Trading places: A Homeless Experience

The following was originally posted on The Salvation Army Northern Division’s blog.
The mercury plunged to minus 6 the night Nicholas Conner slept under a bridge in Fargo, N.D. He was curled up inside his sleeping bag wearing street clothes, a jacket, hat and mittens. But the layers were no match for the biting cold. His chattering teeth sounded like a telegraph clicking SOS.
“I spent the whole night shivering – I might have slept two hours,” he said.
The crazy part is, Conner didn’t have to be there. He’s a full-time college student and could have been sleeping in the warmth of his dorm room.
Even more peculiar, he spent the next night in his car – and the following seven nights in a Fargo homeless shelter, where he ended up getting sick with a fever of 102.7.
If Conner didn’t have to live like that, then why did he?
One simple reason: He wanted to know exactly what homeless people go through so that he could serve them more effectively as a volunteer at the Fargo Salvation Army and elsewhere. No more, no less.
“Nicholas Conner is an incredible young man of God,” said Major Byron Medlock, Fargo Salvation Army administrator. “His passion for service is nothing short of inspiring, and he’s only 19.”
Pivotal moment

Conner’s homeless experiment took place in December 2012, several months after his first time serving hot meals at the Fargo Salvation Army – where he still volunteers to this day.
“There was a very pivotal moment that’s kept me coming back (to The Salvation Army),” said Conner, a North Dakota State University sophomore from Bemidji, Minn. “It happened when I met this homeless guy who started telling me about his life – how he served in Desert Storm, how we was in prison for 10 years, how he was an alcoholic.”
The man wound up showing Conner where he lived: A few blocks from the Fargo Salvation Army, underneath the evergreen bushes pictured above.
“He broke down and cried right in front of me,” Conner recalled. “It was my first real encounter with homelessness. I skipped my calculus class because of the conversation I was having with him.”
With that, Conner discovered a newfound passion: helping people who have nothing.
“I had to do more,” explained Conner, a devout Christian. “It ignited a passion in me for wanting to bring these people something and give them something to look forward to, to think about, to work for.”
Perfect fit

The Fargo Salvation Army is the perfect fit for Conner to carry out his passion for helping homeless people in the name of Jesus Christ. The place allows him to interact with the 100-plus homeless people who come there every weekday for a bevy of services: hot breakfasts and lunches, showers, clothing, counseling, spiritual support and – above all – love.
Conner serves breakfast or lunch there at least once a week (pictured).
“Afterward, I mingle,” he said. “I try to help people understand they’re not alone in this. These people really need support.”
Conner provides more of that support outside of the Fargo Salvation Army. He’s the founder of a student organization called Hands and Feet, a 32-member Bible study group that performs service projects every two weeks.
“We’re all about being the hands and feet of Christ,” said Conner, who plans to attend seminary after college. “Last year the service project everyone enjoyed the most was throwing a Super Bowl party for homeless people. We put the game on for them and served a bunch of football food.”
Conner doesn’t enjoy recognition, and agreed to be interviewed for this story on one condition: that God get all the credit.
“I am not anything special, I am just trying my very best to submit to God,” he said. “I believe in service that is selfless and humble.”
The Salvation Army couldn’t have said it better. Join us in that same spirit of service by getting involved. Doing so is easy: You can make a donation or find volunteer opportunities in your area.

Saintly Donor Returns with Signature Kettle Gift

saintly donor
The following was originally posted on The Salvation Army Northern Division’s blog.

St. Grand, the benevolent giver who began stuffing 10 crisp $100 bills in Salvation Army kettles in 2011, has struck again. For the first time this season, a bundle of 10 $100 bills were stuffed into a Twin Cities red kettle at the Byerly’s in Roseville on Friday, Nov. 29.

“How appropriate,” said Major Jeff Strickler, Twin Cities Salvation Army Commander. “We just got the word out that kettles were 25 percent behind from last year and the next day we discover this amazing blessing.”

Strickler was quick to add that it takes those coins and $1 bills on a grand scale to really make this red kettle season successful.

“But it is so exciting for our bell ringers and those counting the money to discover these little bundles of joy,” he said.

St. Grand first broke onto the scene in 2011 and gave a total of 22 gifts in the Twin Cities and one outside the metro area. Last year in 2012 St. Grand was credited with 22 $1,000 gifts, including four in greater Minnesota.

“It really doesn’t matter if this is one person or multiple people,” said Strickler. “It has become legendary for us – an example of selfless giving without recognition.”


Posted by Jackie on Thursday, December 5, 2013 ·

Study reveals Millennials are Charitable, Influential, & Eager to Connect Over a Cause


Millennials – all 80 million of us – get a bad rap.

If you’re currently between the ages of 18-34, you’re a part of ‘Generation ME’ and collectively called lazy, narcissistic, and impatient. But other characteristics contradict these accusations to some degree: we’re also said to be open-minded, more supportive of equal rights, confident, upbeat, self-expressive, receptive to new ideas, and best of all – giving.

