Donations in Action: The power of a teddy bear

Portrait of a Salvation Army social worker

Many of the people The Salvation Army serves are in the middle of crazy, unpredictable circumstances. Their stories can be heartbreaking, uplifting, and everything in between.

Here are some of their stories, submitted by Salvation Army social workers and caseworkers from across Minnesota and North Dakota. Out of respect for the people involved, we are retelling the stories without using names.

If you have ever wondered how The Salvation Army uses your donations, here are some good examples:

The power of a teddy bear

Sometimes, it’s the small things in life that have the biggest impact – including something as simple as a teddy bear.

Case in point: About a year ago, we met a single lady in her early 60s who was battling to keep her sobriety. She came to The Salvation Army regularly, and we were grateful to support her in her journey.

But, after a while, she stopped coming. Weeks went by without any sign of her. The weeks turned into months. We were worried.

Our worries vanished one day when, out of nowhere, the woman stopped by our food shelf to say hello. She was ecstatic to announce she’d been sober for an entire year.

We were excited to hear about her accomplishment. To demonstrate how proud we were, we gave her a small teddy bear. We told her that if she ever had any doubts about how strong she is, she should at look at the bear and remember how much we believe in her, how much she is worth, and how much we love her.

The teddy bear may have seemed insignificant, but to the woman, it was the whole world. She said it was exactly what she needed.

Stay positive

A young man had been living at our Booth Brown House youth housing facility for a year, unable to obtain housing of his own. He was a good kid, with a decent job and a great work ethic. But nobody would rent to him because he had a criminal background, low income, and no rental history.   

Despite facing rejection after rejection, this young man stayed positive. Eventually, we were able to connect him with an agency that could clear his criminal record if he performed many hours of community service. To nobody’s surprise, he dutifully completed all of his service hours. Soon after, we helped him obtain important documents such as his social security card and birth certificate.

Finally, in early May 2019, this young man was approved to live in his own apartment. Although he didn’t have a bed to sleep on, or any household items, we solved this issue by giving him some vouchers to use at a local Salvation Army Store. He was thrilled.

We are proud to have helped this young man get a second chance at life and secure his independence.

Building trust

An older homeless man often stops by one of our offices to chat. We have had many special conversations about religion, current events and daily life. He always says that the conversations and interactions are uplifting and encouraging.

These conversations have become building blocks that have established trust. Through these talks, the man has grown to feel more comfortable talking about housing options and planning for the future.

Although the man still isn’t quite ready to take control of his life, in time, I believe he will get there if we continue to be patient with him and earn his trust.

Trust and patience are important virtues to have when helping the population we serve, because change almost never happens overnight.

Faith restored

A young single mother was trying desperately to find permanent housing. She was homeless, hopeless, and scared for her future. She had lost all faith in God. In desperate need, she reached out to The Salvation Army for help.

We are in the process of securing housing for the woman, and soon she and her kids will have a place to call home.

Perhaps even more importantly, the woman’s faith in God is starting to be restored. We are in constant contact with her, assuring her that there is a God who loves her very much.  She calls for encouragement almost every day. The other day she said, “I’m beginning to think there is a God.”

Helping this woman has been a great reminder that simple words of encouragement or offering a listening ear can allow people to see a glimpse of God’s love for them.

The Salvation Army Northern Division pledges to do the most good with your gifts of time and money, with 81 cents of every dollar going directly to services. Join us by volunteering or making a donation to support your local community. Stay current on how The Salvation Army is changing lives in Minnesota and North Dakota by signing up for our e-Newsletters.

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