99-Year-Old Veteran to Walk 100 Miles to Fundraise for Salvation Army COVID-19 Relief

Jun 18, 2020

At 99 years of age, Mickey Nelson still has things he wants to check off his bucket list.

All his life, Mickey has lived in Clarks Grove, Minnesota, just north of Albert Lea. In fact, he still lives in the house in which he was born in 1920. He’s accomplished a great deal in his 99 years, including his service maintaining tanks in an armored division during World War II. As a businessman, he owned a successful bus business for 58 years, as well as a sand and gravel company. He’s a fixture in Clarks Grove, often seen walking down Main Street, past the hardware store and the post office, and The Salvation Army clothing donation box. Just about everybody in town knows Mickey and waves hello while he’s out walking.

But something has been bothering Mickey as of late. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the suffering it has inflicted on his neighbors’ well-being, has him concerned. He has seen the effect on families whose jobs have been furloughed or eliminated, many of whom have no savings to fall back on. Statistics show that 700,000 Minnesotans and North Dakotans have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic, roughly 20% of the workforce. As much as 40% of the recently unemployed have never before visited a food shelf, but now find themselves relying on them to help feed their families.

“I know that people are struggling, either from the illness or a job loss from all the businesses shutting down,” Mickey said recently. “I just thought there was something I could do to help.”

So Mickey and his daughters came up with a “bucket list” idea to help these neighbors—inspired by a similar effort by a centenarian Englishman who walked 100 laps. But instead of laps, Mickey will walk 100 miles by the end of this summer—through the streets of Clarks Grove, his hometown, every day. He’s calling his effort, “Walking to 100,” not only because he will walk 100 miles, but also because he is turning 100 years old next month.

Mickey is hoping people will donate money to support his effort to help others. He has selected The Salvation Army Northern Division, who supplies food and emergency assistance to all of Minnesota and North Dakota, to use the money he raises to provide relief from the pandemic. Salvation Army service centers have been on the front lines of food distribution since the pandemic began; distributions of groceries have increased as much as 900% in some locations.

“We have been working very hard to help those in need since mid-March. Our staff is working overtime and our resources are being stretched like never before,” said Lt. Colonel Lonneal Richardson, commander of The Salvation Army Northern Division. “But this effort being made by Mickey is truly selfless, and we are grateful for and inspired by his efforts.”

To support Mickey on his walks this summer, please donate at SalvationArmyNorth.org/mickey. To learn more about what the Salvation Army is doing to provide help in response to the pandemic, visit www.SalvationArmyNorth.org/covid19.

Interview and video opportunities may be available; please contact Dan Furry at 651-746-3572 or 763-218-7127 or dan.furry@usc.salvationarmy.org for information.

The Salvation Army Northern Division annually helps 325,000 people overcome poverty, addiction and economic hardship through a range of social services, meeting human needs without discrimination. By providing food for the hungry, emergency relief for disaster survivors, rehabilitation for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, and clothing and shelter for people in need, The Salvation Army Northern Division is #DoingTheMostGood at 68 operation centers in Minnesota and North Dakota.

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