The holidays may be behind us, but it’s never too late to reflect on the season of giving. Just ask Reggie Audant, who is still basking in the glow of the Christmas spirit.

Last month, Audant, a Realtor-Broker with Wailea Realty Corp. A Boutique of Windermere Real Estate, started a new holiday tradition: He volunteered to be a bell ringer for The Salvation Army. He’d learned about the fundraising opportunity from his friend, Patrick Kilbride, who serves as the president of the Kiwanis Club of Kahului. “Patrick told me that we had an opportunity to sing a few Christmas songs and bring some cheer to others. I told him, ‘count me in.’”

And there was some friendly competition. “The Kiwanis Club of Maui challenged the Kiwanis Club of Kahului to see which club would raise the most donations,” Audant explained. “Patrick invited Brooks Maguire and myself to help his club.” Maguire is a Maui-based singer, songwriter and guitarist—and a mutual friend of Kilbride and Audant’s.

On Saturday, Dec. 15, Audant and Maguire joined a team of bell ringers—composed of Kiwanis Club of Kahului members and non-member volunteers—at Walmart. From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., they took turns manning a red kettle at the store’s garden center entrance (Kiwanis Club of Maui volunteers were stationed at Walmart’s main entrance). “Brooks and I had a great time singing and entertaining the Walmart shoppers during our two-hour shift,” Audant said. “I really enjoyed seeing the eyes of the kids and adults light up when they heard a familiar and fun song.”

At the end of the day, the Kiwanis Club of Kahului was crowned the victor: The club’s volunteers collected $1,032.77; the Kiwanis Club of Maui netted $824.97.

The red kettle tradition began in San Francisco in 1891. That December, Joseph McFee, a captain in The Salvation Army, sought to provide a free dinner for 1,000 of the city’s poorest residents on Christmas Day. But there was one problem: He didn’t have the money to pay for it. A former sailor in Liverpool, England, McFee recalled seeing large iron kettles on the docks of the city’s waterfront—passersby would toss coins into the pots to help the poor. With that in mind, McFee placed a brass urn at the busy Oakland ferry landing with a sign that read: “Keep the Pot Boiling.” McFee eventually had the funds he needed to finance the Christmas dinner. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had created an enduring holiday tradition.

Today, The Salvation Army’s annual red kettle campaign raises millions of dollars for programs that provide food, shelter, rehabilitation, disaster relief and other services for people and families in crisis.

For many, the tinkling bells have become synonymous with Christmas—and this year, you may be hearing them long before the holiday season begins. Plans for a “Christmas in July” bell ringing event are underway. In July, Maui’s Kiwanis clubs and several other service clubs—including Rotary and Lions Clubs—will take part in a one-day bell ringing event to raise money for families in need throughout Maui County (the date and locations are still undetermined).

Kiwanis International is a global community of clubs, members and partners dedicated to improving the lives of children. Like so many others, Audant says he is inspired by the Kiwanis mission: “Changing the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time.” “It is an awesome organization that is all about service and helping kids and adults alike,” he said. “Kiwanis [members] are a reflection of the love for service that motivates them and others to put their servant hearts to use.”

In addition to supporting The Salvation Army, the Kiwanis Club of Kahului also sponsors two key clubs (the oldest and largest student-led service program for high school students) at King Kekaulike High School and Baldwin High School. The club also participates in the Maui Food Bank’s Aloha BackPack Buddies program at Wailuku Elementary School (the program provides healthy weekend meals to elementary school students from food-insecure homes throughout the academic year). Additionally, the Kiwanis Club of Kahului supports the annual Shop with a Cop program and the Pediatrics Department at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Audant encourages others to consider signing up to be a bell ringer for The Salvation Army—in July or next December. “It was a blast. Bring a smile and allow your heart to overflow with aloha,” he said. “It is so rewarding to receive as much love as you give.”

To learn more about The Salvation Army, visit www.salvationarmy.org/. For more information about Kiwanis, visit www.kiwanis.org.

By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – January 19, 2019

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