The Salvation Army held its annual volunteer appreciation lunch Saturday at the American Legion Post 42 in Towanda. There were 115 volunteers and supporters in attendance as a buffet of salad, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and chicken and biscuits was served.

After the meal David Burgmayer, Director of the Service Extension Department at the Salvation Army, entertained volunteers by playing "Hark! The Harold Angels Sing" on his personal trumpet.

Burgmayer told the audience that he began bell ringing at 5-years-old, but later replaced the bell with his trumpet to attract donors.

The Service Extension Department of the Salvation Army oversees rural counties, such as Bradford, which are not large enough to warrant a Salvation Army "corps."

"This past Christmas has been phenomenal for Bradford County. The local American Legion has been extremely supportive both financially and through volunteer work," Burgmayer said.

Burgmayer explained the Salvation Army's mission statement, which is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name.

Burgmayer shed light on the bond between the American Legion and Salvation Army, saying, "We at the Salvation Army have a military structure, and we help and support the military in many ways dating back to World War I."

Later in the meeting Tom Elliott, Senior Vice Commander at Post 42, stood up and responded by saying, "You can always count on Post 42 to support the Salvation Army any way we can."

The guest of honor was dedicated standout volunteer Monte Hughey. Betty Ellen Barrett, Service Extension Regional Manager, presented Hughey with a figurine of a man standing along side a Salvation Army red kettle ringing a bell for his hard work during the bell ringing season.

Hughey, fighting back tears, thanked the Salvation Army for its generosity in the community and humbly said that his work load was nothing in comparison to the people that helped him.

"This is near and dear to my heart," he said.

Hughey explained that he tries to do as much as he can for the Salvation Army because of the help they offered him during the 1972 flood that affected him.

It was only through the hard work and dedication of over 300 volunteers that the Army was able to raise so much money for the needy this year, Hughey said.

Hughey continued, "I am flabbergasted at how good of a year we've had."

A good year it most certainly was. After Hughey's speech, Barrett presented the audience with the donation statistics for the past two years. "In 2011 we raised $52,652 and in 2012 we raised $71,252 in Bradford County," Barrett said. 90 percent of the money raised will go directly to those in need in the community, while 10 percent is withheld for the Salvation Army church.

The donations received from 2011 to 2012 amounts to a 35 percent increase over the past year in Bradford County.

It was mentioned by multiple people in attendance that the donation numbers Bradford County puts out is disproportionally large to it's population size - rivaling that of more urban locales.

County Commissioners Doug McLinko and Daryl Miller were on hand for the appreciation dinner. Both commissioners gave a short speech accompanied by a Bible passage. McLinko read a passage which provided insight into the meaning of giving.

McLinko addressed the audience by saying, "Each of you were out ringing the bell on very cold nights. You're not there doing it for yourself, you're doing it for others."

Miller jokingly stated that his message was stolen by McLinko before thanking all of the volunteers, the Salvation Army, and the American Legion for the good they do in the community.

"This is all about touching people in ways they aren't regularly touched," Miller said.

Miller also wanted to thank Dick Harris, who "played a big role in organizing the Salvation Army efforts in Wyalusing." Miller noted that each year the Wyalusing area sets new records for Salvation Army donations.

McLinko and Miller both thanked Hughey for the 20 years of unselfish service he has given to the Salvation Army.

The floor was then opened up to any volunteer wanting to share experiences from the bell ringing season, or make comments. Multiple American Legion members expressed thanks to the Salvation Army.

Ending the appreciation lunch in the same way it began, Barrett offered a short prayer thanking God for the volunteers and asking him to continue to use them to do good.

Tim Zyla can be reached by phone at 570-265-1634 or through email at tzyla@thedailyreview.com.