The giving season


On Tuesday, a woman named Deb walked into the Pine Journal wondering how she could get a thank you note to someone she doesn’t even know but who still managed to change her life.

She told us how she and her son were looking at TVs at Wal-Mart during the recent sales. She asked a store clerk if she could put a TV on layaway, but he said it would have to be paid off within two weeks.

Not possible, Deb said. There’s no way she could earn the money that fast.

After doing some calculations in her head, she asked what price the TV would be in the spring, which is when she figured she would have saved enough money.

That’s when Santa Claus stepped in. His name was Jerry.

Although not literally dressed in a Santa suit, Jerry was paying off some other items in layaway and told Deb that he would like to buy the TV for her and her son, as long as they could pay the taxes.

Deb said she was “floored.” Astonished. Amazed. And grateful. She accepted his offer.

She was in tears all the way out of the store.

“I just want to thank him from the bottom of my heart and tell him that I took this experience and I will pay it forward from this point on,” she told the staff at the Pine Journal. “I’m going to ring the [Salvation Army] bell, work at Zion Lutheran and I took a couple items off of a giving tree … because I want to give back.”

It is, after all, the giving season. And there are many ways that people can give — particularly this month — to help others who are less fortunate.

Following are just a few ideas that we know of locally:

  • Volunteer to ring the bells for the Salvation Army red kettles. Local Salvation Army case manager David Westerberg said they are still looking for folks willing to brave the cold to ring in front of the Cloquet Wal-Mart store, although there may also be a few open spots left at Super One and L&M. He says it’s the most important fundraiser for the local Salvation Army. “The money raised in the red kettles supports all the social service programs in Carlton County throughout the year,” Westerberg said. “Every dollar dropped in there stays in Carlton County.” Anyone who wants to be a volunteer bell ringer over the holidays is encouraged to call Vicky at 218-269-2238.

  • There is a waiting list for people wanting to participate in the adopt-a-kid program, where you buy gifts (from a list of suggestions), although more than 400 kids have already been “adopted” in Carlton County. If there are children out there who haven’t signed up, hurry up and go to the Salvation Army offices on Carlton Avenue in Cloquet or call David Westerberg today or tomorrow, Dec. 8-9, at 218-879-1693.

  • Donate to the Toy Drive. All donated toys become part of the “toy shop” at the Cloquet Armory Dec. 23. The Salvation Army can take toy donations up to Dec. 22. The most underserved group is teenagers, because teens are so difficult to buy for, said Westerberg, who suggested gift cards or movie passes as popular ideas for teens.

Families who missed the adopt-a-child registration can sign up for the Salvation Army
Toy Shop — when the donated toys will be set out on tables at the Cloquet Armory — by noon Friday, Dec. 16.

  • Donate to the Salvation Army food shelf. Although Westerberg said he can stretch a dollar for food further than people without access to the same resources, he thinks it can be a good idea for families to shop for their donation together. “If mom and dad want to take their kids to the grocery store and have them pick out things they think other kids their age might like, that’s important because it actually shows the kids that mom or dad are giving back. Plus we don’t get a lot of those kind of items,” Westerberg said.

  • Volunteer to help with the free community Christmas dinner at Zion Lutheran Church. The dinner is free and open to the public, and paid for by local businesses, individual donations and Zion Lutheran Church, but it takes volunteers to make it all happen, said longtime organizer Dave Johnson. “Donations from businesses are coming in nicely, but we need helpers as always,” Johnson said. “We never turn anyone away.” People are asked to call the Zion Church office at 218-879-4647 to volunteer or to find out more about the Christmas Day dinner, which will begin at 2 p.m. Dec. 25 and last “until everyone wants to go home,” Johnson said. The church also provides take-out meals and deliveries, to those who can’t get out. They will also help with transportation to and from the church. Call the church for more information.


~ Jana Peterson