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By Emily Bontrager
The Salvation Army assists millions of people during Thanksgiving and Christmas each year with their Kettle Campaign. The red kettle donations throughout the year help with food, clothing, and emergency financial assistance. The donations also help with youth programs, veteran services, senior centers, and emergency disaster relief.
David Tague, 63, grew up in Gorin, Missouri and he has volunteered for the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign for many years.
David’s mother, D. J. Tague was an English teacher in Wyaconda. David graduated from Gorin RIII in 1978 and later attended Mizzou. He graduated from Mizzou in 1982 and 1985 with a Bachelor’s in Agronomy and a M.S. in Agronomy Plant Breeding.
“I worked 33 years in a plant breeding program at the university,” David said.
David has two sons, and he lives in Columbia, MO and he still works part time at Mizzou. He also owns the place where he grew up in Gorin, MO.
In his free time, David likes to fish, hunt, play instruments, and write letters with fountain pens.
At the age of 31, David’s wife didn’t want him to ride his bike around town because she thought he possibly could get hurt. So, with free time, David decided to learn how to play an instrument.
“There was an Olds Ambassador trumpet in the paper, and I told her I’m going to buy it for $50 and she said ‘Ok,’” David explained.
It took David about six months to learn how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the trumpet. He taught himself how to play and he now knows how to play the cornet, mandolin, guitar, and banjo.
Years ago, David’s church decided to volunteer to ring the bells for the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign. His mentor, Don Harter of Columbia, still organizes the sign up for the church today.
“I think it is a good charity because there are people that really do come into the community and need help and are aided by it, so it is a local charity. It is family oriented and they have places for people to stay or they otherwise would be on the street,” David said.
After volunteering a few times with his church, David decided to start playing his trumpet instead of ringing the handbell at the kettle. For the last ten years, David has played his trumpet or cornet, which is similar to a trumpet, for the Kettle Campaign.
“In the last eight years, I started playing mandolin because somebody gave me one,” David said.
“Overtime, I have collected a few different ones and they all sound different to me.”
Each year, David plays for the Salvation Army around ten times a year. While he is collecting donations, he plays traditional hymns, Christmas carols, and anthem songs for about two hours.
“Most of the songs are popular and people will stop and talk about specific ones that they are nostalgic about,” David explained.
Over the years, David has helped with the Salvation Army in Columbia, Missouri.
On December 21, 2023, David played at the C&R Market in Edina, Missouri. He played a cornet and a Washburn mandolin, which was made sometime between 1892 and 1896.
“At first, I thought the cornet worked best on the Red Kettle because I got more donations and people like the Christmas carols and they can hear it better, especially across the parking lot at a distance,” David said.
“This year, I think I have done just as well on mandolin and I just have memorized enough songs and it sounds interesting enough to people that they find it unusual. Most of them don’t even know what it is. They think it’s a ukulele.”
One of David’s favorite parts of playing for the Salvation Army is seeing little kids’ reactions to him playing an instrument.
“There is just something about the Red Kettle, where you feel like you have moments like you’re in Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” People come by and you have moments that are fun,” David explained.
Music helps bring people together and David uses his gift of playing multiple instruments to help those in need by collecting donations for the Salvation Army. If you would like more information about volunteering or if you would like to donate, you can visit salvationarmy.org.