An exceptional servant


Dan Wilson accepted the Salvation Army USA's Exceptional Service Award in Lockport, where he has been a Salvation Army volunteer for decades. The original plan was for him to claim the award at the Salvation Army's convention in Chicago, but COVID-19 concerns resulted in the convention being canceled.

The Salvation Army is an international organization dedicated to helping those in need. One of its branches is in Lockport and, come holiday time, branch volunteers can be seen ringing bells at those signature Red Kettles.

Dan Wilson knows a bit about that. He also knows a bit about cleaning pots and pans for the Sister Mary Loretto Memorial Community Soup Kitchen.

And he knows a whole lot about life and people.

“I love to come during soup kitchen time and just visit, because that’s all that the (clients) want,” Wilson said. “There are so many clients that come in here that I can sit down and visit with. They don’t know anything about me, but they have someone to talk to.”

Wilson, a 21-year member and two-time chair of the Lockport Salvation Army Advisory Board, was notified earlier this year that the Salvation Army USA had selected him to receive its Exceptional Service Award / Empire Division for 2020. The award recognizes the time and effort given by a volunteer in the Empire Division, which covers all of New York state except New York City.

Wilson was set to fly to Chicago in April, to accept the award during the Salvation Army's convention, but the pandemic forced cancelation of the convention. He finally received the award this week, in a presentation at the Lockport citadel.

Wilson was nominated for the Exceptionl Service Award by Major Jose Santiago, who oversees the Lockport branch.

Since he joined the advisory board, Wilson has promoted the Salvation Army's mission to Lockport Rotary Club, of which he's a member, and his church. Both organizations have contributed money and volunteers to the branch, year after year. In 2015, Wilson chaired the committee that raised $2.4 million to upgrade and expand the Lockport citadel.

“When you’re retired you want to make use of your time, you want to stay busy, stay active," Wilson said. "I’m involved in many other things, but the Salvation Army is where it starts.”

With the pandemic's arrival locally in March, Wilson was able to stay very busy and active at the Salvation Army.

“During this Covid time everything was shut down, but we had to feed people. For close to three months, I was here each day, opening cans and stirring whatever and helping with whatever needed to be done. Filling the boxes and then handing them out. … I did what I could do during that time,” he said.

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