Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Let’s be there for one another December 6, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

WHAT ARE YOU DOING for others this holiday season? How are you connecting, offering support, comfort and care, and bringing joy and hope to others? I’m talking outside your immediate circle of family and friends.

Today, more than ever, we need to care about one another in a world that seems increasingly self-centered, mean and hostile.

We have the power individually and collectively to make a difference, to counter the negativity, to do something good. Not for ourselves. But for others. Especially during the holiday season.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

For example, each December for the past several, I’ve rung bells for the Salvation Army. It’s uncomfortable standing outside in the biting cold of a Minnesota winter. But it’s only for two hours and I can step inside Walmart to warm my hands under the bathroom hand dryer when my fingers feel numb. This is not about my comfort, though. Rather this is about greeting people with warmth and accepting donations from those wanting to help others.

And there are plenty of generous souls. This year a woman stopped, pushed coins into the kettle slot and told me she knew what it was like to go through rough times. And then there was the young mom who parceled coins into her toddler son’s hand to drop into the kettle. Except he returned each coin to her and then watched her drop the pennies, the quarters, the…into the bucket. What a valuable lesson she taught him. I especially appreciate those young parents who model giving.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Not everyone can give financially. I get that. But we can give of our time. On Sunday afternoon my bible study group gathered to wrap gifts as part of our Angel Tree Project. We’ve done this for years, ending our wrapping marathon with a soups and salads dinner together. I am always amazed at the generosity of people who pull some 75 paper angels from a Christmas tree at our church and then purchase gifts for those less fortunate. One young boy asked for a tacklebox (he’s getting it). I found that especially refreshing in a time when most kids would rather stay indoors with their tech toys. Typically I don’t like wrapping presents. But doing this with friends is fun and fosters a sense of togetherness in a shared mission.

I also helped pack boxes for our military men and women overseas and filled bags for local veterans. As the daughter of a Korean War veteran, I can only imagine how much my dad would have appreciated such a gift. Through that volunteerism I indirectly honored my dad.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

There are endless ways we can help one another. It doesn’t take much effort to find a cause that fits your interests and your talents. Or simply reach out on your own to uplift someone. Send a card. Make a phone call. Give a hug. Mentor a child. Open a door. Smile.

It’s within our power to make this world a better place, to show we really do care about others through our positive words and actions.

TELL ME: How do you help others?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Advertisements
 

Ringing bells for charity & bonus holiday events December 8, 2017

 

RINGING BELLS for the Salvation Army stretches beyond simply accepting donations for a charity that does good in my community. It’s also an opportunity to bring joy to someone needing something as basic as a friendly greeting and a warm smile.

When I ring, I make eye contact with everyone approaching me. Not because I want to guilt anyone into giving. Rather, I want to welcome them with a smile, a good morning/afternoon and, most often, a Merry Christmas. That’s my nature, to be friendly. Whether an individual can, or chooses to, give, remains their personal choice. I understand the finances of the senior citizen who apologized for not giving, citing limited Social Security income and mounting medical bills. He didn’t have to explain. Those who can and want to give, will.

 

Randy and I rang bells together from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Saturday, December 2, took a half hour break and then returned to ring bells solo at two locations for another two hours. A lack of bell ringers led us to pull a double shift. Donations on December 2 totaled $3,965 in Rice County, surpassing the $2,500 match by an anonymous donor. Of that county-wide total, $2,620 was dropped into red kettles in Faribault.

 

For the first time ever in my seasons of ringing bells, I watched as a woman emptied the bulging contents of her coin purse into the red kettle. Her gift meant as much as that of a 40-something guy who dropped a few coins in the slot and remarked that every coin counts. He’s right. From the $20 donation to the $1 bills and pennies shoved in by children, every gift holds value to help someone in need.

 

Two girls give to the Red Kettle Campaign during a past holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I am grateful for the generosity in the Faribault community ($2,620 on December 2) and especially for those young parents who parcel coins and bills into the hands of their little ones. When one of those children asked to ring the bell on Saturday, I obliged. That sparked an idea. Maybe next year I will hand the bell to every kid who donates and offer them a chance to ring for a moment. And I’ll continue with my tradition of handing out candy kisses to youth.

I will continue also to greet those I meet with friendliness, even if some react with unkindness, something I experienced for the first time this year. The meanness won’t deter me. I am determined to keep a positive attitude, to do the best I can as a volunteer, as a human being, to extend kindness to those I greet while stationed at the red kettle. If my smile can brighten one person’s day, then I am grateful.

