Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
a Salvation Army volunteer pushes a shopping cart

Meet the 2018 volunteers of the year

Added on Friday, April 13, 2018

One of The Salvation Army’s favorite times of year has arrived: National Volunteer Week, which runs April 15–21.

The Salvation Army Northern Division loves and appreciates all of our 68,500 volunteers in Minnesota and North Dakota. Last year they donated more than 355,000 hours, helping us serve hot meals, ring bells, push paperwork, mentor at-risk kids, and more. Their handling of these and other tasks allows The Salvation Army to reach more people in the name of Jesus Christ.

Of all our volunteers, three have stood out for their uncommon grit, longevity and dedication. They are our 2018 Volunteers of the Year – Melanie Carlson, Anna Redmond, and the Underwood Lions Club.

“Congratulations to this year’s winners,” said Lt. Col. Lonneal Richardson, leader of The Salvation Army Northern Division. “Their dedication captures the spirit of The Salvation Army and our commitment to serving people in need.”

Lifetime Service Award: Anna Redmond

Anna Redmond has won this year’s Lifetime Service Award for good reason: The 86-year-old has been eating, sleeping, and breathing The Salvation Army for 70 years.

Picture of Anna RedmondAnna first started volunteering when she was 16, serving as an assistant leader for kids enrolled in Salvation Army character building programs.

In the decades that followed, her volunteer efforts blossomed to include service in a multitude of areas, in places all over the world. That includes Volgograd, Russia, where Anna and her husband helped reestablish a Salvation Army location and its various programs, including spiritual outreach and a meal program that served 100 people per day.

“Anna has worked with multiple Salvation Army locations to enhance their outreach programs,” said Major Jim Curl, co-leader of The Salvation Army in Maplewood, Minn., where Anna focuses most of her volunteer efforts today. “Through Anna’s ministry, many people have come to the Lord, grown in their faith, and learned to serve others.”

One of Anna’s most memorable volunteer moments occurred years ago at a Salvation Army summer camp, where she administered first aid to a Salvation Army officer who was struck by lightning, staying with him until medical help arrived.

These days, Anna can be found serving meals, clearing tables, and washing dishes every week at the Maplewood Salvation Army Adult Day Center. She also:

  • Greets guests of the Maplewood Salvation Army food shelf and offers them refreshments.
  • Visits local nursing homes to spend time with lonely seniors on behalf of The Salvation Army.
  • Makes quilts to donate to local youth and housing programs.

The Salvation Army is quite literally in Anna’s blood. She is a fourth-generation “Salvationist,” meaning that the three previous generations of her family were members of Salvation Army churches.

“Anna promotes The Salvation Army as a church for all to learn the love of Jesus Christ,” Curl said. “She embraces various cultures, ethnicities and age groups, always treating others with respect and dignity. She is a shining example of what it means to be a Salvation Army volunteer and a servant of Christ.”

Group Award: Underwood Lions Club

“Whenever this group gets together, problems get smaller and communities get better.”

Group photo of Underwood LionsThose are the words of Lt. Anthony Nordan regarding the Underwood Lions Club in Fergus Falls, Minn. – this year’s Volunteer Group of the Year.

The Underwood Lions are a deserving bunch: They have singlehandedly ensured that the most lucrative red kettle in Fergus Falls has been staffed, continuously, for the past two decades. They’ve rung bells outside their local Mills Fleet Farm every Christmas season since 1999, and when club members haven’t been able to staff the kettle themselves, they’ve recruited others to take their spot.

In total, the Underwood Lions have tallied just over 5,000 hours of bell ringing in the past 20 years, raising about $515,000 worth of kettle donations.

“This group is committed,” said Nordan, co-leader of the Fergus Falls Salvation Army. “Even when the wind chill reaches 45 below, you can find a member of the Underwood Lions Club ringing at Fleet Farm. They stand up to the call of duty.”

In 2017 alone, the Underwood Lions rang for a total of 170 hours while recruiting community members to ring for another 94 hours. Together, they raised just over $25,000 at the Fleet Farm kettle location. That’s about $95 per hour – more than three times the national average for kettle donations.

Nordan added: “The Underwood Lions have taken our busiest kettle location and said, ‘Don’t worry, we got this. Where there’s a need, there’s one of us.’”

In addition to volunteering for the Fergus Falls Salvation Army, members of the Underwood Lions Club also serve their local community by delivering meals to senior citizens, cleaning ditches along local highways, sponsoring local school programs, and much more.

“The impact they’ve had on the Fergus Falls Salvation Army and our community is phenomenal,” Nordan said.

Individual Award: Melanie Carlson

When most people are going home to relax after a long day of work, Melanie Carlson is heading to The Salvation Army in Fergus Falls, Minn. to volunteer.

Photo of Melanie CarlsonEvery single weekday, Carlson spends four hours supporting youth enrolled in the Fergus Falls Salvation Army after-school program. She cooks and serves meals, helps kids with their homework, plays with them in the gym, and much more.

“Melanie is incredibly valuable to us,” said Lynne Verhaagh, volunteer coordinator at the Fergus Falls Salvation Army. “Without her help, many duties would go unaccomplished.”

Carlson’s efforts don’t stop there. She also:

  • Is a leader for the Fergus Falls Salvation Army’ youth character building programs.
  • Rings bells during the Christmas season.
  • Delivers quilts to and visits with lonely seniors at nursing homes.

One of Carlson’s most valuable attributes is her empathy for people experiencing hard times. After losing her husband in a tragic car accident 10 years ago, she knows what hopelessness feels like, and she knows the healing power of God’s love.

“She shares her story of how God’s love saved her from the brink of despair,” Verhaagh said. “She gives hope to people who have none.”

Prior to the accident, Carlson and her husband had been volunteering together at the Fergus Falls Salvation Army for two years, beginning in 2006. Since then, Carlson has not stopped giving her time. She continues to carry forward her and her husband’s passion for helping the lost and the hurting.

“Melanie is an excellent representative of The Salvation Army,” Verhaagh said. “She would do anything within her power for anyone. Her commitment to helping others is endless.”

Video Thank You Note

Please join us during National Salvation Army Week by volunteering or making a donation to support your local community.