Shoppers who have read “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” must have smiled as they walked into City Market in Moab on Saturday afternoon.
Robert Fulghum, author of that best-selling book from the late 1980s and many others, and his wife, Willow Bader, were standing in front of the grocery store ringing bells for the Salvation Army and collecting donations in the organization’s traditional red kettle. Both were dressed in holiday garb, with Fulghum accenting his look with a cloth turkey hat.
Now 75, Fulghum has been a Salvation Army bell-ringer since age 8, when he first accompanied his father on the annual tradition. The elder Fulghum’s family lost their home and possessions in a fire while living in Waco, Texas, and the Salvation Army helped them through the disaster.
“He always felt he owed them something,” Fulghum said. “When I grew up I took my children to the kettle. I have a great admiration for the Salvation Army.”
He said it “defies your imagination” who will donate and who will walk by without making eye contact, as though no one is standing a few feet away. At City Market, he said, a fellow with a Mohawk haircut and a black eye gave a generous donation while an apparently well-to-do man who drove a shiny black Lincoln Continental didn’t even toss in small change.
Fulghum wrote about both those incidents in entries this week on his website.
“What we find is that most people contribute,” he said Saturday.
Fulghum and his wife, who have been married four years, live part of the year in Moab and part in Seattle. He came to the desert 35 years ago to raft the Green River, fell in love with the area, and has owned a home near Moab for 25 years.
“I came here to get away from people and now I have as many friends here as in Seattle,” Fulghum said.
He said he’s particularly impressed with Moab residents’ social consciousness, noting the number of worthy nonprofit projects for which citizens volunteer.
“There’s an incredible degree of social involvement for the size of the town,” he said.
Volunteers ringing the bell in front of City Market had raised more than $3,000 through Monday, Dec. 3.
Those volunteers have included half of the Grand County Middle School’s Thunderbird cheerleading squad and about a dozen adults who have stood by the kettle in shifts since fundraising began Nov. 24. More volunteers will be at City Market this week.
The money raised in Moab stays local and is used for a variety of good causes, said Salvation Army co-coordinator Sara Melnicoff.
“The [Salvation Army] division office in Denver said we have done better than they ever imagined for a small unit,” she said. “They said they want to clone us.”
Part of that money – $500 – will help a 48-year-old Moab woman attend a six-month drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in Grand Junction, Colo.
Barb Lillibridge left Tuesday morning for her stay in the Grand Junction Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. Moab Solutions contributed another $500 and the Salvation Army rehab center is providing a $2,100 scholarship, Melnicoff said.
“She knows it’s do or die,” Melnicoff said of the woman’s attempt to become sober.
Lillibridge acknowledged that she has had drug and alcohol problems for years, often drinking as much as a fifth of vodka daily. Now she’s determined to turn her life around after being jailed recently for public intoxication.
Her daughter called authorities to report her condition, something Lillibridge said she is grateful for.
“My kids have been so worried about me,” she said. “Now I’m so excited about this. I can go drink and die by the side of the creek if I want to, but I don’t want that... I’m thankful to everybody who still believes in me,” Lillibridge said.