Dover native Tony Contini staying active through volunteerism

Photo by Stacey Carmany. Tony Contini, 86, of Dover, spent many hours during the recent holiday season ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. Many times those events included help from his friends.

*This story originally appeared in The Budget’s Feb. 7, 2018 Local Edition.

By Stacey Carmany
The Budget

Eighty-six-year-old Tony Contini of Dover has two mottos guiding his life.

The first is “exercise, exercise, exercise,” although for Contini, a gym membership isn’t a necessity. That’s because he gets all the exercise he needs while completing basic household chores and volunteering for the Greater Dover-New Philadelphia Food Pantry and the Dover/New Philadelphia Salvation Army. “You’ve got a YMCA at your own house,” Contini explained. “If you’ve got steps in your house, you want to use them steps. You run the sweeper. You wash clothes. You take them out and you shake them and you put them in the dryer. It’s all exercise.”

In addition to the exercise he gets around the house, Contini also spends approximately eight hours each week working as the volunteer coordinator for the food pantry. It’s a task that keeps him in constant motion as he directs the volunteers who will help the pantry distribute more than 40,000 pounds of food each week.

For Contini, volunteering is not only a great way to get some exercise, but it also helps him fulfill his second life motto, which is to try to make somebody happy every day no matter what the cost, especially if that somebody happens to be a child.

It’s a commitment driven by his own childhood experiences. Growing up, his family was very poor. His father worked long hours each day digging trenches for $1.50 in pay, which even in those days was insufficient to support a wife and six kids.

“We were on welfare,” Contini recalled. “You would get sugar, salt, potatoes. You’d get flour. You’d get about eight items and that was it. You’d get a pound of lard, and you’d get a packet of food coloring to put in that lard to make it look like butter.”

These days, food resources are much more plentiful for struggling individuals and families in Tuscarawas County thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Greater Dover-New Philadelphia Food Pantry as well as the Dover/New Philadelphia Salvation Army and area churches. “It’s really a good area for people,” Contini shared. “You don’t go hungry in Tuscarawas County, between the food bank and the soup kitchens and the churches that sponsor sandwiches and soup during the day and during the evening.”

Marty Skelton is a volunteer at the Greater Dover-New Philadelphia Food Pantry and member of the or- organization’s board of directors. He shared that Contini plays a vital role in the organization, overseeing the approximately 55 volunteers it takes to run the local food pantry each time it is open. “Tony’s a great guy, and we’re happy that he’s here,” Skelton said. “He’s definitely an important part of the pantry. He’s been here for several years now, and he’s got that volunteer coordinator role down.”

In addition to his role at the food pantry, Contini also donates his time to the Dover/New Philadelphia Salvation Army. He spends several hours each week or every other

week helping prepare and serve a free hot lunch offered on weekdays at the post’s Emmet Avenue NW headquarters. He also mans one of the organization’s kettle stations each holiday season.

“Tony has been one of our most dedicated volunteers throughout the years and has been committed to The Salvation Army’s mission to meet human needs in God’s name,” said Lt. Andrew Allen, co-commander of the local Salvation Army post. “You’ll often find Tony helping out in the Soup Kitchen and ringing the bell during Kettle Season. No matter what he does, he always does it with a smile on his face.”

Last December, Contini was found with the kettle at Dover Buehlers on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Contini noted that he always tries to enlist different volunteers to stand with him each week and usually calls upon his friend Russ Horrisberger to come down and play his harmonica. “The reason why I ring with different people is then they go home and tell their family, and it draws more bell ringers,” Contini explained.

For Contini, the Salvation Army is an organization that is near and dear to his heart. He was actually born and raised across the street from the local post’s former headquarters

on Tuscarawas Avenue and remembers some of his first Christmas presents being provided by the post. “I remember getting a fire truck, a dump truck, a bag of nuts and then a bag of oranges,” he shared. “That’s one of the first Christmases I remember with the Salvation Army.”

As soon as he was old enough, Contini began to volunteer faithfully for the organization, with the exception of his eight years of service as a U.S. Marine. Contini served as a camp officer at Quantico from 1952 to 1960, and narrowly avoided being deployed to Korea. “They called up and said that you’re going to Korea on a Monday night. I packed up Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thurs- day night they called me and said I wasn’t going because I didn’t have enough time,” he explained. “I was short three weeks of going.”

Contini noted that more than 7,000 men lost their lives in the Korean War. “We lost thousands just on frostbite,” he said. “People lost legs, limbs and arms.”

After returning to Dover, Contini resumed his volunteer work with the local Salvation Army post. It’s an experience that he shares with his wife of 64 years, now that their three children have grown up and moved out on their own.