Mayors Ring In Success for Salvation Army

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On Saturday, Wal-Mart officials gave the mayor of Bryan and College Station just one hour to ring in as much money as possible for the Salvation Army.

Bryan Mayor Mark Conlee and College Station Mayor Pro Tem Ron Gay were pitted aganist each other in the B/CS Mayor's Bell Ringer Battle to aid a worthy cause and for the pride of their respective city.

"I thought, what a great idea and so lets go for it and see which city has the most giving," Gay said.

Conlee was equally enthusiastic.

"I figured out it was a great deal to do,” Conlee said. “And it's a great thing to help the Salvation Army because all that money stays here locally."

The friendly competition was the brainchild of Wal-Mart, Inc. West Region Public Affairs Manager Lisa Elledge. The purpose of the event was to use the pre-existing rivalry between Bryan and College Station to increase donations for the red-kettle donation drive.

"We wanted to see if we could raise $1,000 an hour,” Elledge said. “Whatever is raised, we'll match up to $1,000 and provide it to the local Salvation Army here."

The stakes grew higher when Wal-Mart pledged another $1,000 to the Salvation Army in the name of the winning mayor and city.

Seeking victory, Gay began serenading passer-byers with the bell. Offering their assistance to the cause were city firefighters, police officers, and some furry friends.

"We have pulled all the stops,” Gay said. “We have McGruff, the crime dog here. We have Sparky; we have Arctic Wolf here. We are out to win this competition."

College Station officials' secret weapon was their raffle for two tickets to the sold out Alamo Bowl.

Their push may not have been an as an elaborate production, but Bryan Mayor Mark Conlee and his fellow council members' approach was just as aggressive.

They were offering curbside service to collect money for passing motorists.

"All you have to do is drive-by, wave it out and we'll come get it,” Conlee said.

Brazos County’s Salvation Army Corp Officer Captain John Branscum says the money collected through the kettle drive is vital to their budget and are thankful to officials from both cities for the lively competition.

"Last year, we raised $95,000 through the kettles and we're hoping to raise $120,000 this year,” Branscum said.

City leaders say they put their best foot forward, not for bragging rights, but to ensure this year's Salvation Army red-kettle donation drive was a ring success.

"As long as the Salvation Army comes out, that's what's important,” Conlee said.

"No matter who wins, Salvation Army is the big winner,” Gay said.

In the end, the city of Bryan and Mayor Conlee won the Mayor Ring Off.
Bryan officials raised $3,018 compared to College Station's $1,600.

In all, including Wal-Mart, Inc. donations of $3,000 and $1,000 donation from the Bryan Wal-Mart store, more than $8,000 was raised.
Wal-Mart and Salvation Army officials are hoping the Mayor Ring Off becomes an annual event.