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Thank you to the Red Kettle bell ringers

By Jennie Hevern, Alexandria, MN Each year the Douglas County Salvation Army responds to families and individuals with crisis intervention assistance. The Salvation Army bell ringers together with generous donors to the Red Kettle Bell Ringer Campaign provide the financial resources together with a grant from the Douglas-Pope United Way, the Otto Bremer Foundation for homeless youth and families and hundreds of quilts from area quilters and a church that provides stockings and personal care items for the homeless.

In some cases when the crisis seems insurmountable, anonymous donors come together with funding to meet the needs.

As the outreach volunteer for the Douglas County Salvation Army, I feel privileged to get to know the families and individuals in our community who are in emergency situations. Some needs can be taken care of fairly quickly; other needs are more complex.

There is a myth that lingers out in the public arena that folks are making poor choices in how they spend their money, they need a financial literacy class and/or they’re working the system and they need to get a job.

A brief intake is taken from folks applying for assistance from the Salvation Army and the facts are: 70 percent are the working poor, many households have three part-time jobs or one full time and two part-time jobs. Their household gross income for two adults and two children averages $1,800 a month. Twenty percent of the folks are disabled, with incomes averaging $725 a month and 10 percent are elderly, with average household incomes of $695 a month.

I don’t have the answers to how we change the human conditions that face many families and individuals. But this I know for sure: Every one of these families has children and every one of their children need to be cared for by as many folks as it takes to raise them up. This I know for sure: If this community wants something that even just a few people believe in, it will happen.

If you are unsure about that, take a drive around the community and look at all the improvements from small to huge that have been accomplished because folks have said, “We can do this.”

I hope that one day, folks who attend meetings and hear the conditions of poor, overpriced rental housing (where the electric and heating costs are as much as the monthly rent) will come to understand and be willing to come together as a community, both the private and public sector, to address these issues.

I hope that all children who are Head Start age who enroll to attend can go and not have to stay home because the parents cannot afford the monthly transportation costs.

I hope that when people address the issue of poverty that we have the discussion without taking folks’ dignity away.

A family in our community had the furnace stop working. A furnace company checked the furnace and it was deemed to be unrepairable and if tinkered with would be unsafe. The home was being purchased by a contract for deed, and that contract had to be verified. The family was then homeless and was housed until the contract for deed could be verified and the funds raised to replace the furnace. In the meantime, the water froze and pipes bursts. Donors provided the funds and soon the family was back in their home.

I went to visit the family several days later and children always want you to see their baby sister or their doll or books. A 3-year-old took my hand and said, “Lady, come see with me.” She took me down the hall and said, “Lady, see, we have heat.” She put her little hands on the front of the furnace and said, “Now we are warm.”

And so, without the support of all the Red Kettle bell ringers who ring year after year themselves and recruit additional ringers, this could not happen.

The Douglas County Salvation Army extends a thank you filled with gratitude that each year the area responds to the needs of people by allowing the bell ringers on their business site to ring the bells and that donors donate and frequently tell a bell ringer their experiences with The Salvation Army.