Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Anthony Raj

Man chooses volunteering over mourning

Added on Monday, December 19, 2016

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

Anthony Raj Sr. could have spent Dec. 12 all by himself, mourning the loss of his son. Instead, he chose to celebrate him by volunteering at The Salvation Army.

His son, Anthony Raj Jr., died of an overdose exactly one year earlier, on Dec. 12, 2015.

“I’ve been in my shell a whole year over this,” said Raj Sr. (pictured above). “It was time to get out and do something different.”

Raj Sr. wasn’t alone. Several members of his family joined him at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Shelter in downtown Minneapolis, where they served hot beef stroganoff to hundreds of people experiencing homelessness.

Marlene Swanson hands out socksHis mother, Marlene Swanson (pictured), took their good deed further by handing out new socks – 240 pairs for men, 140 pairs for women. The men and women who received the socks were thrilled.

“My grandson always valued clean, dry socks,” Swanson said. “When you are homeless, they are invaluable.”

Raj Jr. had been homeless, off and on, throughout his life before dying at the age of 29. He sometimes received help from The Salvation Army, for which Raj Sr. will always be grateful.

“The Salvation Army does so much for so many people,” he said.

Been there

Raj Sr. and his mother are familiar with homelessness and addiction themselves. Both of the Brooklyn Park residents are in recovery, with Swanson celebrating 32 years of sobriety, and Raj Sr., 17 years.

Hot meal“I’ve been through these food lines before,” Raj Sr. recalled. “I know what it’s like.”

He kicked his addiction by looking to God.

“Prayer is so important,” Raj Sr. said. “If I could tell anybody anything, it’s to get with God. You might not get where you’re going the next day or the next month, but if you have faith in God, you will get there.”

Raj Sr. is living proof that his statement is true. During his recovery, he began working at a shoe repair shop in Maplewood, earning $8 per hour and barely able to make ends meet. Today, he owns the place.

Looking ahead, Raj Sr. plans to volunteer many more times.

“Now that I’ve cracked the shell, I’m ready to do more helping here and at other places,” he said. “There’s nothing like someone saying thank you for giving them food.”

Your turn

The Salvation Army could use your help, too. Donations and volunteers are desperately needed to support Harbor Light (pictured), the state’s largest homeless outreach facility.

Harbor LightVolunteer activities include meal service, sorting donations, office help, cleaning, maintenance, and much more. Learn more or sign up.

Monetary donations to Harbor Light fund the high expense of serving hot meals and providing warm beds to hundreds of people who’d otherwise be left in the cold. Please donate to Harbor Light now.

In addition to meals and shelter, Harbor Light offers many other services for those experiencing homelessness. Here are just a few:

  • Acupuncture
  • Medical and dental screenings
  • Residential addiction recovery
  • Supportive housing for veterans
  • Referrals for permanent housing

Captain Katherine ClausellHarbor Light’s administrator, Captain Katherine Clausell (pictured), is proud to offer all of these services.

“People come here seeking hope and help, and I want them to feel like they’ve found a place of sanctuary,” said Clausell, who began leading Harbor Light in June 2015.

The Salvation Army is an evangelical church that provides its services in the name of Jesus Christ, without discrimination.