BY SHERI TRUSTY
This year’s annual Ottawa County Salvation Army Red Kettle Kick Off Breakfast on Wednesday, Nov. 2 was, Toni DeLuca said, very bittersweet. The nearly 100 bell-ringing volunteers who attended the breakfast were inspired by this year’s challenge to raise $88,400, but they were also saddened by the knowledge that they would not face that challenge with outgoing Port Clinton Service Center Director Maureen (Moe) Saponari.
The breakfast, which was held at the Catawba Island Club, served as a transitioning point when Saponari publicly introduced the center’s new director, Kami Sayre.
DeLuca, a longtime member of the center’s advisory council, tearfully said goodbye to Saponari and welcomed Sayre with open arms as she addressed the breakfast crowd.
“Everyone,” DeLuca said, “has a Moe story.”
DeLuca recalled the first time she met Saponari, “a well-dressed lady in stiletto heels,” and she talked about the times Saponari donned tennis shoes as she took dozens of children to summer camp. She told Sayre she had big shoes to fill.
“But you’re up to the challenge,” DeLuca said. “Whether those shoes are stilettos or tennis shoes, God put you in this place at this time. Moe, we’re going to miss you. Kami, we’ve got your back.”
Many people shared a “Moe story,” stories of compassion and fun and hard work, both publicly and privately that morning. As Saponari and Sayre waited on the edge of the room, listening to words of gratitude and welcome, they were simply two friends clinging together, finding a way to pull Saponari’s impact into the future.
“I’m so excited to jump in, but I’m nervous because I have a classy and hard act to follow,” Sayre said. “If Moe ever changes her number, I’ll come after her.”
Saponari, too, struggled with opposing emotions.
“I’m thrilled for the Salvation Army and the community. Having everyone here to ring the bell and support Kami is wonderful,” Saponari said. “But my heart is racing right now. I didn’t expect this outpouring of love from everyone. To read it on Facebook is one thing, but to hear it in person is something else.”
Saponari and Sayre are grateful that the transition will be buoyed by an advisory council filled with dedicated volunteers ready to help.
“This transition wouldn’t work without them,” Sayre said.
Saponari was thankful for the years of support the advisory council gave her, and she was thankful they were there to help her say goodbye.
“The advisory council is the core of the Salvation Army,” Saponari said. “They are loving, compassionate, respectful people.”