FYI: If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Kettle Campaign in Rice County, call (507) 334-0639 or email faribaultbellringer at gmail.com, northfieldbellringer at gmail.com or lonsdalebellringer at gmail.com, depending on location. You can also sign up online at this link: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f4dacab2faafd0-2017

Bell ringers are desperately needed as the local chapter strives to reach its goal of $50,000. As of Monday, donations totaled $10,478, according to Ed Little, co-chair of the local Red Kettle Campaign. Last Saturday in Rice County, an anonymous donor matched donations with a $2,500 gift. On December 15 and 16, an anonymous donor will once again match county donations, this time up to $5,000.

#

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING to do in Faribault this weekend?

 

Skaters from Shattuck-St. Mary’s Figure Skating Center of Excellence presented a Christmas Spectacular on Ice in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. They’ll skate this Saturday during the Campus Christmas Walk.

 

The Faribault Woolen Mill hosts a Holiday Open House from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday featuring gourmet goodies, give-aways, store specials and more. Bring a Toys for Tots donation and get a free gift.

Pop into the historic Farmer Seed and Nursery to view the many beautiful themed Christmas trees with ornaments available for purchase. The store opens at 8 a.m. Saturday, closes at 5 p.m.

 

In the Shumway Hall entry hall, carolers sing for Christmas Walk guests in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

On the east side of Faribault, Shattuck-St. Mary’s School opens its campus to the public for the annual Campus Christmas Walk. The Saturday event begins at noon with a free Figure Skating Holiday Show in the sports complex. Following that, from 1 – 3 p.m., enjoy hot chocolate and cookies and ornament making and cookie decorating in Morgan Refectory. Nearby, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at The Inn from 1 – 4 p.m. Stop at Shumway Hall between 1 – 3 p.m. for a sleigh ride. And then end your campus visit by taking in the half hour Holiday Concert in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd beginning at 3 p.m.

 

One of the many creches from the collection of Kathleen Putrah now on display at the Paradise.

 

Pop into the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault’s historic downtown from 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday to shop at the Winter Farmer’s Market for locally-grown/raised produce/meats, baked goods and more. Also check out the work of local artists available for purchase in the PCA gift shop during the Holly Days Sale. Don’t miss the display of creches in the art gallery. And in the evening, take in “Coconuts and Mistletoe,” a holiday play performed by the Paradise Community Theatre beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. In this comedy, Santa conspires with spies to save Christmas.

In between all those events, be sure to shop at the the many home-grown businesses in our community.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Double your Red Kettle donations this Saturday in Rice County December 1, 2017

 

WHEN MARION CALLED to remind Randy and me of our Salvation Army bell-ringing slot this Saturday, she also shared good news. Every dollar donated to the Rice County Red Kettle Campaign on December 2 will be matched up to $2,500. How generous is that?

An anonymous donor from Faribault is offering the match, a move I hope encourages people to give even more generously to a program focused on neighbors helping neighbors.

The gift repeats on December 16 with a maximum $5,000 match from another anonymous Faribault donor, according to Gina Little who co-chairs the county campaign with her husband, Ed.

I’m confident folks can reach those max matches, moving toward the $50,000 Red Kettle goal in Rice County.

 

Randy and I will be at this location outside Walmart on Saturday morning ringing bells. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Saturday morning Randy and I will station ourselves at the Walmart north location to accept donations. We’re happy to once again volunteer with our church, Trinity Lutheran. Others from Trinity will ring at Walmart south, HyVee and Fareway in Faribault. Bell ringers are also on-site in Northfield and Lonsdale.

The weather forecast for Saturday looks to be a balmy 40-some degrees, ideal conditions for us as we stand outdoors to ring bells, greet and thank people. In past years we’ve worked in temps as low as zero. But, dressed appropriately for conditions, we managed.

 

Me, ringing bells for the Salvation Army in the past. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Ringing bells proves a joyful and humbling experience as we’ve witnessed gratitude, heard stories and observed parents teaching their children the joy of giving. I always come with a bag of Hershey kisses for the little ones, depositing a kiss in their tiny palms after they’ve pushed coins or bills into the kettle slot.

Eighty-eight percent of the donated monies stay right here in my county and go towards emergency services (gas vouchers, food, shelter, etc.), a heating program, “Shop with a Cop,” sending kids to a Salvation Army camp in northern Minnesota and a visiting program with the elderly in care facilities.

 

Two girls give to the Salvation Army during a past campaign. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The need is great. Last year the Rice County Red Kettle Campaign fell short of its $50,000 goal with $43,000 raised. That meant cutting back on some services. But this year, especially with those $2,500 and $5,000 matches, I think we’re capable here in Rice County of reaching the $50,000 goal.

Please consider giving generously this Saturday and again on December 16 to push county-wide giving to those generous matches.

 

A friend rings bells at Walmart during a previous holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And consider, too, signing up to ring bells. Call (507) 334-0639 or email faribaultbellringer at gmail.com, northfieldbellringer at gmail.com or lonsdalebellringer at gmail.com depending on where you wish to ring in Rice County.

