30 Seconds with Salvation Army Bell Ringer Pete Booker
Find the Rotary Club member at Wilmington's Ninth and Market streets this holiday season.
Pete Booker has been a bell ringer with the salvation army for 20 years.//PHOTO BY LUIGI CIUFFETELLI
If you spend any time in Wilmington during the holiday season, you may recognize Pete Booker. Every year, he braves the cold to ring bells and raise money for the Salvation Army. As a leader in the Rotary Club and former CEO of the Delmarva Broadcasting Co., Booker is no stranger to community outreach.
When did you start bell ringing for the Salvation Army?
That was probably 20 years ago. I'm a member of the Rotary Club of Wilmington. The club has had a tradition for probably 50 years of ringing bells and manning the kettles at Christmastime at various locations for the Salvation Army. The Wilmington Rotary Club has been stationed at the location at Ninth and Market streets for many years.
Do you always ring at the same location?
It's always at that location. It's tradition. Our club is a downtown Wilmington club and that's a high-traffic downtown Wilmington location where we have enough room to place the equipment and ring the bells. It's always worked well for us.
Since you've been there for two decades, do people recognize you?
No question about it. Many club members will come by and say Hi, and then maybe you return the favor when one of them is doing the ringing.
What's the most rewarding part of being a bell ringer?
Being there at Ninth and Market, you see people of all walks of life walking by. You see people who are very well off and also people who may be a little more economically disadvantaged. It never ceases to amaze us that people who may be only one step above [poverty] or have experienced the same conditions as the people being helped by the Salvation Army, are some of the ones that most frequently stop and make contributions. It may be loose change or a dollar at most, but it's always impressive and heartwarming that those people recognize the need.
How else are you involved in the community?
I'm the district governor of Rotary District 7630, which covers all of Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My wife, Susan, and I also have a nonprofit called SmartDrive, which provides defensive driving and risk avoidance instruction to new teen drivers in high school. I'm still a member of the Delaware State Chamber board of governors. Susan and I were fortunate to win the Msgr. Thomas J. Reese Award last year from the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington for community service.
You spend a lot of time giving back. Do you have any hobbies?
We try to do stuff with family, which is really important. I play [bass and sing] in a band called Kathie Martin & The Hot Rods, so that’s a nice diversionary activity.
What advice do you have for people who want to make a difference in their community but don't know how to start?
There's so much need across so many sectors of the community. Whatever skill you may have or whatever interest you may have, there's certainly an opportunity to be involved. The first thing is to think about what you want to do that would help make a difference. I always recommend that if people want to know what's going on in the community, they should check with the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement. People can go to delwarenonprofit.org and learn much more and maybe get some direction there.