PITTSBURG — The Salvation Army in Pittsburg will have a special guest ringing the bell for donations on Wednesday.
Jack the Bible Donkey has been a beloved fixture in Southeast Kansas for the last decade, and from 10 a.m. to noon, Wednesday and again on Saturday, fans can drop their donations in the kettle at the Salvation Army, 307 E 5th St. in Pittsburg, then greet the charismatic Jack.
Jack is 13, a newly-minted teenager, and lives with Yvonne and Denny Kay in rural Girard. Mrs. Kay said her interest in the Salvation Army was passed on to her from her father.
“I think it’s a fabulation organization,” she said. “When I was a kid, my dad used to say how wonderful the Salvation Army was. I think it had a lot to do with their involvement in World War II.”
When Kay entered adulthood, she knew she wanted to support the organization as well.
“I would go to the bank and get a lot of silver dollars,” she said. “Everytime I’d pass a kettle I’d put one in.”
Jack’s career in entertainment began by accident when the Kays’ granddaughter came to stay with them. Mrs. Kay said she wanted a farm animal for her granddaughter to play with, but the relationship never quite took off.
“He was wild and hard to catch,” she said. “We’d trap him and I’d start working at getting him to walk, to lead.”
Not long after, she discovered Jack had a penchant for tricks, something uncharacteristic for donkeys.
“I started asking if he could bow his head, then if he could stomp his hoof.”
His repertoire grew from two tricks to four and the Kays took him on his first outing to a nursing home.
“We didn’t even know if he’d perform for them,” she said. “But he did his four tricks and went around and visited all the people.”
Jack is still a regular visitor to area nursing homes as well as vacation bible schools. He also makes house calls for birthdays and other festivities. Kay said Jack performs entirely for free and does not take donations.
“It’s a way for us to give back to the community we’ve drawn from,” she said.
Over the years, Kay said Jack’s trick bag has only grown.
“He plays basketball with a Little Tykes hoop,” she said, “he does magic tricks, he opens the trash can...”
Most importantly to the Kays, he rings a bell.
“Our main goal right now is just to raise money for the Salvation Army,” Kay said. “I don’t want Jack’s performance to overshadow what’s really important.”