By Rosemarie Dowell
of PositivePress News
Lake and Volusia county churches, businesses and individuals rang bells Wednesday in appreciation of workers fighting the coronavirus, but there’s a good chance none rang longer than First Presbyterian Church of Eustis’.
For five long minutes, the church’s bell pealed as part of the Bells of Thanks project created and coordinated by the City of Eustis as a way to acknowledge and show thanks to those on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“Five minutes seems like a long time to ring the bell but it’s never enough to show thanks and appreciation for all our first responders who are putting their lives out there,” said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Mario Bolivar, during a Facebook Live feed.
The bell of the Center Street church, founded in 1884, was rung continuously by Cole Climo, son of church administrator Laurel Climo, with assistance from Gabryel Spuck and his little brother, Carter.
Despite a light rainfall, a few members pulled into the church parking lot and honked their horns at 4:15, the appointed time for everyone to “thank,” workers. Sirens, bells and car horns could be heard in the distance, but First Presbyterian’s bell rang the longest.
“It hit home more for me because my oldest son, Alyxander, is starting a career as a first responder and following in his dad’s footsteps,”’ said Anne Spuck, mother to Gabryel and Carter. “Having my boys ringing the bell made it even more special for me.”
Lifelong church member Ruth Palmer McCollum, 73, who brought a large homemade sign thanking workers for their love and caring, said she was thrilled with her church’s participation in the event.
“I love the fact that Pastor Mario took the time to Live Stream it on Facebook and end it with a prayer for the workers,” said McCollum, a church elder.
“I also love the fact one of our Buddy Break kids was involved too,” she said. Gabryel Spuck has Down syndrome and has often attended the church’s monthly respite program for kids with disabilities.
Besides the City of Eustis, partners included the Lake Eustis, East Lake, Leesburg, Mount Dora, South Lake and Tavares chambers of commerce, Lake County, the cities of Clermont, DeBary, DeLand, Edgewater, Lake Helen, Leesburg, Mount Dora, Port Orange, South Daytona, Tavares, and Umatilla, as well as the DeLand MainStreet Association, Leesburg Partnership.
Before the bell ringing began, Bolivar, a native of Columbia, who has two children with his wife, Melissa, spoke about the reason behind Bells of Thanks.
“Today, we are ringing the bells to create acknowledgment and to show our thanks for all those first responders who are fighting really hard against a pandemic that is attacking our country and the world,” he said.
To watch First Presbyterian’s Bells of Thanks bell ringing go to https://www.facebook.com/FirstChurchEustis