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New year, new ways to give?

Salvation Army case manager David Westerberg said Christmas for the local charity and the people it serves was “absolutely incredible.”

“I actually had to turn away some organizations that wanted to adopt children because I didn’t have any for them to adopt,” said Westerberg. “I guess that’s a good problem to have.

“This community amazes me with its generosity,” he added.

In total, 410 children were “adopted” by groups and individuals, who purchased Christmas gifts for the kids — who ranged in age from a few weeks old to 18 years — based on a submitted wishlist. On top of that, an additional 75 children and/or their parents got to shop at the Salvation Army’s “toy shop” Dec. 23. There they found new toys from various local toy drives and five days worth of Bentleyville donations displayed on tables around the Cloquet Armory, waiting to be taken home and treasured.

Westerberg estimated that donations to the Salvation Army’s red kettles was down a little from last year, but not significantly. The familiar kettles and their volunteer bell ringers are the most visible and most important fundraiser for the local Salvation Army.  

The money raised in the red kettles supports all the Salvation Army’s social service programs — basic needs assistance, housing, youth services, rehabilitation, disaster relief, counseling and more — in Carlton County throughout the year, Westerberg said.

“Every dollar dropped in there stays in Carlton County,” he said, noting that it was tough finding people to man the kettles in outdoor locations, such as the ones in front of the Cloquet Wal-Mart store.

“We’re working on incentives to get more volunteers next year,” he said.

On Tuesday, Westerberg was back in his office behind the thrift store on Carlton Avenue after a holiday break, ready to help those who need it most.

“We are the last stop for people,” he said, explaining that folks need to go to the county and Lakes and Pines Community Action Council first for things like energy assistance, food support and other programs. “And right now, they both (the county and Lakes and Pines) still have all their funding. But they will run out shortly and that’s when it really gets busy around here.”

The number of requests for help also depend on how cold it gets, Westerberg said, because that drives up heating costs.

“I see fuel oil and gas are creeping back up,” he said.

Westerberg explained the Salvation Army works hand in hand with the people who go to them. They do not just provide for the need that brought the person there, but rather they sit and work with them through the process, look at their budget, and educate them on how to spend their money, to help avoid such circumstances in the future.  

The Salvation Army also runs Cloquet’s only food shelf; Tuesdays are the distribution day. He noted that each Salvation Army food shelf — including Cloquet — got 1,600 pounds of food items donated by Bentleyville “Tour of Lights” in Duluth, which is an official collection site for the Salvation Army.

Even though Christmas is over, it doesn’t mean the giving season has to end. Westerberg said the Salvation Army will still take donations any time of the year, whether it’s money or canned goods for the food shelf, volunteer time, or items for the thrift store.

“This time of year our thrift store donations are really down, versus in the summer when people are having garage sales,” he added, explaining that the thrift store will take most items, even those that aren’t in perfect condition.

He pointed toward a trailer outside the thrift store at 307 Carlton Avenue that they fill up with shoes and clothes that need fixing.

“When that’s full, we take it to the Twin Cities to the adult rehabilitation center. If they can clean or repair it, they will do that and resell it. Otherwise they’ll turn the clothes into rags and sell those.

“We can repurpose a lot of things.”