PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh International Airport's decision to ban solicitors has upset some frequent fliers who have been greeted by the same stalwart Salvation Army worker for the last 16 years.
Marilyn Darnley, 72, had tears in her eyes Friday as she sat by the red kettle and told donors about the ban, which will go into effect Sept. 1. Darnley is the only year-round kettle collector in the region.
"I love the airport, and I love The Salvation Army," Darnley told Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.
Some passengers questioned the logic of banning Darnley.
"What better public servant can you find?" Beaver resident Jeff Ragazzini said. "She comes in every day early in the morning, and it's a friendly, wonderful face you get used to seeing. I can't see that she's causing any harm."
Michael Beck, of East Liverpool, Ohio, said he will be very sorry to see her go.
"She knows me. Every time I fly, I donate something. She's my good-luck charm," Beck said.
Airport Authority spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said some customers were uncomfortable with solicitations, and other airports have similar bans. Other charities will also be affected, Jenny said, but The Salvation Army was present more often than any other.
"The Airport Authority thinks very highly of The Salvation Army. Their organization provides a great service. It's just a matter of re-evaluating our policies," Jenny said.
Salvation Army Maj. Paul Moore said he's "kind of shocked" by the change. The charity likely can't afford to employ Darnley without airport donations. Darnley is paid for working four days a week, but volunteers on the fifth day and other hours to complete her week.
"We understand they have a right to change their policy. I'm just not sure why," Moore said. "Marilyn has been very successful. She knows a lot of people there and has a lot of good contacts including several Steelers players. It's going to hurt."