Dec 12, 2022 7:37 PM

Burlington Man Lost His Legs, But Found His Soul

Posted Dec 12, 2022 7:37 PM

Above: Salvation Army bell ringer Trevor Glade-Siebert of Burlington greets customers at the Hy-Vee on Agency Street on Monday, Dec. 5. Glade-Siebert lost both legs in a medical accident 18 years ago but has found purpose and faith through the Salvation Army and his volunteer efforts. Photo/William Smith

By William Smith                                                                                            Community Editor

Burlington native and resident Trevor Glade-Siebert was a punk rock skateboarder for a good portion of his life, and was on the verge of turning his passion into a career.

Then, he lost his legs in what he calls a “hospital mess-up.”

“If I hadn’t lost my legs, I would have gone pro in two to six months,” he said.

The ensuing depression nearly ended his life, but he credits God for giving him the strength to go on. That divine intervention came through various sources.

“If it wasn’t for special needs and the Salvation Army and my friends and family, I wouldn’t have made it through,” he said.

Five years ago, Glade-Siebert started ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign. The campaign raises money for the charitable organization and is used to help with programs and annual operating costs.

Glade-Siebert has been hooked ever since.

“It’s such a good cause and good people, I keep on coming back,” he said while ringing the Salvation Army bell in front of the Agency Street Hy-Vee Monday, Dec. 5. 

Salvation Army bell ringers come in two flavors — paid bell ringers, who work eight-hour shifts in front of local retail stores, and volunteer bell ringers, who typically work on the weekend. Glade-Siebert is one of the paid ringers and said the weekend volunteers are a big help to the organization.

Glade-Siebert takes pride in his work as well. He always has.

“I can still do the same things anyone else can do. It just takes a little more time, and a little bit more effort. That’s one thing I pride myself on,” he said. 

Glade-Siebert lost his legs 18 years ago and worked at McDonald’s for 13 years — before and after the accident. Those first 10 years were great. 

He worked at McDonald’s across the country, from California to Virginia, as well as at McDonald’s in Burlington.

“I did everything there,” he said.

After losing his legs, Glade-Siebert discovered he couldn’t do everything when he returned to work. Physical limitations and motivation weren’t the problems. It was a sanitary-health issue.

“You can’t work with food, because you are wheelchair-bound. You can’t touch the wheels and then touch the food,” he said.

That limited Glade-Siebert to working the drive-thru, which he didn’t exactly find fulfilling. Not as fulfilling as ringing the bell for the Salvation Army.

“One of the coolest moments was last week at Walmart, this little kid had a piggy bank. And he’s like, ‘I want to donate this.’ And it was so cute. The kids make it worth it,” he said.

After five years, Glade-Siebert is starting to become a familiar face around Christmas time. Most offer greetings and a healthy “Merry Christmas.” Some stop to chat for a bit.

“I have this one guy who comes and tells me a joke every time he sees me,” he said.

Several people have asked Glade-Siebert about the silver rings that adorn the fingers of both hands. Most of them are crosses. The skull ring on his left hand was a gift from a friend. 

“I’m really religious, and I like my crosses,” he said.

So far, the weather hasn’t been too bad, but it will be. 

The Salvation Army bell ringers are ready, undeterred by snow and sub-zero temperatures. 

Glade-Siebert wears several layers of clothing during his shift, as well as a battery-heated jacket inside his larger coat.

“Last year was so cold, and this year is going to get worse,” he said.

Glade-Siebert doesn’t do it for the paycheck, though that’s certainly helpful. He’s more concerned that the Salvation Army meets its campaign goal this year.

“I’m really looking to get quota this year,” he said. “I want to do some volunteering for the Salvation Army, too.”

The goal for this year’s campaign is $185,000, which includes a mail-in donation campaign that comprises about $120,000.

That still leaves $65,000 that has to be raised through the kettles.

“We are hoping to surpass the goal. Last year, we did not meet the goal or come anywhere close to the goal,” said Salvation Army Lt. Nathan Welch.

Welch said last year’s kettle campaign goal was $190,000, but only about $120,000 to $130,000 was raised. That was mostly due to a lack of bell ringers.

“That was the biggest hurt last year. We just didn’t have enough ringers to fill all the spaces we had,” Welch said. “Usually the last week or two of the Christmas season is when we make the most money – at least 50 percent, even more. During that last week, we only had one or two ringers out. And that was out of the 13 sites. That’s a big part of why we didn’t make what we were hoping to make.”

Applications for paid and volunteer bell ringers are still being taken, and bell ringers will continue to raise money through Dec. 24. 

For more information, call the Salvation Army at  (319) 753-2038.