Opinion | November 29, 2016 | Brian Hamilton | The Union
Chat up Ron Cherry and it won’t take long until his passion pops up in the conversation.
But which one will it be?
The topic that’s most likely to turn up is cars — or, rather, hot rods and classics — which he puts on display each week through his “Wheels” column published Saturdays in The Union. He’s been writing the column for just more than 10 years now, since first starting out by featuring his fellow members of the Roamin Angels Car Club and their own labor of loves out in the garage or under the tarp. He’s since expanded the column in our Weekender edition to include any area resident who shares his penchant for project cars.
But cars might not be what’s on his mind if you bump into him this week. He might be a bit more focused on making the holidays a bit brighter for local children, something that’s become an annual tradition of his car club members.
This Saturday, for the 27th consecutive year, the Roamin Angels will host its Toy Drive at the Kmart parking lot in Grass Valley. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., generous community members can drop off a toy to be donated to a young person in the community, while also enjoying free coffee, doughnuts, hot dogs and popcorn, as well as a bake sale, a performance by the Lyman Gilmore Holiday Bombers, an Honor Guard ceremony and, of course, a chat with Santa Claus.
For those getting a close-up with Mr. Claus, don’t be surprised if he looks a bit familiar. Ron Cherry has taken on that role for more than a decade, as well.
Roamin Angels partners with the Salvation Army to adopt families in need each holiday season, helping to ensure our community’s children have a gift on Christmas morning through Saturday’s toy or cash donations.
Lately, Ron has taken on a much larger role in the community, becoming the chair of the Salvation Army’s Advisory Board at a time when several nonprofit organizations faced significant funding gaps for its programs due to state and federal budget cuts. In addition to advocating for more support from local government and donations from members of the community, Cherry has been busy recruiting bell ringers for the Salvation Army’s annual red kettle collections.
He helped organize what’s become a friendly “Battle of the Media” between KNCO 830-AM radio and The Union to see which entity could raise more money for the Salvation Army. In 2014, The Union cleaned KNCO’s clock. In 2015, KNCO returned the favor. Consider this holiday season an opportunity to settle the score with a rubber match. I know The Union’s team will be out in full force 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 9, at SPD Market in Grass Valley, but haven’t heard word on the radio station’s plans.
Of course, Cherry wouldn’t miss out on the fun. He’s already organized two groups to ring the bell this season, including his fellow members of Trinity Episcopal Church and the Gold Country Celtic Society — the latter of which he plans to wear his Santa suit above the waist and a kilt below.
“The more people I get out there ringing the bell, the more people will donate,” Cherry said. “Hey, this is my community. It’s my home. I live here.”
Like so many more generous people who call western Nevada County home, Ron Cherry’s roll-up-the-sleeves volunteerism is the sort of spirit that makes this community go. But as is the case with many of those same folks, he’d rather his efforts were noticed only in an end result of making this a better place to live for everyone.
“For me, a lot of it what I do is because of my faith,” he said. “We’ve been told by someone far better than us that, ‘When you done it for the least of these, you’ve done it for me.’ And that’s been a lesson to me.
“These are my brothers and sisters,” he said. “I’m supposed to help them. And I do, to the best of my ability.”
What else can we ask, but for the rest of us to follow his lead?
This holiday season, let’s help the good people of our community do the good work, by doing the same.