Billie Ray Preston, president of the Independence Rotary Club, on Thursday joined the long list of people across the community and across the country taking the Ice Bucket Challenge.
And he wore a suit.
In front of the Salvation Army on Truman Road in Independence, Preston endured a tractor-bucket-load of ice and water. The challenge is a means of raising awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“Oh, it’s just wonderful,” Preston said when asked how it felt.
As custom dictates, Preston was challenged by someone else, Brad Speaks, president and CEO of Speaks Family Legacy Chapels. Speaks, who is on the Rotary board, took the challenge last week. Preston in turn challenged local attorney Jonathan Zerr, Rotary’s president-elect.
Preston also did the event in memory of his wife’s maternal grandfather, Clifton Schuck, who suffered from ALS.
These events are typically videotaped, and they are all over YouTube (several are at www.examiner.net). The aim is to increase donations to the ALS Association, and it’s worked. From July 29 through Aug. 27 last year, the group raised $2.7 million, compared with $94.3 million this year.
The Rotarians chose the Salvation Army site for a reason. Many on the Salvation Army’s local board are members of the Rotary, and the Salvation Army has just welcomed two new local directors, Majors Dean and Pat Towne.
Dean Towne said the demand for services from the group’s food shelf, homeless shelter – the only one in Eastern Jackson County – and other services is significant.
“In the shelter, we turn away 80 to 100 families a month because we just don’t have the room,” he said. Families can stay up to 60 days provided they are taking part in a program that includes financial counseling and looking for work.
That demand for services puts stresses on aid groups.
“The challenge that we have is the challenge that a lot of people have – that a lot of organizations have – is financial,” Towne said.
The Rotarians make a difference, he said.
“They are very helpful, and it’s a very good board,” he said.