CHAMPAIGN — Justus Clinton and Jason Rector are not only civil servants in Champaign, they're long-time close family friends who enjoy cooking up schemes together that often benefit others.
So when Clinton, a Champaign police officer, recently called Rector, a Champaign firefighter, with a plan to help a charity dear to their professional hearts, it didn't take long for Rector to endorse the idea.
And the winner will be the Salvation Army.
From 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, the bell ringers at all the red kettle locations in Champaign — 16 of them — will be Champaign police, firefighters and their families. There will be two shifts of three hours each. Firefighters will man eight locations and police will staff eight.
"We just thought it would be something fun to do," said Clinton. "We really encouraged our guys to share this experience with their families."
Both Clinton and Rector said the Salvation Army provides resources that help them in their respective professions.
Clinton said the agency often takes in homeless folks or people who have ended up in Champaign with nowhere else to go, which is of great assistance to police officers.
The Salvation Army also runs Canteen One, a mobile unit often on the scene of major fires.
"They provide coffee, water, Gatorade, fruits and small snacks for us, the emergency workers, and also people that might be affected by the fire," said Rector.
The men said several of their colleagues have willingly stepped up to volunteer their bell-ringing time. They are authorized to wear their uniforms but because they are off-duty, they won't be required to. A city council member of two may even help, Clinton said.
Rector said he and Clinton started the "Guns vs. Hoses" charity football game between Champaign police and firefighters a few years back which has evolved into a less injury-prone softball league of emergency workers from Urbana, the University of Illinois, the ambulance services and METCAD dispatchers.
"A lot of us live in the community and we like to give back," said Rector. "To partner with Champaign police will be a good opportunity to raise money for the Salvation Army. They give to the community and they give to the police and fire departments."