Live United: United Way updates for a 7-year-old and the community 

Published 8:45 pm Friday, September 23, 2022

Live United by Erin Haag

I often get up in the dark hours of a Friday morning, treasuring my quiet house. Even the chickens are still sleeping. I think about all the things I’m going to get done. It’s going to be a productive day! I’ll wrap up all the loose ends from the week. This Friday morning, I settled into my chair with my favorite blanket and opened to a fresh page to write this article. l look up and my son is standing in front of me, fully dressed with the biggest smile on his face. He gladly snuggled in with me, and I think that I’ll write for a few minutes with him by my side. Then the questions started.

Erin Haag

“Mama, why are you highlighting those words? Mama, how are the Ukrainian families doing? I had fun with them at Homecoming. Mama, how did the pantry go? Is that lady OK? Do you still have those potatoes? Mama, when is the fundraiser you were talking about? Do I get to go? Can we have Jenna as our babysitter? Mama, when will the sun come up? Mama, I saw a brown bat yesterday. Mama, are people coming to get the coats yet? Do you need any more help hanging up coats?” 

Email newsletter signup

True story my friends, happened yesterday morning. Those of you who know my son are probably hearing his voice right now. I’m equal parts exasperated and charmed by his questions and interest in my work, in his community, and he fact that he truly listens to his daddy and I talk about our days. I realized though, that while his questions are a 7-year-old boy’s questions, the questions are probably not that different from what I should be writing about anyway. So here you go. The answer to my son’s questions on what was supposed to be a dark and quiet Friday morning. 

“I’m highlighting the words on this list that the Ukrainian families still need. We’re looking for lamps, end tables, TV stands, vacuum cleaners and mops and brooms, laundry baskets and rolling pins as well as diapers, wipes and toys for the baby that we haven’t met yet. She’s 9 months old. The families are doing well, getting settled in and working on getting signed up for school. Mama’s going to update the list later today (Friday) on the website, so people know what’s left to give.” 

“The pantry went well. We tried a new set up, so there was less of a line and people were able to wait inside after we opened. That will be better for when it gets colder. Lots of people, especially our seniors, didn’t come out on Tuesday because of the how hot it was. It can be dangerous to go anywhere when you’re older and it’s really hot. We had a mini food distribution at our office for those on Thursday, and lots more people came and got their groceries then. We only have onions left, nothing else! The lady that we had to call 911 for is OK. She came on Thursday, and we were so happy to see her! She had a bad infection, so they were able to get her to the doctor and get her some medicine and she’s already feeling so much better.” 

“No, little boys don’t get to come to the fundraiser. That’s for grown-ups. Jenna went to college, so we’ll find a new babysitter. But I’m excited for people to come and learn about United Way at the Casino Night Fundraiser on Oct. 14. I’m kind of nervous, it’s our first big fundraiser in a few years. It’s going to be a lot of fun playing card games and eating yummy appetizers and talking to people. Nikolle and Heidi are working on asking for donations for the silent auction. Your sister is going to do a painting, so if you’d like to do something you can. We also are going to have Celebrity Dealers! Remember Lt. Strom that works for the Albert Lea Police Department? He’s going to be a dealer. We’re asking other people to be dealers, too. Tickets will be on sale starting on Monday at the CVB, Albert Lea Y and on our website at”

For the record here, my son is now angling to be a dealer himself. He thinks he’d be good at it because he likes to talk to people and people like to talk to him and he can wow them with animal facts. I’m sort of tempted to see if we can do this, because I don’t think it’s just a mama’s bias that he’s entertaining. 

“You did a great job helping mama hang up those coats after the coat rack collapsed. The new coat rack will come next week. We’ll put out the drop boxes around town next week, and you can help me with that if I don’t have enough volunteers. I’m going to call some more businesses today to finish seeing who wants drop boxes.”  

Lastly, my sweet boy, the sun will rise however long the night. It always does, it always will. “Yeah Mama, the sun will rise, and then the chickens will start talking and I’m going to get 100% on my spelling test, and you’re going to get a lot of work done, and then we can have a movie night.” 

There you have it. Lots of things to talk about, and lots of ways to help. To learn more about these things, give me a call at 507-373-8670 or email me at

Even on dark and quiet mornings, or bright and sunny afternoons, I’d love to sit and have a conversation about all the things. 

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