• 41°

Live United: Drop a note or give a call with any ideas you might have

Live United by Erin Haag


I had a visitor at my office this week. She stopped by, saw that our office was open by appointment, but called from the parking lot. I was in my office, so we were able to have a wonderful conversation in the parking lot, socially distant, with our masks on. It was the highlight of my day, putting a face to a name that I’d been familiar with for a while.

She told me she could tell how busy I was, and she didn’t want to take up all my time. I had another wonderful community person tell me the same thing, and I wonder how many people are out there who would say the same thing.

Erin Haag

Of course I’m busy. However, it’s only through taking the time to have conversations that I can learn about our community needs and build those connections. It goes both ways. Maybe you’ve wondered something that I’ve written about and you’d like to know more, or you don’t agree with a direction we’re going in. I’d love to hear feedback, opinions and observations. Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t do x, y or z, and then I will say, “Ha! We thought of that, and then we learned this.”

When I first started, I had this dream of eventually setting up office hours around town. Maybe I’d sit in a booth at Hy-Vee with a little sign that welcomed people to chat. The best conversations I’ve had about our community have always been impromptu — from the parking lot of the grocery store, a casual drop off of winter coats or a quick phone call. I find that these conversations bring me back to my focus — being a part of and helping our community. Obviously COVID-19 has put a damper of these sort of dreams, but we can still stay connected. So know that I welcome mail — a jotted little note to share an impromptu thought or idea you might have. Might this become a Dear Abby column? Instead of dispensing advice, I’ll listen to advice, and answer those questions via my weekly articles. Or I’ll write you back!

Our address is P.O. Box 686, Albert Lea, MN 56007. Or if you prefer, you may email me at erin@unitedwayfc.org.

In other news, we’re rocking and rolling along. The UWFC office will have a new intern from Riverland Community College joining us later this month. She’ll be completing 30 hours to learn about the different ways we work in our community. Next semester, she’ll be working on a 330-hour internship, and is considering UWFC for that as well. We certainly have plenty of opportunity for her to observe and learn new skills. 

The Chamber of Commerce and the UWFC are partnering for the Winter Gear Drive coming up. We anticipate boxes for the drop locations will be out the week of Oct. 19 and hope to have a distribution day the first part of November. We’ll be looking for teams of volunteers to assist — we could use some help getting our space ready for the coat racks, tables, etc. If you’re looking for a project to do with your family that still allows you to be socially distant, this is the one for you! It involves a mostly empty room, a mop and a bucket, and then some arranging of the coats we already have. Maybe some holiday decorating would be in order as well. If this sounds up your alley, give me a call at 507-373-8670.

I’ve received a few questions regarding what is accepted. We will accept all types of winter gear items — coats, hats, gloves, boots, warm sweatshirts and even blankets. We request that socks be new, in the package. While we will be washing items courtesy of Eastside Laundry, we do ask that items are clean upon arrival, for the safety of our volunteers and staff.

More adventures await us! I’m writing this article the evening before our last Pop-Up Pantry and Flu Shot Clinic. I’m looking forward to seeing my group of volunteers tomorrow and building new relationships. As always, thank you for following along with our adventures and living united!

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.