‘Tis the season to be jolly. And generous.
It’s disappointing to learn the local, St. Cloud-based Salvation Army is behind by about $30,000 on its red-kettle donations this season. The agency hopes to raise between $225,000 and $230,000. Last year the bellringers raised an impressive $219,000.
Those funds are vital for operating many services at the Salvation Army. As Jim Muellenbach, community-development director for the Salvation Army, stated in a news story in the Sartell and St. Joseph Newsleaders last week, “We’re not just a holiday organization; we’re open 12 months a year.”
Many people do not know that. Or forget that. They assume the Salvation Army is just a seasonal service to help feed needy people or to get toys to needy families. And the agency, indeed, does a great job in those important tasks.
But, as Muellenbach pointed out, there are so many other tremendous services the agency offers.
There is the 69-bed shelter in East St. Cloud that provides critical emergency shelter for people down on their luck, including quite a few families with children – some on a waiting list.
The agency distributes annually more than 5,000 warm coats, hats and mittens, which is a crucial need in this region’s cold weather.
The Salvation Army’s Food Shelf distributes, year-round, 240 tons of food to people who are hurting.
It provides school supplies, including backpacks, to children whose parents are hard-strapped for money or who are completely broke.
And, of course, in keeping with the season, there is the Toy Store program in which parents or guardians can choose toys for their children at a central location.
Muellenbach said his job at the Salvation Army is by far the most rewarding job he’s ever had. That’s because not a day goes by but what he doesn’t see directly the result of people’s generosity and the agency’s services. And that heartwarming result is people getting back on their feet with a renewed spirit of hope and determination. Success stories abound, Muellenbach noted. It’s amazing what a “hand up” (as opposed to a “hand out”) can do to change the course of people’s lives. That ancient adage, “There but for fortune go you and I,” is so true. Muellenbach sees the truth of it every day when he meets people who were doing just fine just weeks before but who, through some calamity or combination of calamities, bring them to seek help at the Salvation Army. Such calamities include loss of a job, divorce or death, medical problems, mental problems or other forms of just plain rotten bad luck.
It’s good to remember those people during this season of giving. Please be generous to the Salvation Army and to other charities.