Sean Spence rang a bell for a record-setting 34 hours Saturday and Sunday outside First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, raising awareness and funds to fight local poverty.

“It’s been wonderful. I’ve had all kinds of incredible people, my friends and community leaders,” Spence said about 30 hours into the event.

Ringing the bell alongside Spence were local leaders who pitched into the effort.

“We’ve got business leaders, we’ve got elected officials, political candidates, all of these people that have been spending their time helping us to get this word out. And also keeping me awake. We’ve been sharing stories and learning about each other. And it’s been very fun.”

Spence, a Columbia resident and Salvation Army employee, was joined by several mayoral hopefuls over the course of the event, as well as Columbia Public School Board Member Blake Willoughby and state congressional candidate Chimene Schwach.

“Everything that we are collecting goes directly out to people in Columbia, and directly helps the people in poverty,” said Amanda Lewis, Miss Columbia 2022.

To achieve his goal of 34 hours, Spence took a 15 minute break every eight hours and had very little to eat or drink.

“I was intrigued because it was 34 hours. No sleep. Are you kidding me?” said Melissa Gomes, Miss Boone County 2022. Gomes was decked out in Santa garb for the occasion.

At the time of publication, Spence said he wasn’t sure exactly how close he’d gotten to his goal of raising $5,000 but he said that they’d filled three buckets with cash donations as well as those collected online at

The previous record for marathon bell ringing, according to Spence, is 28 hours. It’s held by a handbell choir.

“This is actually a new record that hasn’t ever been broken before,” Spence said. “And so, to make the case to the Guinness Book of World Records, I just wanted to be able to say, ‘Okay, well, we beat everybody else who said they’ve done it.’”

He said the Guinness World Records organization currently does not have a record related to Salvation Army bell ringing. Spence found similar records and attempts that guided his decision to choose the 34-hour mark.

“The whole event is pretty unorthodox, but it is just one more example of the Salvation Army slogan that ‘With your help, hope marches on,’” Curtiss Hartley of The Salvation Army of Mid-Missouri said in a news release. “Hopefully it will be a reminder that there are a lot of people in need and every one of us can do something to help.”

For more information about Columbia’s Salvation Army, go to

  • Spring 2022 reporter covering state government. Reach me at or in the newsroom at (573) 882 5700

  • Assistant city editor, grad student studying investigative reporting and photojournalism. You can reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

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