Answering the call to serve in Duluth
Written by Jeffrey DeMars, divisional media relations director for The Salvation Army Northern Division
It was 1987 when 32-year-old Nancy Leslie walked through the doors of The Salvation Army in Duluth and accepted a job answering phones. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do – after all, she had a secretarial degree. Little did she know that job was the first step on the path to her true passion.
“If somebody told me way back when, that I would be doing social work for a living, I would have said you people are out of your minds,” laughed Leslie.
Her time answering phones was short-lived. Leslie found her calling as a case manager for The Salvation Army. For nearly three decades she’s been the go-to person for any family or individual needing financial assistance in Duluth.
Whether you need help with rent, electrical bills, water and gas, or transportation – Leslie answers the call. She helps whenever she can, but the reality is, assistance funds are tight.
People must first try to get help from the county or the state. If they’ve exhausted those avenues, then she can step in.
“But they have to go out and find work,” she explains. “The Salvation Army can’t provide a permanent fix, but we can help them get back on their feet and avoid a financial free fall.”
The demand for help is never ending – Leslie’s schedule is often booked out for weeks at a time. She meets with thousands of people each year and with the cold weather and the holiday season just around the corner, she’ll meet with hundreds more to help with holiday gifts and meals.
She says the toughest thing is having to say no, when the need is too great or the funds just aren’t there. But those are the moments when she offers what she always has in great supply – compassion.
“I’ve had people come into my office and they sit down and just start crying,” she explained. “As it turned out they didn’t even want anything they just needed a place where they could sit down, be safe, and cry.”
Providing spiritual care, as well as practical help is challenging – but she said the rewards of the job are far greater.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else other than this,” she said. “I could not imagine it.”