Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Social worker

Donations in Action: Used goods change two lives

Added on Thursday, April 20, 2017

Written by Craig Dirkes, writer/photographer for The Salvation Army Northern Division

Many of the people The Salvation Army serves are in the middle of crazy, unpredictable circumstances. Their stories can be heartbreaking, uplifting, and everything in between.

Here are some of their stories, submitted by Salvation Army social workers and caseworkers from across Minnesota and North Dakota. Out of respect for the people involved, we are retelling the stories without using names.

If you have ever wondered how The Salvation Army uses your donations, here are some good examples:

Used clothes, furniture change two lives

Recently, I witnessed firsthand how donations to Salvation Army Stores change lives.

In one case, I met with a mom who had just finished treatment for substance abuse. She had gotten a job as a server, but she didn’t have money to pay for the clothes she needed for the job – black pants and nicer shoes. I gave her a voucher to spend at a Salvation Army Store. She went to the nearest store and got the clothes she needed to start her new job.

In another case, I met with a young mother and her son. They had been homeless for over a year, living at a shelter for women fleeing domestic abuse. After helping them secure stable housing, I gave them a Salvation Army Store voucher that they could use to purchase furniture for their new home.

All of these people were grateful. Their stories drive home the fact that donating used goods to Salvation Army Stores has the power to change lives.

Knowledge is power

Advocacy can be one of The Salvation Army’s most powerful services.

This fact became clear to me as I was helping a low-income senior citizen find permanent housing. He had been denied housing due to three things: his credit report, housing history, and criminal background.

What this man didn’t realize is that he had the option to appeal the decision. After listening to his story, I felt strongly that the decision could be overturned. We submitted an appeal, at which time the man explained the circumstances that led to his homelessness, financial situation, and criminal charge.

In the end, the housing authority sympathized with the man, overturned their decision, and granted him housing. The man was so thankful to have had The Salvation Army in his corner.

Homeless and pregnant

A young couple came to my office in dire circumstances: They were homeless, with a baby due in two months, without any access to medical care.

The couple was disabled and received SSI assistance. They had moved to Minnesota from Iowa after a relative invited them to live with him. But when the relative found out the couple would not allow him to be their SSI rep payee, he kicked them out. Thankfully, they were able to move in, temporarily, with a different relative in town.

I began helping the couple as much as I could, one need at a time. I connected them with a hospital so that the woman could receive prenatal care. I gave them clothes. I pointed them to our hot meal program, where they could eat a free nutritious meal every weekday. I helped get them started on finding their own housing.

Right now, we are working on obtaining their marriage license and birth certificates so that they can access additional services through the county. The couple has appreciated The Salvation Army’s guidance in helping them overcome their uncertain and highly stressful circumstances.

Help for couple living in car

A woman and her boyfriend came to our food shelf in need of groceries. A police officer had referred the couple to us after he discovered that they were living out of the woman’s car.

The woman had met her boyfriend soon after she fled an abusive relationship. She said her boyfriend stays with her in her car to keep her safe from being harassed on the street.

I gave the couple all the food they needed, plus hygiene supplies and other resources. I also referred them to The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center.

Please join The Salvation Army by volunteering or making a donation to support your local community.