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Grand Forks Salvation Army’s Big Ring set for Nov. 22, with donations going toward its various services

This year, the Grand Forks Salvation Army is aiming to raise $40,000. On Tuesday, Nov. 22, people can help by visiting Grand Forks Valley Dairy locations at 4701 S. Washington St. and 1220 University Ave. to get their gas tanks filled by volunteers.

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Maj. Paul Ferguson, of the Salvation Army, with volunteers Lana Huderle, left, and Michele Petron are photographed in the food shelter at the facility on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. Fewer donations have led to smaller distributions to clients, part of the toll of inflation.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – The annual Big Ring event, one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the Grand Forks Salvation Army, will take place from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

People can visit Grand Forks Valley Dairy locations at 4701 S. Washington St. and 1220 University Ave. to get their gas tanks filled by volunteers. A silent auction also will be held on the same day, with auction to include several gift baskets and gift cards to a variety of local businesses.

During The Big Ring, organizations and individuals donate a certain amount of cents per gallon per transaction. Val Anton, a member of the Salvation Army Board, said local businesses are among some of the largest contributors for the event.

“That’s a huge part of this,” Anton said.

Anton said the silent auction "is always amazing" but there are many businesses that will donate anywhere from 2 cents to 10 cents per gallon.

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This year, Anton said, the Grand Forks Salvation Army is aiming to raise $40,000. All donations go toward the many programs and services the Salvation Army offers for the Greater Grand Forks community. The number of people in the community seeking assistance from the Salvation Army this year has moderately increased due to inflation.

“That need is tremendously greater because of the rising costs,” Anton said.

Grand Forks Salvation Army Maj. Paul Ferguson said there’s been a 20% to 30% increase in people coming to the Salvation Army for assistance, including paying utilities and receiving food. The spike has been felt by other nonprofits in the community, Ferguson said.

“Right now, if you need to talk to any social service agency that has food pantries or any kind of assistance, we're all hurting for resources,” Ferguson said.

While there is a greater demand for the services provided, food and monetary donations have been down. Ferguson said the drop in donations also can be linked to inflation, with people having to reevaluate how much they are able to donate to nonprofits. 

“Donors aren’t as quick to be able to give,” Ferguson said. “They have to pause a little bit and think and say ‘well I can afford to give this much, even though I used to give this much.’”

Still, Ferguson said no one has had to be turned away when getting food. The Salvation Army has made some cost reductions to administrative services in order to continue providing services.

Other than assistance programs, some additional services offered at the Salvation Army are yearly school supply distributions (with more than 600 kids getting supplies this year) and winter wear distributions (with 335 people receiving winter items last month).

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The Salvation Army Thrift Store is another component of the organization, with all the proceeds from sales at the store going back into the Salvation Army’s social service account. Ferguson said the thrift store also allows people who have vouchers from the Salvation Army to pick out items for no charge.

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Despite the popularity of online shopping, David Flynn, an economics and finance professor at UND, said he thinks many will still get out and shop on Black Friday this year as people view it as back-to-normal activity after the pandemic. And adding to the optimism is an increase in traffic at the U.S.-Canada border at Pembina.

Along with a decline in donations, Ferguson said there has been a decline in the number of volunteers. It started during the pandemic and hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic numbers.

Volunteers are especially needed for the Red Kettle Campaign, which Ferguson said is one of the more visible events for the Salvation Army. The campaign runs until Dec. 24.

Another event is the Angel Tree, which allows shoppers around the region to shop for a child based on a wishlist. Ferguson said various stores participate in the Angel Tree each year. 

“It’s amazing to watch the Angel Tree because it’s different than just dropping a toy in a box,” Ferguson said. “When they go and pick up that tag off the tree, it’s very intentional.”

In Grand Forks, approximately 400 kids are registered to receive gifts from the Angel Tree event when they are distributed on Dec. 15 and 16.

Ferguson said he hopes people can help out in any way they can either by donating, or by volunteering their time.

“I would just like to let people know that we need your help,” Ferguson said. "If you’re able to squeeze a little more out of your giving budget, if you’re able to give a few hours to ring a bell ... that goes a long way.”

Related Topics: CITY OF GRAND FORKS
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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