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Live United: Many good things happening this season with United Way

Live United by Erin Haag


I might have said this before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself. Here’s the lesson to be learned though: “Don’t think I’m too busy.” Of course I’m busy. Community needs don’t take a holiday, weekends or vacations. A pandemic only highlights the needs, and we keep going.

People make time for what’s important, and I’ll always do that. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or as immediate as a fire victim needing winter gear. Sometimes the everyday casual conversation is the important thing because a conversation will spark an idea, and an idea will turn into a project for the community. So trust in my process, and don’t assume that I’m too busy. Trust that I’ll let you know if I am, but I’ll set it up in a timeframe that I can handle, and ask your grace on it — and maybe a couple of reminders wouldn’t hurt.

Erin Haag

In February, a last minute lunch with someone I met at a training sparked a huge conversation about food access — her specialty — and the different types of models out there. I remember her asking, “Do you have time today?” Absolutely. She and I hit it off, and we geeked out over talking about the world of food insecurity and the best practices. I learned so much in this conversation, and it laid the foundation for a working relationship in our community. A short month later, we were at the start of the pandemic, and I used what I learned to tackle food insecurity.

These relationships have brought us to today. There are major plans in the works for ongoing food access, and I’m excited to see what happens. It’s not about just food availability. The key word is access, and it’s also about quality. Are the programs in our community designed well, do they run efficiently and are they providing empowerment to clients? Is there food waste because people are given food that they don’t know how to cook, or don’t like, or have a medical restriction to?

This is my passion these days. With that, those last minute, “I’m not too busy” and the willingness to chat has led to relationships that allowed for a phone call yesterday to say, “Would you like to have another Pop Up Pantry, but it has to be next week?” We got the call because they know I can pick up the phone and rely on the relationships that I’ve built in our county to make it happen. Sure enough, I made a couple of phone calls, and I’ve got incredible support from our county leaders.

While I don’t have all of the final details worked out, we will be hosting our final (really, it will be our final one — I mean it this time) Pop Up Pantry and mask distribution on Friday, Nov. 20 at the fairgrounds. I’m not certain of the time yet, so please check the radio stations for details or call my office next week. The hope is that we’ll be able to have two lines — one for food and masks, and the other for masks only.

Approximately 450ish boxes of fresh, quality foods? Yes please! We can make this happen. So stay tuned for more details! Our radio stations do a great job at promoting for me. In fact, often I’m on the phone for Party Line, and I hear Mike telling about the pantry, and I’ll hang up because he has it taken care of. Very, very, very appreciated. We had to cancel our mask and winter gear distribution on Tuesday due to the ice storm. We were busy that morning though — delivering masks and winter coats to leaders that called in.

While there is still a scheduled distribution from 3-6 p.m. Nov. 24, we are keeping an eye on the COVID numbers to ensure safety. Again — remember that it doesn’t mean people are going without — it simply means our format has changed. We work directly with area social workers to get them delivered. Our community shoutout for this week is that we have need of size 11 boots for two boys that are preschool age. If you can help with these two items, please call my office at 507-373-8670.

St. Theodore parishioners — my apologizes. I realized yesterday that there isn’t a box for winter gear there. It was a miscommunication between a volunteer and myself. A box will be out there today, so bring them on out! In fact, I’ll put a box outside the parish office during parking lot mass this Sunday. Coats will be collected at the end of mass. After that, there will be locations inside.

As always, thank you. I’ve had donors knock on my door this week, and volunteers that hopped right in and started unpacking coats and organizing the room. Even if folks aren’t able to be in the room, it made it so helpful when my intern was able to run in, pull the size she needed and go deliver them to a family in need. If you’d like to be added to my list of people that we call, let me know at 507-373-8670.

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