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Live United: Help look ahead to after the holiday season has passed

Live United, By Erin Haag

I walked up to April, who was wearing her volunteer hat this week. She smiled at me as she kept on directing traffic for the Pop-Up Pantry. “I’m writing my article in my head,” she said. We talked a few minutes about the moments we’ve had that morning. There were moments that made us shake our heads, moments that stressed me out enough that people waiting in line reassured me it would be OK. Not everyone was kind, but oh my. So many people were.

Erin Haag

It was a tough pantry. The truck was late — the first time that had happened. Unfortunate, but out of our control. People waited patiently — and some not so patiently in line. Some had to leave to get their children back home so they could log on for schools. Others watched the clock, worried they’d not get a box of food before they had to leave for work. In the end though, we handed out 465 boxes of food, along with a gallon of milk. That brings our total to 65,440 pounds of food that UWFC brought into the county for 2020.

I don’t want to duplicate what April’s writing about, but I wanted to share the several moments I had over the past couple of weeks. Last week, I wrote about some things we could use. Dear Nikolle hadn’t read the article, and she was greeted with the phones ringing off the hook on Monday morning, with people calling to offer what they had to share. We spent our week accepting donations, signing up new volunteers and handing the donations back out into the community. We worked with social workers to get a family a chair and blankets, along with some books for snuggling up their school aged children and reading.

A volunteer showed up on our doorstep with pancakes and sausage from the B&B Café for Nikolle and I. That was my breakfast, lunch and dinner that day! A family showed up to haul couches and beds for a single mother and her children. More and more rocks are being added to our Kindness Rocks garden outside our door. Community members reach out, asking us to connect them to families in need for assistance. Secret Santas are having fun, and I’m having a blast watching the connections.

It was such a busy week, I fell even further behind. I have paperwork that needs to be done, letters and thank you cards, and updates to our website. I keep asking for grace and understanding, and by and large I’ve gotten it. Every night I remind myself that tomorrow’s another day, and somehow, things will fall into place.

Last night, my children went on a tour of Gift of Lights. There are maps available at our office. We have a plastic folder attached to the big window, with maps inside of it. Today, I’m dropping off maps at Wintergreen, and hopefully a few other places as well. The Tribune listed the addresses, but I wanted to include them here as well, as there are a couple of additions. 517 E. 11th St.; 807 S. Third Ave.; 302 and 304 W. Front St.; 100 N. Broadway Ave.; 1314 Martin Road; 210 Willamor Road; 1205 Martin Road; 2020 Brookside Drive; 1921 Lakewood Ave.; 1001 Spicer Road; 1329 Crestview Road; and 1319 Sheridan Ave. 

The holiday season is stressful for human service providers. There’s an influx of givers, but we’re rushing to get things done before Christmas, along with taking moments with our own families. We’re also looking ahead to the post holiday slump. It’s a very real thing when the excitement of the holiday fades away. Donations slow down, the phone stops ringing and people struggle with mental health issues or even just situational winter blues. This season, help us look a little further ahead to what’s to come, and let’s extend the sense of community and kindness and the good moments beyond the holidays.

As always, while I’ve talked about how busy Nikolle and I are, we will always make time or find the time to take your phone call, listen to your ideas or have a conversation. These moments are the ones that keep us going, inspire us. So give us a call at 507-373-8670.

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