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CLINE: The sweet sound of the Christmas spirit

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
 Scott Zarnado volunteers to ring the bell and collect donations for the Salvation Army as Mary Vaughn puts money into the pot at the Wal-Mart in Lawrenceville on Saturday. Zarnado is a member of the Rotary Club of Gwinnett County and participates in the yearly fundraiser during the holiday season. 

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips Scott Zarnado volunteers to ring the bell and collect donations for the Salvation Army as Mary Vaughn puts money into the pot at the Wal-Mart in Lawrenceville on Saturday. Zarnado is a member of the Rotary Club of Gwinnett County and participates in the yearly fundraiser during the holiday season. 

Scott Zanardo has made it a Christmas tradition. Brad Varhol is starting to do the same. And though both enjoy ringing in the season by helping the Salvation Army, they admit it takes a while to get the sound of bells out of their heads after a shift manning the red kettles.

“You kind of still hear them for a while after you get home,” said Zanardo, a Lawrenceville resident who volunteers through the Rotary Club of Gwinnett.

Niekro among athletes to sign at charity show

This is the 12th year Doug Reid has run the Venture Sports Shows Toys for Tots campaign. This year the event is back at the Village Shoppes at Creekside in Lawrenceville from Friday through Sunday.

More than 75 athletes will be on hand during the three-day period, signing autographs in return for donated toys. Fans are asked to bring unwrapped toys of at least $10 in value that are exchanged for tickets redeemable for autographs.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and there will be a collectibles show held in conjunction with the autograph signing. For a full list of athletes who will be signing, go to www.venturesports.org.

Former Brave and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, always one of the most popular signers, will be on hand starting at noon Friday.

That ringing sound, however, is also music to the ears of folks like Zanardo and Varhol, who have made a Salvation Army tradition one of their own. This is the 119th season of the Salvation Army’s red kettles campaign, one that has become synonmous with Christmas.

For Zanardo, this is his 15th year of ringing for the Salvation Army. The owner of Zanardo Architects, he got involved through Rotary and has made his participation a family tradition.

“I look forward to it,” he said. “I get my kids involved whenever they’re available. You get to wish everyone a merry Christmas, and it’s neat to see people give their kids the money to put in the kettle. It’s a great way to teach them about giving.”

This past weekend, Zanardo was paired with Varhol, a fellow member of the Rotary Club of Gwinnett. Varhol is a relative newbie, participating for just the second year. But the Snellville resident was quickly, and warmly, welcomed to the club last year.

“It was so cold we had people coming out of Wal-Mart bringing us coffee,” he said. “And some even brought us hamburgers. It just shows you that everyone has a giving spirit.”

The Red Kettle Campaign, which will run through Christmas Eve, is trying to raise $2.1 million from its kettles in the metro area. But kettles aren’t the only way you can donate. In a sign of the times, the Salvation Army is taking online donations at www.salvationarmyatlanta.org, and 50 locations will be equipped with wireless credit card machines, allowing people to swipe a credit card instead of plunking down change.

Zanardo and Varhol went after donations the old-fashioned way, and were again impressed by the charitable nature of those who donate.

“It just brings out the best in people,” Zanardo said. “I know the economy isn’t good, but people seem to be more giving this year than years past.”

Varhol, who owns Eon Products Inc., which sells equipment for environmental testing, said an added bonus of participating is getting to know his fellow club members better. Last year he had been in Rotary for only a few months before the bell-ringing campaign began, and the hours he spent ringing provided camaraderie as well.

So this season if you get the urge to donate time as well as money, consider calling the Salvation Army at 404-486-2912 for more information on ringing your own bell.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/toddcline.