The Power of One Volunteer

Jun 23, 2020

In February of this year, before the word coronavirus had entered most of our vocabularies, Major Angie Pennington set out to recruit some new volunteers at the DeKalb Salvation Army Corps Community Center. While they valued their current crop of volunteers, most were in their 70s or 80s and couldn’t do all the tasks they needed – such as lifting heavy boxes of items delivered to their food pantry.

Little did Major Angie know how important these new volunteers would be when the virus hit and all of their older volunteers had to stay at home due to health concerns. COVID-19 also changed the format of their food pantry. Clients could no longer enter the building and shop for what they wanted on the food pantry shelves. Now they pulled up to the curb and let volunteers put pre-packaged food boxes in their trunk or backseat. Suddenly the community center needed to package all the food for each client and needed volunteers able to carry those packages to each car.

One recruit was willing and able to help with all those tasks – and so much more.

Cindy Minnihan had volunteered with The Salvation Army in DeKalb some years ago when her church participated in our Angel Tree program. So when the now-retired teacher heard that the center needed help with their food pantry, she signed up. And when Major Angie mentioned they needed even more hands on deck, Cindy recruited some people from her church. “Our church is very intentional about having an impact on our community,” Cindy said.

“She told people about the need and three more started volunteering,” said Major Angie. Two of them had to cease their participation during the coronavirus due to family health concerns, but they hope to reconnect with them in the future.

Cindy was also paying attention when Major Angie mentioned another need. “We needed a pull-behind trailer to pick up food at grocery stores,” she said. It would be much more efficient than their passenger van and would ultimately save labor.

Upon hearing of their financial need, Cindy immediately thought of a group she belongs to, Women Supporting Faith-Based Organizations. Every quarter they meet and vote on a local faith-based organization to support. Then each of the 30 members writes a $100 check to that group. At their next gathering, Cindy gave a five-minute presentation about why the women should support the food pantry at the DeKalb Salvation Army. And out of the three organizations being considered that quarter, the Army won the vote.

Major Angie was thrilled. Still, she said, “The $3,000 was not quite enough for a trailer.” So she applied for matching funds through the Northern Illinois Food Bank, and it got approved. The combined money paid for a trailer and two additional freezers for their facility. They plan to paint the Salvation Army shield on the trailer so it can also serve as a moving billboard in their community.

“This all came from one volunteer engaged in our mission,” said Major Angie. “And it all came together at the right time.”

Cindy continues to volunteer once a week at the food pantry, more as needed. Now that they’re retired, she and her husband volunteer with several organizations. “God’s been so good to us, we need to give back,” she said.

Cindy’s happy to do anything asked of her, unloading the truck of food deliveries and packing boxes of food for clients. But her favorite is smiling at the clients behind her face mask and telling them to have a nice day. She knows that extra human touch is especially important right now.

Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at salarmychicago.org/coronavirus


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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.


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