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Aug19WedLorraine Blue knew the Army needed help during the pandemic. So she did something about it. August 19, 2020 by Ken Ramstead
This past spring, Lorraine Blue was watching a Salvation Army commercial appealing for help with COVID-19. Sitting there in her living room, she thought, In the middle of this crazy world, what can I do right now, as one person, to help?
It was simplicity itself to pick up her phone and make a donation, which she did.
But the next day, the thought persisted. Lorraine knew that there must be more she could do to help. But what? That afternoon, as she was passing Bailey’s Home Hardware store in Toronto, it hit her: “I’m sure that the Army is feeding a lot more people now thanks to COVID-19. They must need more food.”
On a whim, she entered the store and found out that they had 400 packages of low-fat bran muffin mix (each package makes 24 muffins) plus 280 large cans of vanilla icing that were nearing their expiration dates in a month, though the manager assured her that they would keep for much longer. Lorraine promptly purchased the lot, and when the Home Hardware manager found out why she was buying them, he gave her a steep discount. Home Hardware staff even helped her place the boxes in her car.
Lorraine’s next step was to contact The Salvation Army’s divisional headquarters in Toronto to find out how she could donate all this food. The automated answering service frustrated her efforts, as she knew no one there, but after randomly pressing buttons in hopes of connecting to a “live” person, she managed to reach Vivienne So, a manager in employee relations.
“I was moved by her story,” Vivienne says, “and I wanted to see this donation put to good use.”
But she had only been on the job for six months and wasn’t sure what the protocol was.
“I didn’t feel right to just say ‘wrong number’ or pass her along,” Vivienne says, “so I decided to take care of this myself.”
After a number of inquiries, Vivienne was directed to the Army’s Railside distribution centre and passed on their contact information to a happy Lorraine.
She, in turn, loaded her car up and drove to the Railside facility with the purchased and donated supplies.
“The staff at The Salvation Army were so amazing,” says Lorraine. “Between Home Hardware and Railside, it was a team effort.”
Lorraine’s vision grew. “I realized I was not just helping those who were out of work due to COVID-19,” she says. “I was assisting others that the Army was looking out for: the homeless, the seniors, the disabled.”
When she returned to purchase more food, Bailey’s Home Hardware donated items free of charge, including masks and hand sanitizer. Soon, friends and acquaintances were dropping off purchases at Lorraine’s home, having heard of her efforts. Now Lorraine had more items than she could fit in her car, so her friend, Sandy Blackwell, drove over to help bring everything to Railside.
Lorraine’s project also received support from her local Costco, which donated a skid of bananas, and a local liquidation store contributed foodstuffs. A friend of Sandy’s donated $200 from her own pocket to supply medical gloves, even though she had been recently laid off from her job.
“She wanted to contribute to the cause in any way she could,” says Lorraine.
Other local companies have given skids of deodorant, cases of cookies, individual bags of caramel cashew mix and toothpaste, either for free or at drastically reduced rates.
“It’s a feeling that keeps spreading and growing larger and larger every day,” smiles Lorraine. “We have become a team of kindred souls, one generous act at a time.”
“A Better Place”
“We often take for granted small acts of kindness, but God’s plan is so clear: He wants us to love others,” says Lisa Baker, Vivienne’s supervisor and head of employee relations at the Army’s divisional headquarters. “Lorraine’s efforts are so appreciated.”
“Piece by piece, if everyone did a little something, the world would be a better place,” Lorraine concludes.