Football team members volunteer at St. Cloud Salvation Army shelter

Eight Princeton High School (PHS) football players and their coach Roy Hanenburg tackled a project at the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter in St. Cloud last week, that the shelter manager says saved her staff immense time.

Also assisting in the project, by carrying cardboard boxes out to the dump site, were Hanenburg’s two daughters – Peyton, 10, and Sidney, 8.

Hanenburg led team members Ryan Derrick, Mike Zimmer, Josh Osborn, Jack Ludwig, Thomas Klaphake, Kyle Ringey, Nate Hoffer and Sam Thompson in removing 60 wooden single bed frames from rooms at the two-story shelter and replacing them with new metal ones. The Salvation Army was able to buy the new steel bed frames with a grant from Scheels All Sports, Inc., in Waite Park.

Someone at Scheels had asked the shelter staff if the shelter had a need that Scheels could assist with. Shelter manager Mica Zimmer brought up the need for new beds. The old wooden ones, Zimmer said, required a lot of ongoing maintenance because of deterioration. Also, the new metal frames can be wiped down better to disinfect, she said.

The approximately five-year-old shelter is located on a frontage road off of Highway 10 and was once a Budget Inn that closed.

Zimmer, whose son Mike Zimmer plays on the PHS football team, says she thought of the idea of having the football players volunteer for the job of taking the old beds out and placing the new steel beds into the rooms.

“I was thinking, ‘How could I get a group of young people to come in and assist us?’” she said. The shelter has a staff of five and only one member is on duty per shift, so if the staff members had to do this, it would have taken at least a month, she said.

Zimmer said she thought about how PHS hockey players have volunteered for community service jobs, and decided she ought to give PHS football players a chance to do the same. She said this Wednesday morning of last week, at the shelter, as the football players moved from room to room of the two-story shelter building, hauling old wooden bed parts out and bringing in the new steel frames.

Sometimes the noise in the rooms where the football players were working sounded like a football scrimmage. The football players had given up on disassembling the wooden beds by taking apart all the bolts because it was taking too long. They decided on the brute-force approach, kicking the wooden cross rails into pieces. Mica Zimmer, looking into rooms at the commotion at times, cautioned the players not to end up getting hurt.

The shelter serves men, women and children, with the top floor reserved just for men and the bottom floor for women and children. The shelter serves not just the homeless, but also the working poor, manager Zimmer said.

Jim Muellenbach, community development director for the Salvation Army, was at the shelter the morning the football players were there, and noted that the Salvation Army has given many public tours of the facility. Most of the people who take the tour are amazed that such a shelter exists, Muellenbach said.

Getting the word out about it helps educate the public about all the things the Salvation Army does, Muellenbach continued. “Everybody knows we ring bells…” he said, referring to the Salvation Army’s traditional bell ringing next to donation kettles in front of stores at Christmastime. But not many know about the Salvation Army’s shelter for the homeless, he said.

Besides sheltering needy persons for a maximum of 30 days in one period, with a limited number of such periods per year, the shelter also provides breakfast, lunch and dinner there during weekdays and provides some weekend meals. It also has a community lunch program, where anyone can come in who wants a hot meal, Muellenbach added.

One more thing the shelter building has is a food shelf that gave out 440,000 pounds of food last year.

There is no way the Salvation Army could run its mission without all the volunteer help, Muellenbach continued, noting that 1,600 volunteers have put in 30,000 hours there.

The football players completed the bed-replacement project on that Wednesday morning between 9:30 and 11:40 and then were given a meal at the shelter.

Zimmer left no doubt, after it was over, how pleased she was with the football players’ work.

Coach Hanenburg said during the project, that he doesn’t remember the team doing volunteer work since he has been coach, though the team has had disabled people brought over to watch some home games. There are always the “good intentions” to do volunteer projects but time slips away and it doesn’t always happen, Hanenburg said. It’s also “hard to organize a bunch of kids to do stuff, and this was a good fit,” he added, calling the results, “awesome.”

One of the group members, PHS senior Kyle Ringey, a full back and defense player on the PHS varsity team, said this: “I think it’s good.” He added that he likes to get out and around and getting the “vibes” of the Salvation Army’s shelter program , and then mentioned other benefits. It helps the football team members “bond,” besides “helping the community,” he said.

That evening men, women and children staying overnight at the shelter, slept on new beds.