Elgin’s new Salvation Army lieutenants tune up for bell-ringing season
By Mike Danahey email@example.com @DanaheyECN October 28, 2013 5:36PM
Salvation Army Mike Hanton talks with a client at the Army office in Elgin. | Submitted
Updated: December 1, 2013 6:41AM
ELGIN — Growing up in suburban Detroit, Mike Hanton was part of a familial Salvation Army brass quartet playing Christmas carols in front of a mall.
“I played tuba. My father and sister were on trumpet, and my brother played trombone,” Hanton recalled.
Last December, one could spot Hanton carrying on that tradition in downtown Chicago in Daley Plaza, playing his tuba once more as he finished up his officer training in the big city at the Salvation Army’s version of a seminary.
And this year, Hanton and his wife, Kelly — in their roles at lieutenants at the Salvation Army in Elgin — will be leading the local Red Kettle Campaign, a major duty as newly commissioned (ordained) officers.
“Elgin is our very first assignment. We started the last week of June,” Hanton said.
The Hantons now oversee the Salvation Army Corps Community Center on Douglas Avenue, assuming the duties held by Majors Fred and Nancy Mead. They both come to Elgin with strong ties to the Salvation Army, with Mike attending The Salvation Army in Dearborn Heights, Mich., while Kelly attended the Carondelet (now Gateway) Salvation Army Corps in St. Louis.
The two even met through their church, attending camp held at the Salvation Army’s Central Music Institute in Salem, Wis.
After marrying in 2000, the couple moved to Wisconsin, where Mike served as divisional music director for The Salvation Army Oak Creek Corps and Kelly worked in the youth department in the Army’s Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Headquarters. The couple have four children: Keegan, 11, Cole, 8, and twins Madden and Ryan, 2.
Elgin ‘a blessing’
In 2011, Mike went on tour with The Salvation Army Staff Band in Sweden. Upon his return, the two decided that they wanted to serve as officers and entered into the Army’s College of Officer Training in Chicago together. After graduation, they were sent to Elgin.
“This is a great city,” Hanton said. “Elgin offers a lot for families. And we appreciate how diverse the city is.”
The couple lives on Elgin’s west side, about five minutes from their offices, and the Hanton’s two oldest boys attend Creekside Elementary School.
“They like it,” Hanton said. “And we all have enjoyed meeting new people. It’s been a blessing for us coming to Elgin.”
Getting familiar with his new surroundings over the last few months, Hanton said he and his wife are not planning any big changes to how things have been run in Elgin. They are exploring how to offer services that are not duplicated by other agencies but are unique or complement or assist what already is in place.
Hanton said he and other community leaders are surprised and concerned by the number of homeless in Elgin. And as the seasons changed, the community center is serving more people now than in the summer, Hanton said. It provides food for about 200 family units on Fridays.
For the Red Kettle Campaign, Hanton said he hopes to have about 40 percent of bell-ringing assignments handled by volunteers, with the rest handled by those who are paid. This ratio allows the group to collect donations while still providing a good amount of work to others who might need it, Hanton said.
Founded in 1865, The Salvation Army provides assistance to about 30 million people in the United States each year through social services that include providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. The agency says that 89 cents of every dollar raised is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide.
According to information provided by The Salvation Army, Red Kettle campaigns generates nearly 70 percent of the funds used year-round to provide programs and services to people in need.
The Salvation Army Elgin Corps will host its Red Kettle Campaign kick-off at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at Carmina’s Restaurant, 1055 N. Randall Road. Admission to the fundraiser is $35, and it is open to the public.
This celebration will include performances from the Dundee-Crown High School Jazz Band and the Judson University Choir. The 2013 Elgin Red Kettle Campaign chairman, state Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin), will officially launch this season’s bell-ringing. The evening will culminate in the ringing of the “Captain’s Bell” signifying the official start of local effort.
Those kettles will hit the streets in the Elgin area starting Saturday, Nov. 16.
“We’re excited to be in Elgin and are ready to serve the people,” Hanton said. “Maybe you can catch us in action (playing at a kettle location) this Christmas season.”
More information is at 847-741-2304, www.salarmychicago.org/elgin, or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/tsaelgin.