Callendar, Priest great in service to others

Published 10:08 am Monday, February 27, 2017

You could call Carrie Callender and Kamace Priest a dynamic duo.

The two Anderson-Tully employees have established their place as active volunteers with the Salvation Army Auxiliary and United Way of West Central Mississippi, working on programs for both organizations and serving on the United Way Board of Directors.

A great part of their service has been to the Salvation Army.

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“Anderson-Tully has always been big supporters of Salvation Army,” said Callender, the company’s human resources director. “The reached out to Anderson-Tully, and we just kind of got involved with them that way.

Priest’s involvement began when she was invited to join the Salvation Army’s women’s auxiliary in 2011, and served three terms as president. She and Callender also became involved with the organization’s Angel Tree Christmas program.

“Right after we first joined, the person who ran the angel tree left, so Carrie and I took that over and we are still doing that,” Priest, the company’s risk manager, said, adding she is now the auxiliary’s vice president and Callender is secretary.

The women organize the distribution center, where the Angel Tree packages are picked up before Christmas.

“There’s a lady who coordinates the mall tree, the adopting of the angels,” Priest said. “Once the angels are adopted and the gifts are brought back, we spend two weeks organizing all of that so we can have a smooth transition of getting those gifts out to recipients.”

Under the process, she said, each family is given a number, and the gifts are organized by that number. The children in the family are assigned a number within the family number to ensure they receive their gifts.

“We gather all the gifts up, put them in one big bag, and put it on their square (with the family’s number), and then we have a two hour period where everybody drives through and we load their car with their bag and then they leave,” Priest said.

“It’s got to be very organized, or you’re not going to get it done in two hours. The first year, we had a couple of nights where we were there until 1:30, 2:30 in the morning, and then this past year, we were out of there every night before 8:30, so it’s come a long way.”

“From all-nighters to evenings; yes, it’s come a long way,” Callender said. “There are a lot volunteers — people who have been helping us for lots of years.”

“Mainly the auxiliary is a fundraising organization for the Salvation Army, so that’s what we do,” Priest said. “We just had affairs of the heart to raise money. Our biggest money raiser is the soup and sandwich, which we hold every year in October, but this is our biggest charitable project (Angel Tree) that we handle.

“It’s (Angel Tree) actually a Salvation Army project, but the Salvation Army depends on the women’s auxiliary to help them with it, because it is such a big project.” Callender said

One advantage that allows the women to perform volunteer work, she said, is Anderson-Tully “is generous enough (granting them time from work). We spend a lot of time at Salvation Army during those two weeks (for Angel Tree), so we’re not here a lot.

“We’re fortunate to work for a company that allows us to be able to do what we do for the Salvation Army, and they support it, too,” Priest said.

Both women have been involved with United Way in one capacity or another for about 20 years.

“I’ve been with Anderson-Tully since 1996, and I have been running Anderson-Tully’s employment campaigns since 1997,” Priest said. “Anderson-Tully has always been involved with United Way.”

She has served two terms on the United Way board, and is the company’s employee campaign coordinator.

Priest said participating in United Way is part of the monthly safety meetings she calls for employees.

“That way everybody’s going to take time out to go to the meeting, and we usually bring in one of the agency directors. They talk to the employees about their agency, and then we bring up pledge cards with them and I get them back right then.”

She said Anderson-Tully always has some type of program to encourage employees to participate. Drawings are held for employees who contribute, featuring prizes of things such as an additional eight hours of pay or gift cards.

When Priest left the United Way board, she was replaced by Callender, who came to Anderson-Tully in 2011.

“I’ve been asked to return since then,” Callender said. “I’ve been on executive committee one term.” She said volunteering with United Way is not a new experience.

“I’ve been working with United Way, was as far as volunteering, as far back as 1997 or ‘98, when I worked for another company that was heavily involved in United Way. I always did the Day of Caring and different things, always gave contributions, and helped as a coordinator for my previous employer.

“When I was asked if I wanted to serve on the board of directors, I was happy to do it. I was glad I was able to continue to do something with United Way.”

Besides working with Angel Tree, Priest said, Anderson-Tully participates in the Salvation Army’s bell ringing program. She said the response she and employees receive from people makes their efforts worthwhile.

“What I enjoy, as far as Angel Tree, is when you’re loading the gifts, you have some people who are so grateful, they’re in tears,” she said. “It’s exciting to see those people and to know that you are doing something good.

“Bell ringing give you a chance to get out in the community, some people stop and tell you stories, about how the Salvation Army has helped them; it’s good to see you’re out there helping.

“I may never need to use the services of the Salvation Army or United Way, so I’m glad to be able to give back,” Callender said. “I won’t say that I won’t ever need it, but I just enjoy making that difference, what little I can.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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