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Wineka column: A big heart keeps up with a little purse

SALISBURY — I wish I could tell you the name of this woman, but she asked me to keep it under wraps. She said for purposes of this story to call her a “Rowan County woman,” or a “senior citizen” or  a “very senior citizen.”

She laughed at that last one.

So to make it easier for me, I’m going to say her name is Elsie and go from there.

Elsie has an idea she hopes will help the Salvation Army once the holiday season arrives. More on that later.

Elsie came to the newsroom one day to share with me her frustration about solicitations she receives from nonprofits (not local)  that include real money and sometimes other things of value such as calendars, greeting cards, Bible verse books, address labels, toothbrushes and socks.

The intent is, of course, to entice the recipient into accepting these gifts but also feel compelled to send back a bigger donation. The solicitation might have a nickel, dime, quarter, dollar or even a two-dollar bill attached to it, and the accompanying letter will explain how even a little amount of change or a few dollars can go a long way.

Again, the hope is the money sent to you will lead to your sending even more back in the stamped envelope included.

Elsie is the kind of gal who feels uncomfortable about accepting anything she didn’t earn, especially money.

“At first your heart is touched, and you respond,” she says. “I received a sock. Lots of people, no doubt, know what I’m talking about.

“Knowing it was for the troops, I returned it in their stamped envelope with money enough for three pairs of socks and a note thanking them for the good work and to remove me from the mailing list.”

It was not long before Elsie received a toothbrush from the same organization, and she returned it without any additional money. Another toothbrush and sock soon arrived by mail to her house.

“We know that those doing good work hire a company to send out mailings, and that is understandable,” Elsie said, “but it also explains why after you respond, your name and address is there for the next nonprofit that hires them.

“And your big heart can’t keep up with your little purse. … Something has to give.”

Soon, Elsie was receiving things in the mail from all kinds of patriotic, religious, military veterans, conservative political, environmental and humanitarian organizations — groups such as Adopt a Platoon, the Coalition to Salute American Heroes, Nations Mission Society, The Navigators, conservative Republican Matt Bevin of Kentucky, Pray in Jesus’ Name Ministry, Liberty Institute, Tea Party Express and the Christian Appalachian Project.

Elsie plopped all the letters, envelopes and money they included on my desk. It was more than a year’s worth.

“There’s another dollar,” she said, spying one that escaped her.

Elsie said she initially returned the money being sent to her if she wasn’t making a contribution on her own.

“I got tired of  sending these back,” she said, but Elsie also couldn’t bring herself to spend the cash she was accumulating. She counted it up, and she had received $11.03 from 21 different solicitations. The money sent to her had ranged from three pennies to a $2 bill.

She felt as though it was complicating her life. “Like I said,” she added. “I didn’t know what to do with it. … I’m just sure other people get these things, don’t they?”

Elsie finally decided to find a better home for this petty cash coming to her in the mail, and she thinks others should do the same.

“I have a heart for the Salvation Army, their work and the volunteers who stand in the cold and ring those bells,” she said. “Let’s share with them.”

The Salvation Army’s kettle kickoff in Rowan County is going to happen at 11 a.m. Nov. 14 at the new Hobby Lobby store off Julian Road.

She’s not sure it will be that particular kettle, but Elsie is going to drop off her $11.03 with a local bellringer sometime before Christmas. She thinks if just half the people in Rowan County would save these small amounts of money they receive unsolicited in the mail and plop it into a Salvation Army kettle, it could make a difference in more people’s lives.

Elsie’s mind has eased considerably these days, and she doesn’t cringe as much when she reaches into the mailbox.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.









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