You have the power to help your neighbor in this season of giving.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Bell-ringing moments bring smiles & gratitude December 3, 2016

Me, ringing bells for the Salvation Army on Saturday morning in Faribault. Photo by Randy Helbling.

Me, ringing bells for the Salvation Army on Saturday morning in Faribault. Photo by Randy Helbling.

“WE’LL GET YOU on the way out,” he said, his smile wide.

I admit to skepticism. But, as promised, the pre-teen stopped after exiting Walmart Saturday morning to drop money into the Salvation Army’s signature red donation bucket.

“You’re a man true to your word,” I acknowledged, thanking him for his gift.

 

ringing-bells-overview-at-walmart

 

Likewise, I thanked many others—from kids to seniors—who donated money during my two-hour shift of ringing bells with my husband. I greeted every customer with a smile and wishes for a good morning and a Merry Christmas. Some looked me in the eye and repeated the greetings. Others hurried past, heads down. Whether they could give or not, I wanted them to feel my warm holiday welcome.

 

ringing-bells-sign

 

Many made me smile. Like the cool teens dressed all in black. They pushed coins into the slotted bucket then danced across the parking lot. I never expected them to give. Just goes to show.

Or the girls who gave as they entered Walmart and again on the way out. “We got two kisses,” one said to the other as they walked away. She was referencing the Hershey kisses I give to kids who give. It adds to the fun—to tell kids, “Wait a minute, I have something for you—a kiss.” And then I reach inside the pocket of the red Salvation Army apron and deposit a foil-wrapped kiss in their palms. And they smile like I’ve just handed them the most precious gift.

 

Randy ringing bells.

Randy ringing bells.

My husband’s favorite moment came at my expense when a man stopped, pointed upward and asked, “What’s that up in the sky?” I followed his sight line…to the sun. And then I laughed, getting the joke. And he laughed. And Randy laughed. We haven’t seen the sun through grey clouds in days.

But in that moment, the sun shone like a blessing upon us and our morning of volunteering for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Red Kettle Campaign: More than just ringing bells & collecting donations December 16, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,
Members of Trinity Lutheran Church rang bells at various Faribault locations on Saturday. Here Bud and Bev ring outside of Walmart.

Members of Trinity Lutheran Church rang Salvation Army bells at various Faribault locations on Saturday. Here Bud and Bev ring outside of Walmart.

DRESSED IN A KHAKI COAT and sporting a Vietnam veteran’s cap, he rolled up to the Faribault Walmart in his motorized cart Saturday morning. He stopped outside the entry, where my husband and I were ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

A man drops coins into the red kettle tended by Bud and Bev.

A man drops coins into the red kettle tended by Bud and Bev.

I thanked him for his service to our country. And then he pulled some change from his pocket, dropping the coins into my palm to place in the red kettle. He had a story to share, too. Back in the 1950s, growing up in northeast Minneapolis, he was helped by the Salvation Army.

Who knows when we may be in need of assistance?

Who knows when we may be in need of assistance?

This soldier’s story touched me, moved me nearly to tears. His wasn’t the only story I heard during our two-hour bell ringing shift. Another man, Tom, explained that he gives to the Red Kettle Campaign because the Salvation Army aided his niece in South Carolina. “It means something to me,” he said.

More giving...

More giving…

Mostly, I don’t know the reasons people give. I am simply thankful that they pause to stuff bills or drop coins into the kettle. For the first time since I began ringing bells several years ago, I watched a man pull up in his vehicle, park, donate and drive away. Likewise, a woman stopped, rolled down her car window and handed me $20. These two went out of their way to give to others.

I delighted in the many young parents who gave their children money to donate.

I delighted in the many young parents who gave their children money to donate.

What perhaps touches me most are the young families who donate. I watched as dads and moms hoisted preschoolers high enough to reach the kettle, patiently waiting as stubby fingers pushed coins into the slot or folded bills to fit therein. My husband and I thanked the kids with a kiss—a foil-wrapped chocolate kiss. And I thanked the parents for teaching their children to give.

Hub replaced my husband and I in ringing bells at Walmart's south entry.

Hub replaced my husband and I in ringing bells at Walmart’s south entry.

Ringing bells for two hours is about more than collecting donations for the Salvation Army. It’s about listening to stories. It’s about greeting shoppers with a smile and a warm welcome, whether they choose to give or not. It’s about encouraging philanthropy and thanking young parents and their children. It’s about thinking of others during the Christmas season. And that, perhaps, is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbing

 

Choosing to see black and blue March 16, 2015

IF YOU ARE PART OF A FAITH community, what is your church doing to raise awareness and help victims, survivors and families/friends of those involved in domestic violence/abuse?

