Person Of Interest: Marilyn Darnley, longtime Salvation Army bell ringer
January 25, 2014 10:28 PM
Marilyn Darnley rings her bells at people entering the Pittsburgh International Airport.
By Pohla Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Christmas is long past, but you'll still find Marilyn Darnley ringing her bell for the Salvation Army's kettle drive at the entrance of Pittsburgh International Airport.
In fact, she's been ringing that bell in the second-floor lobby during four, eight-hour days a week -- for 16 years.
"I just love doing this," said Ms. Darnley, 72 of Scott, who's a fixture in her chair at the top of the escalators. She's often wearing Steelers or Penguins hats. "I love helping people because I always look at it this way: I'm still here and God has a purpose in life for me, too."
The airport isn't the first place Ms. Darnley has worked for the Salvation Army, which pays her between $8 and $9 an hour, Tuesdays through Fridays. She had worked several years as a kettle collector at a Giant Eagle in Green Tree. Then she got a chance to work at the airport.
"And the first day I was here, I just loved it because there're so many people you meet who come through here," she added. "I also do ministry here. I pray with people, like when somebody's sick, and they need help." If she senses someone could use a wheelchair to ease travel through the airport, she'll point them to the information desk.
She recalls when a woman named Alice told her she was traveling to Somerset County, where her son was killed on Flight 93 that crashed during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I got tears in my eyes 'cause that lady lost her son, and she had come to put money in this kettle," Ms. Darnley said. "God brings you different people here. It's a challenge, different walks of life. It's just so rewarding to help somebody who's less fortunate than you."
The outgoing affection Ms. Darnley feels for both donors and airport employees is reciprocated. Last year, she was one of a number of winners of an annual award honoring folks at the airport for their service.
"What an honor that was to be nominated to get an award like that for the outstanding service people who come through here -- customer service. The letter's beautiful. It's for outstanding customer service, helping the people."
Her bosses at the Salvation Army are also grateful for her contributions.
"We love her and appreciate her clearly," said Salvation Army Maj. Paul Moore. "She does an excellent job for us, and we wish we had more employees like her."
Ms. Darnley often works extra hours as an unpaid volunteer. "She volunteers and does a lot of other things for us, which is wonderful," Mr. Moore said. For example, this past Christmas time she worked as a volunteer on two Mondays when she was supposed to have days off.
She raised between $38,000 and $39,000 last year, when she missed some time due to illness, Mr. Moore said. "It was close to $50,000 in 2012."
"She is a very dependable worker," he said. She loves people. She seems to attract people. She has made contacts with some of the Steelers players."
Those players include the retired Steelers Jerome Bettis, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Rocky Bleier, Ms. Darnley said, adding that her friends also include some Penguins, such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni "Geno" Malkin.
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