Kettle Volunteer Serves for More Than 65 Years

Bill Oliver holds Salvation Army kettles
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You wouldn’t expect anyone to stand out in the cold each winter to help people in need. But, that’s exactly what Bill Oliver has done for more than six decades with a smile on his face.

The 76-year-old Tillsonburg senior has volunteered for The Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle Campaign every year but one since he was nine-years-old back in 1939. Oliver missed one year after suffering from a heart problem. “I do it because the needy need a Christmas and I have to do my part,” said the spritely Oliver.

Oliver says many changes have occurred since 1950, but the spirit of giving has remained the one constant. “I liked the cold winters when I stood outside collecting. I love to smile and wish people a Merry Christmas. People remember me year after year and tell me, ‘You’re the only kettle I ever give to because you opened the door for me,’ ” said Oliver.

Since Oliver’s heart problem, he’s had to slow down because he can’t breathe as well outside. He still plans on volunteering five hours each day for six days a week this winter, but since his heart problems Oliver now stands inside a shopping mall with the Christmas kettle.

Oliver no longer brings along his portable stereo to play Christmas carols since there’s music playing in the malls, but he still gives out candy canes to each child who passes by. “The secret is to keep smiling. It takes a bunch more muscles to frown than it does to smile, so why not smile? I’m going to keep volunteering until the day I die,” Oliver said matter-of-factly.

The Christmas Kettle campaign begins each year in November. More than 2,000 kettles are located in shopping malls and public places across the country. The donations are used to support the 1.9 million people who are cared for by The Salvation Army’s shelters, food banks and social services throughout the year.