The best gift is giving back

by Craig Dirkes

Few people understand the importance of bell ringing better than Wesley Daniels. At 55, Wesley is a longtime bellringer whose life was transformed thanks to donations made to red kettle.

His transformation began in 2009 when he arrived at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center in Minneapolis, Minn.—a homeless outreach facility that is heavily funded by kettle donations.

“I’d recently had a heart attack from doing drugs,” said Wesley, while ringing bells outside a Cub grocery store in Brooklyn Park. “I’d lost my job and my home. I didn’t have anywhere to go.”

While he stayed at the Harbor Light Center, loving Salvation Army staff members gave Wesley food, shelter, addiction counseling and spiritual care. The facility is one of the largest homeless outreach centers in Minnesota, providing a warm bed for about 250 men and women every night.

Wesley spent a year at the Harbor Light Center, learning how to live a clean life filled with meaning and purpose. He went on to secure his own apartment, graduate from college and be gainfully employed. “I never went back to drugs either,” Wesley said. “No more hanging around on the street or going to bars and clubs. Those days are gone.”

Now, Wesley spends his free time praying, working on his car and reaching out to men who are struggling with addiction as he once did.

“I do a lot of check-ins on other guys,” Wesley said. “It’s good to be a support to them.” Wesley is proud of the man he has become. When people stuff cash into his red kettle, he takes comfort in knowing the money will help others like him.

“Why am I standing here ringing?” asked Wesley, bundled in his warmest winter clothes, standing next to a red kettle on a frigid winter day. “I’ve been hungry and homeless before. I know how that feels. And I appreciate The Salvation Army for helping me get myself back together.”





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