Live United: Come join the roller coaster of fun with the United Way

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

Live United by Erin Haag

What a roller coaster of a week! First, I received a phone call from a reader requesting a report on my children’s Halloween festivities. My son was a wildlife animal rescue vet, complete with a cargo vest that held all of his various tools and a toy hedgehog and a lizard or two. His pumpkin carving was of a paw print. Ironically, this morning we discovered an animal had eaten the paw print, which he’s happy about because his pumpkin was used to rescue an animal from hunger. My daughter dressed up as her chicken. Not just any chicken but her real live actual gray-colored Easter Egger Chicken. This included a full photo shoot with the real chicken and a pumpkin that was carved to have a chicken.

Erin Haag

We spent our Halloween workday hammering out details of the new Holiday Giving program. Before we finalize those details though, we do have a meeting to ensure we’re working collaboratively with other agencies and truly meeting the needs of the population we’re trying to serve. 

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Now that Halloween’s over, people are ready to think a little bit more about winter, and that means we’ve been fielding a lot of phone calls. The coat drive is in full swing, and volunteers have been collecting those bags from the donation boxes around town and setting up our space for the first distribution on Saturday. Social workers have been calling for direct referrals, and those are going out the door. Nikolle reports that high needs are for waterproof gloves, snowpants of all sizes and men’s coats. If you haven’t cleaned out the closet yet, then this rainy weekend might be a great time to assess what is ready to get out of the closet and into the hands of a neighbor in need. We have donation boxes all over town. Look for the big white boxes with the “United Way Winter Gear Drive” posters on the side of the box. Please know that we are not affiliated with any other coat drive or collection box other than the big white boxes with the United Way name and logo on it. You can find these big white boxes at Hy-Vee, Walmart, Bomgaars, Albert Lea Family Y, City Arena, Plymouth Shoes, Whimzy, Accentra Bank, Arcadian Bank (including Freeborn Location),  Jason’s 10,000 Custom Designs, Hubbard Insurance Agency, Dave Jensen Farmer’s State Insurance,  Good Steward Consulting, Northbridge Mall, Alpha Orthodontics, Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, United Preschool and St. Theodore Catholic Church, school and parish office. Of course, you can always bring it to our office from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. We do advise calling us first at 507-373-8670 to make sure we’re not out delivering some of these coats or other community impact work! We’re fortunate enough to also be the recipient of internal corporate coat drives as well. Many thanks to Cargill and Almco for stepping up to participate.  

Along with that colder winter weather is the holiday festivities. We’re excited to share that we’ll be hosting Sparkle: A holiday light contest for the third year in a row. We’re working on getting the details of that to be announced next week, but start planning now! It has been a lot of fun to see the light displays. Last year’s Sparkle raised $443, and our sponsor hopes that we can beat that this year. This is a fully sponsored fundraiser, covering the cost of staff time, materials used and the prize winnings. Last year, the prizes totaled $1,750! So dust off those lights and start planning a display that will wow the community, and make a plan to get out there and tour the lights! 

The Welcome Pantry has two more mobile pantry dates for 2022: Nov. 15 and Dec. 20 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Armory. We hope that we’ll be able to share some good news about plans for 2023 well ahead of the Dec. 20 date. There’s been an uptick in possibilities in the last week, and there are high hopes we’ll be able to start making some more concrete plans for the physical space. 

Winter Gear Drive, Sparkle, developing the holiday giving program, Welcome Pantry, hunting for a new space, community presentations and more. Oh, and my computer decided to mysteriously start typing random zeros and open and close programs all on its own. That was a fun few hours, and maybe a little bit spooky given the timing. Technology fun aside, if you’d like to join the roller coaster, we always welcome volunteers, friendly faces, baked goods, warm winter wear and monetary donations. Give us a call at 507-373-8670 to invest in your community the way that works for you. Our mailing address is PO Box 686, Albert Lea, MN 56007. We’re busy, but never too busy to have a conversation, dream a little or share our story. We like to talk about our kids, too, and if you show up in person, there’s going to be pictures included. For those of you that are living united with us, we appreciate you each and every day and look forward to seeing you soon! 

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