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December 11, 2019

Ringing in Good Cheer

Bob Hewitt, customer systems services supervisor, volunteers as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army.

It’s 3 o’clock on a cold Friday afternoon in Gahanna, Ohio. Grocery shoppers dodge in and out, on a mission to get on with their lives as fast as possible. It takes a special kind of person to stop them in their tracks. Today, that person is Bob Hewitt.

“I try to make eye contact,” Bob says. “Being friendly makes a difference.”

A volunteer Salvation Army bell ringer for 10 years, Bob’s experience continues to bear this out. He connects with one out of every 10 shoppers, roughly. It’s amazing to see. They pull out spare change and bills from their pockets, wallets or purses. Sometimes, it’s a dollar. Sometimes, it’s five dollars or even $10. All of it goes to meet housing, food and other urgent needs in the community.

“A dollar may not be much for me or you, but donating a dollar is a big sacrifice for someone who is struggling to meet their own needs,” says Bob, one of about two dozen AEP employees who are volunteering to ring the kettle bell for the Salvation Army this month in Central Ohio.

The holiday period is the busiest season for giving back, and the most common reason people give is because they were asked, according to the Blackbaud Institute, a software company that tracks charitable donations. Across AEP’s 11-state territory, employees are helping with the ask -- conducting toy drives and collecting canned goods along with spare change. AEP companies host several dozen fundraising and volunteer efforts during the holiday months - more than any other time of year.

Bob lifts and shakes the kettle, checking its heft and listening for the rattling of change. He smiles, affirming that it’s been a great day so far.

“It’s amazing how fast the time goes,” Bob says. “The kids love it when their parents give them money to give.”

Later, as if to prove his point, a little girl wearing a Minnie Mouse hat ambles over and squeezes a rolled-up bill into the slot on the kettle.

The circle of giving reaches a new generation. And Bob reaches the end of his shift.

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