By MATT CAMPBELL
A holiday chorus making the rounds of retirement communities in Johnson County last weekend set a personal best and possibly a local record for one-day donations to the Salvation Army.
The Heart of America Chorus, comprised of more than 40 volunteers, raised nearly $23,000 in one six-hour period Saturday. That was up from last year’s take of just under $7,000.
“I almost passed out, it was unbelievable,” said chorus co-chairman Mike Mathieu, who carried a peck basket to collect all the donations that were tossed to the group by residents at the retirement centers. “We’ve done it every year for a lot of years and to jump to this total is just beyond our wildest expectations.”
The Salvation Army was impressed, too.
“I have not seen anybody deliver that kind of number in six hours before,” said Andy Wheeler, bell-ringing and special events coordinator for the Salvation Army in the Kansas City metro area. “I would be surprised if anybody did better than that nationally.”
Wheeler said even a good day in front of a store for 10 hours would not produce such a large sum of donations.
The Heart of America Chorus is the local chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society and has been around since the late 1930s. For several decades the group serenaded shoppers. But Mathieu said the audience needs to be seated. That way they stick around, listen and donate more. The last year the group played a mall was at Metro North and they raised only about $2,800.
Then in 2006 they started visiting retirement centers in Johnson County and collected about $4,500. Their record before this year was nearly $11,400.
The group uses a school bus, sponsored by the J.E. Dunn Construction Co., to visit the Atriums, The Forum, Town Village Leawood, Grand Court Overland Park, Silvercrest at Deer Creek and Tallgrass Creek senior centers.
At each stop they perform for a half-hour, singing traditional Christmas and Hanukkah songs, reportedly to packed audiences.
Whatever their magic is, Wheeler hopes they continue to perform it.
“What they’re doing is nothing short of amazing,” he said. “They’re incredible.”