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Ogden man rings Salvation Army bell as dying wish

RIVERDALE, Weber County — Doug Holladay has always been a giver.

Doctors told the Ogden man that he might not live to see another Christmas. He is dying of terminal lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

As a dying wish, Holladay asked the Salvation Army if he could ring the donation bell for them one more time.

"My message is: It's better to give than to receive," Holladay said.

On Thursday, the 53-year-old sat in a wheelchair in 15-degree weather outside a Wal-Mart store, ringing the white Salvation Army bell. His red Salvation Army apron was barely visible beneath two hooded sweatshirts, a coat, a scarf and a blanket.

Holladay was determined to fill up three kettles before returning home.

By noon, he had already filled up one and a half, thanks in part to his mother, Dorothy Holladay, and cousin Renay Camp, who pulled out wads of one- and five-dollar bills and stuffed them in one at a time.

His efforts will be a boost for the organization that got a late start this year collecting donations because of the delayed Thanksgiving holiday. In Utah, collections are down about 30 percent from last year, said Lt. Sam LeMar, the corps assistant for the Salvation Army in Ogden.

The Christian group offers food to the needy, social services and addiction rehabilitation, among other services. Its members take on the identity of soldiers combating "spiritual warfare."

Holladay became involved with the Salvation Army 15 years ago while struggling with alcohol and drug addictions. Since then he has worked as a store driver, a warehouse manager and a house manager. When he could no longer work, he donated his time.

"Doug's mimicking Christ's service," LeMar said.

Holladay credits the Salvation Army for helping him become sober 12 years ago. Whenever he felt like he wanted to relapse, he would call his friends from the Salvation Army, whom he said offered their support and help.

While Holladay spoke, Ray Young — wearing his Salvation Army uniform and small gold pin that read "God Power" — attended to his friend, adjusting his oxygen tube, pulling blankets around his shoulder and doing what he could to ensure his comfort.

The two met in prison 23 years ago, Young said, and met again in the Salvation Army about eight years later.

"We both, through the graces of God and the Salvation Army, have been given some tools to stay clean and sober," he said.

About 40 minutes into his service, Holladay sat in his wheelchair just inside the sliding doors at Wal-Mart. He came in to warm up and to take his pain medication, with the help of his friend. Wal-Mart had positioned a heater next to the collection kettle, ready for Holladay's return to his post.

"Bless his little heart," Young said of his friend's wish to give back to the community — something Young says "comforts him."

Dorothy Holladay became emotional as she talked about how her son has always helped her when he could. When he became involved with drugs and alcohol, she thought she had lost him. But the Salvation Army "brought him peace of mind," and eventually, recovery from addiction.

"Salvation Army has been his salvation," she said.

Although they are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Holladay said her son has opted to have the Salvation Army coordinate his death, including his obituary and a celebration of life.

Her son will not only serve in his final hours, but also plans on donating his body to the University of Utah for research.

"God bless," Holladay said from his wheelchair as another shopper dropped money into the kettle.

As he encouraged people to give what they could, he said those who do not have money to give can volunteer. And Holladay believes that volunteers can begin to see the value of helping others, even within an hour of providing service.

The Salvation Army will put all volunteers to work, LeMar said. Opportunities range from bell ringing to feeding the homeless. Those interested can visit volunteermatch.org or salvationarmyusa.org/usn/volunteer to contact their local Salvation Army.

Dorothy Holladay has seen first hand what a difference the organization can make and gushes when asked about the importance of donating.

"They are just so willing to help whoever comes to their door," she said.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

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