LePage surprises shoppers in Biddeford, Auburn as guest Salvation Army bell ringer

Gov. Paul LePage helps kick off the annual Salvation Army red kettle drive at the State House in Augusta on Nov. 14.
Gov. Paul LePage helps kick off the annual Salvation Army red kettle drive at the State House in Augusta on Nov. 14. Buy Photo
Posted Dec. 23, 2013, at 10:44 a.m.
Last modified Dec. 23, 2013, at 1:47 p.m.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Shoppers at Walmart on Friday afternoon were surprised to see who was ringing the Salvation Army bell at the store’s entranceway.

Gov. Paul LePage took an hour shift Friday afternoon at the Biddeford store, and had volunteered for an hour in Auburn that morning.

The governor spread holiday cheer, laughing and chatting with shoppers. His press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, took pictures of shoppers with the governor on request.

“Every bit helps,” said LePage as a young man dropped some change into the red collection bucket.

LePage said volunteering as a Salvation Army bell-ringer is “an annual pilgrimage.” He said he volunteered many years as a Rotarian before becoming governor.

“They do phenomenal work,” he said of The Salvation Army.

Patricia James, spokeswoman for The Salvation Army, Northern New England Division, said the Red Kettle Drive is the organization’s biggest fundraiser. Money raised goes toward community programs including Christmas basket and gift distributions, free meal projects and children’s summer camps.

The Salvation Army has more than 100 red kettle sites across the state. The fundraising drive begins after Thanksgiving and continues through Dec. 24.

James said on Wednesday the organization had collected slightly more than $374,000 statewide, which was less than half the state goal of nearly $815,000.

James said she wasn’t sure if the low numbers were due to the economy or because of this year’s shorter Thanksgiving-to-Christmas shopping season.

She said The Salvation Army appreciated LePage taking the time out to help the organization.

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