Landis veteran gives back during Red Kettle Campaign

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 19, 2017

By Andie Foley

Kathryn McElhannon may have served her country through 13 years in the U.S. Army, but she’s not done yet.

This year, you’ll find her around town beside that recognizable red kettle as a bellringer for the Salvation Army.

Capt. Bobby Carr, of the Salvation Army, said all of the donations received through the Red Kettle Campaign stay in Rowan County.

Specifically, 85 percent of the money donated covers services such as clothing vouchers, Christmas food boxes, rent and utility assistance and other social services programs.  The remaining 15 percent goes toward Salvation Army administrative costs.

McElhannon, a mother of one, is already president of Landis Elementary School’s PTA. She and her son also donate to locals families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Her son, seven-year-old Jared, gets to play Santa Claus, she said.

“He knows the true meaning of Christmas,” she said. “He knows anybody can be a Santa Claus, … that it means to give hope and to celebrate Christ’s birthday and to just pass forward, to bring other people hope that they can have something and that people care.”

This goal of enriching the lives of others, she said, is what inspired her to get involved with the Salvation Army. Pointedly, she wanted to foster a spirit of giving in the heart of her young son.

She said she felt the best way was to lead by example, a practice that helped her overcome obstacles earlier in life.

“I’ve seen the worst of the worst,” she said. “Now, I’m not at the best of the best but I’m not at my worst either. … (Giving back) is a blessing. I just wish there was more that I could do.”

In her 13 years of service, McElhannon served six overseas deployments and one humanitarian relief following hurricane Katrina.

She has since been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which along with other issues, has her 90 percent disabled and medically retired from the service.

Her retirement was hard, she said. Before becoming active in her son’s school and in her community, she struggled with depression, and a loss of her sense of self.

“With the military, once you get out, you don’t feel like you have a place anymore,” she said. “PTA filled that….”

But, she said, she uses the pain she experiences daily as extra motivation to carry on with her work.

“I use my pain as my motivation,” sad McElhannon. “My pain lets me know that I’m here. … I have brothers and sisters in arms who don’t get to feel pain. … I’m trying to go and do right by them: those that can no longer do.”