Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Salvation Army social worker

Donations in Action: Goodbye, cardboard shelter

Added on Tuesday, February 7, 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:

Goodbye, cardboard shelter

Not long ago I helped a woman get into her own apartment. For three years she’d been living outside in a shack built of wood and cardboard.

Just before she moved in to her new home, she asked me, “You don’t remember me, do you?” The woman told me she had come to see me three years earlier. I had given her food and clothing, and I had prayed with her.

“Now I am blessed with a real apartment,” the woman said to me. “I have never forgotten the love and kindness you showed me. You told me to put all my troubles into one basket, pray over them, and hand them to God.”

Suddenly, I remembered the woman. It was great to see her again. I was thrilled to have helped her start a new, more stable life.

Sleeping in a swimsuit

I recently began providing long-term counseling to a single mother through The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program. The woman had been battling depression for a long time and rarely left her house.

Soon after we began meeting, the woman and her 4-year-old daughter made positive steps forward by setting and working toward these two goals:

Goal 1: The woman wanted to get into regular spiritual counseling. Just a few days earlier, a volunteer at our church had inquired about becoming a spiritual mentor. I paired them up immediately. God’s timing was perfect.

Goal 2: The woman wanted to get her daughter more involved with other children. I told the woman I could get her daughter into swimming lessons. The woman loved the idea, but there was a problem: Her daughter had outgrown her swimming suit. Thankfully, I was able get her daughter a new swimming suit. The little girl picked it out herself – a pink tutu with cheetah designs.

Later, the woman sent me this upbeat thank you note: “Thank you so much! She loves her new swimsuit! I can’t get her to take it off! She even slept in it last night!”

Dignity restored

A man in his 50s needed food from our food shelf. He had lost everything after splitting from his wife, becoming depressed, and not finding a good full-time job. To stay afloat, he’d been working temp jobs.

While the man explained his circumstances, I sensed he wasn’t telling me the whole story. He seemed to be holding back for the sake of his pride. We continued to talk. I learned that he was having a hard time affording gasoline because his temp jobs were all over the city and sometimes far from his home. In addition, he had recently received a shut-off notice from his energy provider; he needed about $150 to get caught up.

After verifying his income and his payment history to his energy provider, I was able to give the man food and gas cards, and pay the outstanding balance of his energy bill.

The man couldn’t believe it. He had only come in for a little bit of food to get him by. When he realized all we could do for him, he fought back tears. By not allowing his pride to get in the way of telling me his whole story, The Salvation Army was able to impact his life far beyond what he had expected.

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