National Volunteer Week spotlight: 100-year-old volunteer walks 100 miles

Apr 20, 2021

National Volunteer Week is April 18-24, when people across the country come together to serve others and improve their communities. Feel the joy of helping others by signing up to volunteer for The Salvation Army. 

Nothing could ever stop Mickey Nelson from volunteering – not even his age.

Mickey is 100 years old. Last summer, he volunteered many hours of his time to raise money for The Salvation Army by walking 100 miles. 

“I know that people are struggling, either from (COVID-19) or a job loss from all the businesses shutting down,” Mickey said last summer, in his hometown of Clarks Grove, Minn. “I just thought there was something I could do to help.”

Mickey set out on his journey at the beginning of the summer, hoping to walk a mile a day by August, with a target of raising $5,000. He finished his challenge by completing his 100th mile, raising more than $110,000 to feed the hungry in Minnesota. His efforts made news all across the country. (Watch Mickey’s story unfold in three reports from KARE11’s award-winning journalist Boyd Huppert: (1) May 24, 2020, (2) June 28, 2020 and (3) August 9, 2020.)

Mickey is a World War II veteran who grew up during the Great Depression. Because he lived on a farm, his family had enough food to get through the tough times, but he saw first-hand the hardships his neighbors went through. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Mickey was concerned for those who were struggling, furloughed or laid off from their jobs. It was then that his idea to walk 100 miles to raise money for The Salvation Army took shape.

“We have been working very hard to help those in need since the start of the pandemic. Our staff is working overtime and our resources are being stretched like never before,” said Lt. Colonel Dan Jennings, commander of The Salvation Army Northern Division. “But the effort made by Mickey is truly selfless, and we are grateful for and inspired by his accomplishment.”

Mickey’s effort could not have come at a better time, as requests for services at The Salvation Army have increased 140 percent since the start of the pandemic. In fact, 40 percent of the people coming to The Salvation Army for food assistance have never before visited a food shelf. 

Certainly, the outcome from Mickey’s campaign is rare, but he volunteered by doing what he did well – walking. Mickey’s effort illustrates that it doesn’t take any special talent to help those in need – it just takes a desire to make a difference. 

The Salvation Army is in need of hundreds more volunteers to meet the increased demand of those affected by the pandemic. Learn more or sign up to volunteer.

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