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Dave’s Red Kettle Beginnings

It’s hard to believe it’s the fifth Christmas season that my good friend Dave Sechler isn’t ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. God must have needed Dave’s help, and he knew he would do whatever was asked of him with a smile on his face. That’s just who Dave was. If you remember, I knew Dave since I was young; he was the gentleman that ran the gym at the Salvation Army. That was just a small part of everything he did at the Sal over the years. But that bond of basketball created a friendship that lasted us a lifetime.

Every year at this time I have asked you to keep Dave’s memory alive and continue his work by making sure there’s plenty of Red Kettle donations. No one rang the Bell more than Dave did for over four decades. I would love to know how much money he raised to help local folks. The least we can do is continue on with his lifetime work.

This year it was my privilege to sponsor the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle kickoff breakfast. A special tip of the cap to Mr. Kent Bennett for organizing, overseeing and making sure the event was a success. My sponsorship was also in memory of Dave. I would like to thank all the folks that attended and donated to kick off the Christmas season of caring. The event raised over $15,000. Every dollar collected at the breakfast including the sponsorship goes to help folks in our area, Kent and I would have it no other way.

So now for the rest of the story, an individual that joined me at the breakfast was Mr. Charlie Levering. In the 60s and early 70s, it was Charlie who gave a lot of time to the Salvation Army. He ran some of the best basketball programs our area has ever seen right out of the Salvation Army gym. He created the legacy of the Sal’s gym being a local mecca for area basketball talent.

He also ran many other programs for youth and adults at this time which even included softball. Charlie was great at teaching and blending talent from all walks of life. He would go on to be a longtime educator and coach for the Williamsport School District after his days at the Salvation Army.

Coach Levering noticed a skinny, sort of awkward, glasses-wearing teenager constantly hanging out around the Gym. So he simply reached out to him and included him, a little as a player, but mostly as a member of his team providing the basketball program. A young Dave Sechler had some knowledge about basketball but became a quick study under Charlie’s tutelage. It started with simple things like sweeping the floor, taking care of the uniforms. Next up was keeping the scorebook, running the clock and scoreboard. Sech continued on and became Charlie’s right-hand man and even an assistant coach.

When Coach Levering moved on to other things in his life, Dave was groomed to take over responsibilities of the Gym. And the rest is history.

Charlie Levering provided exactly what Dave needed in his life at that time. A place to fit in, be a part of a team, and most importantly became part of a special family.

Some people travel abroad to do missionary work; Dave Sechler found his calling right here in Williamsport at the Salvation Army. I’m sure when it began Sech had no idea it would be a lifetime of selfless dedication in the name of the Lord. But that’s exactly what it became.

So now you know the rest of the story, but there is so much more to cover in regards to all those who played hoops at the Sal. But that’s a story for another day.

Mr. Steve Wentzel is currently running the gym at the Sal and is also a long time friend. Unfortunately, he took a bad fall a while back. I was worried his fate might be the same as Dave’s. Fortunately, Steve has recovered. To many it has been nothing short of a miracle — Merry Christmas to him and his wife, Rosalyn. Both are great people.

When you are out and about this Christmas Season make whatever Red Kettle donation you feel comfortable with. Help those locally who need a little helping hand. And remember Dave and the good folks like him that make the Salvation Army so special to our community.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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