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‘You don’t have to be rich to give’

Volunteer Salvation Army bell ringer Shirley Magnuson chats with her old friend, Elsie Jeffers, outside Wal-Mart Monday, when the temperature was minus-6 degrees Fahrenheit. Magnuson volunteered for long spells of bell ringing in the cold weather over the past couple weeks, because she wanted to do something for those who are less fortunate. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com1 / 2
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Shirley Magnuson learned an important lesson from her parents when she was little.

“You don’t have to be rich to give,” said Magnuson, who’s been ringing the bell to raise money for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle outside Wal-Mart in Cloquet for hours and hours over the past two or three weeks, some days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “I give my time.”

On Monday, temperatures were below zero most of the day. To combat the cold weather, Magnuson said she wears four layers of clothes, and puts hand warmers in her boots.

“And I cheat,” said the 75-year-old Cloquet resident. “I take breaks


Magnuson seems to know about half the people who walk past. Some she greets by name, like her old friend Elsie Jeffers from Barnum, others she just knows by their faces.

Some stop and thank her for all that she does.

“I hope you’re writing about her,” said Mike Berglund. “She does a lot of good will all year long, visiting the elderly and infirm.”

Magnuson is an all-season volunteer. She was the only one to respond when a last-minute call went out to help with the Fourth of July set-up in Cloquet last summer, and she has been working almost full-time for the Salvation Army for the past couple weeks

“When you’re out and about in the community, you don’t have to tell people what you do,” she said. “They see you.”

Until last year, the senior citizen used to ride her bike all over town, in all seasons. Then, last November, her legs gave out — seemingly overnight, she said — and now she can’t ride her bike or walk long distances. Still, she walks to McDonald’s every morning to have coffee with her friends, then calls Dial-A-Ride to take her further distances.

“Like Billy Graham said, I don’t concentrate on what I can’t do, I concentrate on what I can do,” Magnuson said.

You can see by the lines in her face that Magnuson smiles a lot. Even in below-zero temps, she’s smiling constantly at the people streaming in and out of Wal-Mart for last-minute shopping before Christmas.

To keep the cold out, Magnuson’s cheerful face is surrounded by her red hat, a pink and black scarf and the hood of her purple Vikings jacket. Still, the happy volunteer said she actually prefers ringing the bells outside.

It gives her added humility, she said.

“I know there are people who don’t have something and are cold,” she said. “By doing this, I can appreciate that I get to go to my nice warm home. And I meet some wonderful people doing this. That’s a bonus.”

Her son once ended up sleeping on the streets at a time when she and her husband couldn’t help him anymore, so she thinks of that, too. He’s working out of state now, and doing well — the hard times behind him, she added with a smile. He rang the bells with her a few years ago.

“All my life I’ve done volunteering,” Magnuson said, adding that she helps her husband of 55 years, Donald, in between volunteering stints. “It’s the one thing that brings joy to me. Even when things aren’t going so well in your own life, it makes you feel good.”