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Charitable Ro: One woman gives at her own expense

Salvation Army Lieutenant Roger Miller calls her an iconone of those rare people who volunteers without fail and is so reliable that they become a sort of fixture in the community.

Rowina Squires, or "Auntie Ro," as she is known in bell ringing circles, is an icon. At the age of 84, she still gives almost 12 hours a day to the Salvation Army, collecting donations as she sits and smiles beside her red kettle.

Auntie Ro began swinging the clapper at the Saratoga Race Course a dozen years ago. She didn't do it to be charitable, she said. Instead, having been retired for a number of years, she just wanted to meet people.

"When people come up to me and they give, I talk to them," she said. "And after you've talked to someone, they're not a stranger anymore."

At the race course, during the summer and without a winter holiday to nudge people toward generosity, Auntie Ro said she sees people at their best and worst.

"I have people come up and tell me that they lost all day, but they was saving their last dollar for me," she said.

And sometimes it's the other way around. Rowina still tells a story of a woman she encountered her first summer at the track: "This woman was very well dressed, and she was counting money all out in the open." So Rowina tried to make eye contact with the woman, to see if she would make a donation. "And do you know what she did? When she was done counting her money, she came and gave me a penny. A penny!" Rowina exclaimed. "I asked if she wanted it back!"

Five years ago, Rowina began ringing the bell at the Wilton Price Chopper during the holiday season. Though she still considers it "new territory" for her, she likes it. So much so, that she virtually never leaves.

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