BY SHERI TRUSTY
Erica Ward was looking for a job that would “fill my cup” she said. Now she’s in charge of encouraging people to fill kettles. Ward is the Ottawa County Salvation Army Service Center’s new director, and her most pressing duty is raising funds through the Red Kettle Campaign. She is in need of more volunteers to help her end the project strong on Saturday, Dec. 23.
Ward took over in late October when former director, Kami Sayres, accepted a position as Executive Director of the Ottawa County Family & Children First Council. Ward is a 26-year educator who works part-time at Immaculate Conception School.
“For the last two years, I worked as a mortgage originator from home. It gave me flexibility while I had two girls in high school,” she said. “I enjoyed it, but it didn’t fill my cup. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted something more meaningful.”
Ward found what she was looking for at the Salvation Army. She is enjoying her new job, which allows her to connect with local residents face-to-face and offer help that impacts their lives. Ward said the job opened her eyes to the scope of need in Ottawa County.
“You know there’s a need, but you don’t realize how big the need is,” she said.
Although she was surprised by the need, she wasn’t surprised by the community support. She already knew that Ottawa County is filled with people and organizations who work collaboratively to better the lives of county residents.
“All the organizations talk and work together. We all attend each other’s meetings, so we know who can do what,” Ward said. “That’s a very good part of this job.”
The Salvation Army offers a variety of services in Ottawa County, including financial assistance for rent, utilities and car repairs.
“We also have the educational side for things like budgets and tax help,” Ward said.
Ward stepped into the role of director just as the Salvation Army was entering its toy giveaway season. On Monday, Dec. 11, she received multiple visits from people delivering toy donations, including Lakefront Yacht Club Manager Jim Cox and the club’s bartender, Tori Campbell. Their members donated about 100 toys.
Light House Sober Living Executive Director Kenn Bower, Jr. and volunteer Blake Johnson picked up toy collection boxes from around Port Clinton and delivered them to the service center for Ward.
“Kenn and the guys at Light House are just great. They do so much to help us,” Ward said.
As the center’s new director, Ward is now in a position to “do so much” for the community, but she needs help, and filling the Red Kettles is a great start.
Friday, Dec. 22 is Red Kettle Celebrity Day. From 4-6 p.m., a Marine will man the Walmart Red Kettle, Ottawa County Clerk of Courts John Klaehn will man the Catawba Bassett’s Kettle, and Port Clinton Mayor Mike Snider will man the Kroger Kettle.
For more information on the Salvation Army’s services in Ottawa County or to sign up to ring the bell, call 419-732-2769 or stop by the center at 1834 East Perry Street in Port Clinton.