Live United: Thanks to those who answer the call when there are needs

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 25, 2022

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Live United by Erin Haag

This week, a mama laughed when Nikolle called her and let her know we had some boots for her daughter. “Good, now she can stop stealing mine to go play outside.” Mama’s boots are two sizes too big for her daughter, but now she’s got her own. A donor called and contributed, asking for boots for both mama and daughter, because she’s sure that the mama needs a new pair too — because that’s what mamas do you know. The kids come first.

Erin Haag

This week, the sun was shining bright and our phones rang off the hooks. One community member not only reached out to us to ask what projects we needed help with, but she made sure she recruited her friends, too. Her friend called me immediately to let me know she had coats in 3XL for some of our teenagers and young men. (By the way, we know our voicemail settings aren’t quite right. There was a service outage that changed some of the settings. We think we fixed it, but our trainer will be back next week to help us make sure. Thanks to those who made sure we knew.) 

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This week, Arcadian Bank had a rush on their dropbox location. It was overflowing, and they called to let me know. It took us three trips to load those bags into my car. Volunteers arrive on Monday to sort it all out and get them ready to be distributed. 

This week, two of our board members sat around the table with Nikolle, Heidi and me, and we enjoyed a lunch of soup and fresh bread and butter, and of course the cake that was baked for us. By the way, it was spinach cake in a cranberry cream sauce. Nope, I had never heard of it either. I kept it a surprise, and a guessing game ensued to determine what type of green it was. As unusual as it sounds, it was delicious. The baker’s daughter now has snowpants, too. After lunch, the board members worked to hang up the coats they had brought. 

This week, Nikolle shared a reflective social media post later that day. She shared that she knew we were doing good in our community — that a day spent delivering food, picking up donations and working to make a family’s holiday season brighter was proof of that. It was still a hard day though, as she is missing her mama and daddy gone too soon. She reflected on the need for self care and she called out a challenge. “This holiday season I challenge you to look beyond yourself and see where you can add some beauty in your community. Look past the hustle and bustle and be grateful in your moment of comfort.”  

Today, as I write this article on Thanksgiving Day, I’m grateful for the moments of comfort the community has offered in response to last week’s article. Not only were needs filled off the list, but community members looked beyond the list and checked in to see how we were doing. 

I believe we’re doing OK. We have work to do to take care of ourselves, to take care of each other and we’re gearing up for a roller coaster over the next four weeks. This long weekend, the team is taking a deep breath, eating good food, taking naps and snuggling with new babies and kids that have gotten way too long-legged. While we’re intentionally slowing down, we’re also eyeing up those Black Friday sales, thinking about how to make the most of the dollars so generously donated to achieve the biggest impact. Orders have already been placed for several things, and we’re anxiously watching those tracking notifications.

There are more needs to be filled, but in just three days, we put a pretty good sized dent in that list. We’ll be updating our Community Needs list on Monday and throughout the week. We thank each and every one of you that have answered the call — through action, through words, through donations, through listening ears and hugs of comfort. This will sustain us — and our community. 

If you’d like to walk alongside us for the work ahead, there’s plenty of opportunities. You can visit or call our office at 507-373-8670 to get the updated list. You can donate — with or without a designation — by visiting or by mail at PO Box 686, Albert Lea, MN 56007. We’ve also got our holiday light contest up and going, and it’s going to be a beautiful weekend to get some outside time putting up those lights! Help us shine a light — and we’ll keep the light going. 

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