Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Don Kane portrait

Newfound philosophy pays off for military veteran

Added on Thursday, December 10, 2015

Donald Kane has a new favorite saying: Be the change.

The U.S. Marine Corps veteran often hears those three words from a nurse he sees at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis. He even posted the motto on a bulletin board inside his apartment, serving as a daily reminder to do good things, not just think about doing them.

The saying has sunk in. Now, Kane is the change.

His good deeds come in many forms: He regularly attends outreach programs to help other veterans in need. He is kind to people who’ve wronged him in the past. Three days a week, he drives a 71-year-old veteran to physical therapy.

Veteran housing facility in South Minneapolis“I’m growing every day,” said Kane, 51, who lives in South Minneapolis in a Salvation Army supportive housing facility for veterans (pictured).

Kane moved into the 10-unit complex in October. When he first saw his apartment, he determined that the place wasn’t quite clean enough for him.

The old Kane might have raised a stink about that. But not the new Kane.

“I thought, ‘Don’t whine about it. Clean it. Be the change,’” he said. “The Salvation Army gave me a great place to live. I didn’t want to be ungrateful.”

He cleaned the apartment, from top to bottom. He even soaked the window blinds in the bathtub.

“I have high cleaning standards,” he said.

The only thing he couldn’t clean was the carpets. He was stumped.

Be the change, he thought.

Suddenly, an idea. While listening to the KQRS morning radio show, he heard an advertisement for Zerorez carpet cleaning.

“I called Zerorez,” Kane said. “I told them I was a veteran living with other veterans trying to get back into the mainstream. I asked if they’d be willing to come out and clean.”

A Zerorez manager contacted Kane the next day. Not only did the company want to clean the carpets in Kane’s unit, they wanted to clean the carpets inside the entire building. Even better, the company offered to clean carpets at two other Salvation Army buildings, including the Harbor Light Shelter in Minneapolis.

Don Kane portrait“We are going to be using this project as a rather excellent training opportunity,” a Zerorez manager stated in an email to Kane.

Now, Kane is on a mission. He’s planning to contact other companies and ask if they’d be willing to donate their services to improve the lives of his fellow veterans in need – everything from cable providers, to flooring companies, to bedding-supply manufacturers, and more.

“My life is really starting to roll,” Kane said.

How Kane met The Salvation Army

Until the late 2000s, Kane had been employed his whole life. His post-military career includes more than two decades of working as a pipefitter for natural gas companies and, most recently, as a professional floorer.

“I’m a worker,” he said. “I’ve always had three jobs. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that.”

Like other construction professionals, Kane was hard hit by the recession in the late 2000s. Unable to find flooring work, he started drinking.


“It became a daily thing,” said Kane, who worked side jobs but eventually drained his life savings. “I was drinking four big glasses of vodka before I left the house.”

His bottom came on March 23, 2012, ending a spate of arrests for DUI and domestic conflicts. He spent months in treatment at the VA Hospital in St. Cloud.

He’s been moving forward ever since. He attends AA meetings every week and avoids places where people drink.

He went back to work fitting pipes more than a year ago, but had to stop after injuring his back.

“I was working 70 hours a week and it kicked my butt,” Kane said.

He underwent back surgery in May, rendering him unable to work any job that is too physically demanding.

“I can’t do the work I love anymore,” he said. “What am I going to do the rest of my life?”

Thanks to The Salvation Army, Kane has time to answer that question. Through The Salvation Army’s veteran housing program – which receives funding through the Grant and Per Diem program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Kane can live in a stable home for up to two years, giving him time to figure out his next step.

Kane isn’t yet sure what type of new career he wants to pursue, but he is open to anything. He realizes his back injury and past legal altercations could be a hindrance. But he is confident he will persevere.

“There’s something about telling me ‘never’ or ‘can’t’ that inspires me,” he said. “Those words are not in my vocabulary. As a Marine, I can, and I will. My obstacles can be overcome with time. I’m living right. I’m living good.”

Veteran served by The Salvation ArmyThe Salvation Army is proud to serve veterans like Kane. In Minnesota and North Dakota, we serve hundreds of them every year through a broad range of programs: housing, counseling, rehabilitation services, basic needs, and much more.

“I’m so grateful for The Salvation Army,” Kane said.

In 2013, KARE 11 reporter Boyd Huppert won a regional Emmy for his story about Kane. Watch the video.

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