Singing Salvation Army volunteer brings holiday cheer to Pa. market

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Thursday, December 23, 2021
Singing Salvation Army volunteer brings holiday cheer
Decades ago, The Salvation Army helped him. Now, Mr. Bob is giving back by singing and dancing to raise money for a good cause.

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I would not be here today if it were not for the kindness and service that the Salvation Army has done for me," said Robert Baxter.

Baxter, also known as "Mr. Bob," was not always the biggest fan of the charitable organization. At perhaps the lowest point of his life, he found himself struggling with drugs and food insecurity. But when The Salvation Army reached out to start a dialogue, Baxter realized he was wrong about them.

"I lost everything in my life. However, they fed me. They clothed me. They gave me shelter. They gave me food. They did all these things for me," he said. "And I've been with the Salvation Army ever since."

Baxter, a retired gym teacher, now spends his free time assisting The Salvation Army in their charitable work. Throughout the year, he works in their music program providing lessons to children with the West Philadelphia Corps. And famously, during the holiday season, he can be found ringing and singing Christmas songs outside various marketplaces for the Red Kettle Campaign.

"As a teacher, I always sang to my children. Now, I get a chance to use my professional voice to just sing Christmas carols," he said. "Just to bring a little bit of joy to those who may not experience it during the regular season."

Victoria Scheinfeld from Villanova, Pennsylvania, had stopped into Gentile's Market to purchase some groceries. But she left with a priceless gift in the form of holiday cheer.

"I was in Gentile's shopping and I could hear this amazing voice and I just was filled with this spirit of Mr. Bob," she said. "He is the ambassador of love and music. I mean, he's out here for hours."

Scheinfeld recorded a video of Mr. Bob singing and shared it with family and friends on social media. His voice touched hearts far and wide on the internet.

"He's just special," she said. "I love him."

The Salvation Army will soon conclude their holiday Red Kettle Campaign, but the charitable work must continue year-round for individuals in need.

"It could be where they need a place to stay, they need hot food, they need educational assistance," said Major Tawny Cowen-Zanders, Divisional Secretary for Greater Philadelphia with The Salvation Army. "Whatever they need, we're there to stand in the gap for them."

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with The Salvation Army, visit their website.

RELATED: Beloved Philadelphia community service representative retires after 30 years

You may recognize his smile if you've walked through Center City, Philadelphia, in the last three decades.