The Moment that Turned Bill into a Lifelong Salvation Army Donor

Feb 12, 2021

Bill Deitrick will always remember his first interaction with The Salvation Army.

It was 1968 and he was a law student in New York. He was having lunch on campus one day when his wife of three months, Emily, came up to him in tears. She handed him a piece of paper: his draft notice to serve with the Army in Vietnam.

Soon he was being processed at the Whitehall Building in Manhattan with people of all walks of life. He’d just undergone his medical tests when he said he was herded into a room with a bunch of other men. “We were all in our underpants, holding our possessions in a plastic bag,” Bill said.

Standing there in a sea of half-naked strangers, he began to contemplate how his life would never be the same. “I thought, I’m by myself here. No one knows where I am.” He saw similar looks of uncertainty and fear on the faces around him.

“Suddenly the door opens up and a Salvation Army officer yells out, ‘God bless you boys!’ before handing out shaving kits to everyone,” Bill said. “It was the nicest thing.” They were all on the cusp of a huge unknown and the small gesture changed the whole mood of the room.

“Nobody else was thinking about us at that moment,” he said. “There was the whole spectrum of society there. Some didn’t have shaving supplies, or much of anything.”

When Bill returned to law school after serving two years in the Army, he remembered that thoughtful gesture and looked up The Salvation Army. After doing a little research, he said he was impressed by the percentage of donations to the organization that go directly to help people.

He and Emily started giving the Army a check every Christmas and putting money in a Red Kettle whenever they came across one. They’ve now been Salvation Army donors for 38 years.

“I think it’s a great organization, one of the premiere charitable organizations out there,” Bill said. He’s told friends and family members about his Salvation Army moment over the years. “I’ll always have a weakness in my heart for The Salvation Army. They were there for me at a low point. It was quite amazing to me.”

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