Delmont couple looks back on lifetime of serving The Salvation Army
Those who know Walter and Lucille Bossart sometimes refer to them as “Mr. and Mrs. Salvation Army.”
The Delmont couple has been married for about 43 years, and they have been giving back to their community for 42.
The Bossarts have spent the past four decades volunteering with the Delmont Salvation Army. Walter Bossart, 78, acts as vice chairman and service center director, while Lucille, 73, serves as human services secretary.
“When we first started out, if we got $3,000 in ‘Red Kettle' money, we thought we were doing something good,” Walter Bossart said. “Last year we took in $16,000.
“I consider myself blessed,” he said.
Bossart, formerly of New Stanton, met his wife through a cousin who lived across the street from her in Delmont. She had been a widow for seven years and had two young sons, Don and William Cline.
A blind date at the Apple Hill Playhouse and a year of courtship later, the Bossarts wed in 1971. Soon after, their neighbor encouraged Walter Bossart to join the Delmont Salvation Army.
“They didn't do much back then, but they rang the kettle bell,” he said, adding that the group had only “two galvanized buckets, painted red with a wire mesh on top.”
During their years of service, the Bossarts implemented several additions to the Delmont Salvation Army, such as founding its Freeport Street thrift store and setting up the organization's first canteen vehicle in the 1980s. Their sons, who volunteered with the fire department and ambulance crew, bought an old Cadillac ambulance for $1 and refurbished it.
“It won a lot of trophies at parades after we re-did it,” said their son, Don Cline, 52, of Delmont.
The organization has upgraded to a newer vehicle and provided water and food during various emergency situations, such as a manhunt in Murrysville in the 1990s, a tornado in Greensburg in the 1980s and flooding in Tarentum and Export years ago, Lucille Bossart said.
“We go to any kind of disaster,” she said.
Cline still volunteers for the Salvation Army, and two years ago he retired from the Delmont Fire Department, where he was chief for 12 years. Giving back to the community has become a “family deal,” he said.
“I guess we all learned to help people,” he said.
In 2005, the Bossarts built the Delmont Salvation Army Service Center on West Pittsburgh Street, where they distribute furniture to those in need and hold flea markets during the summer.
“People just love to come here because we get pretty decent stuff,” Walter Bossart said.
They participate in Project Bundle-Up, Treasures for Children and Operation Santa Claus. They aid families displaced because of house fires and collect funds for children who need clothing. The Bossarts have 20 volunteers helping them fulfill their goals.
“People ask me, ‘How do you get all these people to do work for you for nothing?' ” Walter Bossart said. “I say, ‘I have charisma.' ”
He credits the Rev. Ed Bastille and the Rev. Glen Burrows, previous Delmont Salvation Army chairmen, with giving him motivation.
“All I needed was a little bit of a push,” he said. “I've got the gift of the gab.”
The Bossarts have amassed several accolades, including Salvation Army's Volunteers of the Year award in 1985, Paul Harris Fellow awards from the Delmont-Salem Rotary Club and a certificate from Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Hempfield, acknowledging their service.
In 2005, Walter and Lucille received the William Booth and Catherine Booth Awards, respectively, from the Salvation Army as recognition for opening the service center.
“I was speechless,” Walter said of receiving the award. “All I could say was thank you to my volunteers.”
“It's much appreciated,” Lucille Bossart said.
Though Walter would like to find someone to take on his duties, the couple said they are still on call seven days a week.
“It's a full-time job,” Lucille Bossart said. “There's still a need, and when people come, what are you going to do?”
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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