A study called The Millennial Impact reveals the “Me Generation” is actually extremely philanthropic. And this doesn’t include the “slacktivism” that exists on Facebook. But let’s be honest – it felt darn good to Like that dog photo and donate someone else’s money to rescue efforts.

Rather, we look outward rather than inward, relying on the influence of our peers when it comes to taking action. And once we’re inspired, the study reveals that we’ll go to great lengths to get family, friends and loved ones involved in our causes.
Lazy? Selfish? Hardly!

In fact, millennials are compassionate and eager to commit their time, money and skills toward causes and organizations. The study revealed that 75% of millennials donated to charitable causes last year, while 63% gave time to volunteer. While millennials are more likely to donate in smaller amounts across several organizations, they are also apt to fundraise on behalf of nonprofits by soliciting support from friends and family. And when organizations offer volunteer opportunities with limited barriers to entry (remember, we’re impatient), millennials are most likely to give back through events or by freely offering their knowledge and expertise to their charity of choice.

Take The Salvation Army Twin Cities MOST Amazing Race for example, a fundraiser based off of the popular CBS show “Amazing Race,” where teams of two people run around the city making pit stops to complete various challenges. The goal of the race is to raise awareness and funds for The Salvation Army, and commitment and fundraising are prerequisites for competing.

In the end, 30 teams raised $72,921 for food and shelter programs of The Salvation Army through activities such as planking, Bollywood dancing, and plunging off a 25-foot-high platform. And you can be darn sure these events were well documented on participants’ Facebook and Instagram pages.

You often hear that good deeds are rooted in selfishness, and there may be a bit of truth to that, but that’s because giving back feels really, really good. And if you can brag about your good work on Instagram, filter and all, and maybe even inspire your friends to do the same, then what’s the problem?

Matt Adolfson: A Veteran Story

Craig Dirkes is a public relations writer and photographer for The Salvation Army Northern Division. Click here to learn more or find them on Facebook by visiting Editor’s note: This story highlights The Salvation Army’s service to military men and women. It is being told in celebration of National Donut Day, which took place Friday, June 7.

Matt Adolfson was flying somewhere over Germany on March 17, 2003, when President George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein an ultimatum: leave Iraq within 48 hours or face U.S. military action.

Matt, then a 25-year-old U.S. Army medic, heard the news when he landed in Kuwait. Two days later, he was at war.

Matt would spend the next eight months using every bit of his medical training.

“I was part of a mobile hospital – like what you see on the TV show M*A*S*H, only smaller,” he said. “I helped a lot of people who were in explosions; one guy had his leg blown off. My nerves were always going crazy. Everything was always happening fast, fast, fast.”

Back Home, New Battle

Matt’s tour ended that November. In August 2004, he completed his military career and moved to Michigan to live with his uncle; his parents had died years earlier and he has no siblings. Civilian life was difficult.

“I always felt hyper-vigilant, like I wasn’t doing enough,” Matt said. “In the military, I was doing more in one day than some people do all week.”

In 2007, Matt began suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Seemingly innocuous sounds, sights and smells triggered terrible memories.

“The smell of burning garbage, seeing a military vehicle – it all brought me right back,” said Matt, who is doing much better today after years of counseling. “At first I tried forcing myself to forget, but that didn’t work. I learned to embrace my past and not run from it. I learned to get used to things and adapt.”

Matt eventually moved to Minnesota to be near his other relatives and work his way through college. The war changed him, but he remains proud to have served his country.

Salvation Army support

In 2012, Matt had to adapt to another hardship: an empty bank account. While working that summer, several of his paychecks were delayed due to an administrative blunder. He fell behind on his bills and couldn’t recover. By November, he was facing eviction from his North St. Paul apartment.

Thankfully, a friend told him about The Salvation Army Veteran’s Homeless Prevention Program. Since 2011, the program has provided financial assistance, case management, referrals and much more to nearly 180 veterans or veteran families in Ramsey County.

“Veterans have risked their lives serving us – giving back to them is our duty,” said Lt. Col. Robert Thomson, Salvation Army Northern Division Commander.

Matt met with Salvation Army case manager Krystle Englund, who gave him financial assistance to catch up on his rent.

“She even called my landlord to advocate for me,” Matt said. “I’m not used to asking for help; I’m the kind of person who would rather bite the bullet. Krystle took away all my anxiety.”

Matt is no longer in danger of being evicted, and his life is looking pretty good. After completing his associate’s degree in 2011, he plans to study for a bachelor’s degree in social work – a field he’s been inspired to pursue because of the help Krystle gave him. The lifelong volunteer also wants to start donating his time to The Salvation Army – particularly at its food shelf in Maplewood.

“Matt is a very strong individual who served his country and still wants to give back by volunteering,” Krystle said. “He is always optimistic for the future. Working with veterans like Matt is the best part of my job, hands down.”

The Salvation Army operates a similar veterans program in North Dakota that covers the entire state. In addition, The Salvation Army operates a number of veteran housing programs throughout Minnesota, including a 10-unit apartment complex in South Minneapolis.

“The Salvation Army is committed to serving veterans – helping them is a privilege,” Thomson said.