Nothing? Something?

I hadn’t considered this in depth until reading an article, Aiming for AWARENESS, CARING RESPONSE—Domestic violence task force to hold spring training sessions, in the March issue of Reporter, the official newspaper of The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

A snippet of the domestic violence poster published by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

A snippet of the domestic violence poster published by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Additionally, the paper includes an insert, Domestic Violence and Abuse is Everyone’s Concern—There Are No Gender Or Socioeconomic Barriers, for posting in churches.

I am pleased to see the LCMS working on this issue which has been so much in the public eye in recent months. It’s important that clergy, parish nurses and other church workers understand domestic abuse and learn how to assist by listening, by offering help, hope and referrals, and by educating parishioners.

I’ve read conflicting data on the number of women who experience domestic violence. Some sources say one in three. Others one in six. Whatever the correct number, one is one too many. (Note here that I am well aware that men are also victims. But, since the majority are women, that is the reference I am using in this post.)

Among people I am connected to, either directly or indirectly, 10 women have been/are being abused. Two of them were murdered by the men who supposedly loved them.

Last year in Minnesota, at least 23 individuals were killed due to violence from a current or former intimate partner, according to a report issued by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. You can read that full report by clicking here.

As LCMS Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Task Force Chair Kim Schave says, “Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone.”

Don’t think it can’t.

And let’s remember the secondary victims—children, parents, siblings, friends… They, too, need support, encouragement and healing.

The faith-based Salvation Army South Africa’s recent campaign, WHY IS IT SO HARD TO SEE BLACK AND BLUE, utilizing a photo of that infamous black and blue striped (or gold and white striped depending on what you see) dress is brilliant. A subtext published in the Cape Times newspaper stated, “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice.”

While I still cannot see a black and blue dress, the message is absolutely clear to me. We all need to start seeing domestic abuse in all its forms. Sometimes the abuse is visible. Often it is not. Emotional abuse (lies, manipulation, controlling behavior, etc.) is even more common than physical abuse. Domestic abuse can also take the form of spiritual abuse.

We need to understand that these women are not to blame for the abuse inflicted upon them. We need to understand that they are being manipulated/controlled/brainwashed. We need to understand that “love” and mind control are powerful. We need to understand that we cannot simply swoop in and “rescue” them.

Knowledge is power.

What have you learned about domestic abuse in recent months with the spotlight shining on the issue? What are you doing with that knowledge? If you are part of a faith community, what is your church doing, if anything? Do you know a survivor of domestic abuse or someone currently in an abusive situation (no names or identifying details, please)? Let’s hear your voice and insights.

FYI: If you are in an abusive situation, contact the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

I’d encourage you to learn more about domestic violence from a personal perspective by checking out (click here) “My Inner Chick,” a blog written by a Minnesota woman whose sister was abused and murdered by her husband. Be sure to read the comments section. This blog and the comments posted therein are powerful.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Happy to ring Salvation Army bells on a balmy Minnesota morning December 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:22 PM
Tags: , , , , ,
Gary and Barb work the 10 a.m. to noon bell-ringing shift at Walmart south.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of 2013 Salvation Army bell ringing.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE 25 degrees can make.

The temp felt downright balmy ringing bells for the Salvation Army outside the north entrance of the Faribault Walmart this morning.

A year ago, at the south entrance, my husband and I rang bells in temps that hovered around a bone-chilling zero degrees Fahrenheit. Numerous times we stepped inside to warm up.

But this morning the sun shone bright upon us during our 10 a.m. to noon shift. It was lovely. No need to head to the bathroom to thaw hands under the heat of a hand dryer. This was an orange shorts topped by a Green Bay Packers jacket kind of morning, per the attire of one Walmart customer.

In true typical Minnesota talk, numerous folks commented on the beautiful weather. We couldn’t have agreed more. Standing in the outdoors for two hours in 25 degree weather felt almost tropical compared to the bundled up with minimal skin exposed temps of a year ago.

We were happy to be there, no matter the weather.

This marks my second year of bell ringing. And, like last year, I used eye contact and a friendly greeting to welcome folks, whether they gave or not.

And so many gave—from the smallest tyke hoisted to the kettle by a parent to the elderly man shuffling across the parking lot to the woman waiting for a taxi to the family with five children who gave on their way in, and then out of, the store.

I appreciated the kind words of several who thanked us and held dear an elderly woman’s words, “God bless you.”

It touches me deeply when parents pause so their children can drop coins and bills into the kettle. We thanked those children by handing out kisses—chocolate candy kisses. And I thanked the parents, too, for teaching their children to give.

In this season of spending, I hope you will donate to a charity to help those in need. Who knows, some day that person in need may be you, or me.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling