said after they spent time with President Ford they all felt very comfortable about the organization.
He has also been a member of the Rotary Club for more than 50 years, where he began a fleet for sailors, the international recreational fellowship, vocation fellowship and the service fellowship.
Stuart also sorts through his junk mail on a daily basis to see if there are any other organizations out there he can help by donating as little as $1.
“I send them a $1,” he said so he can tell the organization that they are doing good work, along with helping organizations that are worth while.
“I think it is great to be helping so many people,” Stuart said. “I wish I had more years and more money to help others. It is meaningful to help needy people.”
Stuart graduated in 1943 with a chemical engineering degree from the University of Illinois. He was head of the National Can Organization where he diversified it and made it into an international business before retiring.