Live United: Response has been incredible in filling needs of community

Published 8:45 pm Friday, December 2, 2022

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Live United by Erin Haag

She came in the door, concentrating on getting into her purse. She pulled out three mugs, two with Christmas Trees on them, and my favorite — a bright red mug with a snowman. The perfect type of handle too — the kind you can slide all of your fingers through to warm them up.

Erin Haag

I’d never met her before, and I wasn’t sure why she was there. She carefully set the mugs on the counter. After she had them arranged to her satisfaction, she pointed to one and said, “Nikolle.” She moved on, “You.” Then the last one she put her finger on and paused for a long minute. I filled in for her, “Heidi?” For the first time, she looked me in the eye and she said, “yes, Heidi.” I told her, “I’m Erin.” She pointed at each mug again, naming our names. “These are for you. I found them. That’s what I do. I’m a finder. I found these for you, like you found boots for me.” 

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At that moment, her adult daughter came in and said, “We got a call that you had some 8.5 wide boots for my mom?” Heidi walked in at that moment, too, and helped me find the boots that we had ordered for her with funds donated. She sat down in the chair and worked off her cute but only good-for-fashion boots. Her daughter scolded her about her current choice of footwear, and said, “now you won’t break an ankle!” The boots fit. Thankfully. She showed off the coat she had gotten at the winter gear distribution and told us how she wasn’t used to wearing a bulky coat, but she liked it. She showed us her gloves, and we decided to add some heavier mittens to go over them when it gets really cold. 

She talked about her cats that she rescued. She’s a finder you see, so she found them and rescued them. She opened her phone and looked for the pictures she had of them. Her daughter says, “Mom, they don’t want to see pictures of the cats.” Well, obviously she was wrong. We do want to see pictures of her cats. So, we celebrated new outfits for winter weather and looked at pictures of cats. 

That same day, I got an email. “I received your coat — and the person in need is very happy. The boy still didn’t have a jacket so this is a huge blessing and a win, and I’m proud to be part of an organization that is actively changing lives for the better on a daily basis.” 

Later that same day, someone stopped by with three referrals for our Jingle program. She told me, “Oh these families, they just want warm clothes and coats and hats and gloves.” I looked at her and said, “are they coming to our Winter Gear Drive?” She told me “no.” Now, I know that often when the answer is “no” that there’s a barrier of some kind. So I told her, we’re not waiting until Christmas to fill these basic winter gear needs. You know that you can just call us at any time — bring them in with you to help them shop, even if it’s outside our distribution days, right?” Her eyes got wide and she said, “Really?” At this point, I laughed, because this is the fun part. I told her, “Yep, or you can even shop for your families, and have things waiting for them when they arrive for their appointment.” “Really?” “Yep…come with me.”

I took her into our coat drive room, and her eyes got even wider. So we “shopped.” She got blankets and handmade quilts and coats and socks and scarves. We didn’t get everything filled, but we got a good portion of them filled. We carried them out to her car, and she was so excited, planning to drive right to the houses of the families to bring them the items. Boom. We’ve built a relationship, and now she knows who to call. We talked about this, too — we can send out all the emails and notifications that we want, but until they see it in person, see it applied to their particular caseload, it doesn’t always quite make sense what we can provide for them. 

Today Heidi went through all of the donations that came in, both in response to our community needs post and general dropbox donations. 

“Erin, we’ve filled all but two needs.” That’s right. The two-page list got down to two items. We need size 12-14 snow pants for a boy and men’s size 11 boots. 

Now — Thursday night we did post an update since we had an afternoon distribution. We do have 27 items now on the list, which you can find at

The response has been incredible though, and we thank each and every one of you that has called, ordered items, dropped things off or cleaned out closets for us, for our community—for your neighbors. 

This is what it’s all about. It’s human service providers so grateful that they’re able to fill the needs of their clients. It’s clients who are so grateful for what they’re given that they bring us what they can give. It’s community members answering the call to action and helping every single day. We thank you. 

For updated information, please call us at 507-373-8670 to learn more ways to help. 

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