Hoodwinked into showing up at the MinnCo Community Room by saying it was an early birthday party for her, Jill Arnoldy grew a little suspicious when she entered the packed facility. Soon, she was overcome with emotion when the Isanti County Salvation Army unit member was handed not one, but two large service awards.
Arnoldy, of Stanchfield, has a long list of service through the Salvation Army projects, as pointed out in Field Representative Jan Karasch’s nomination letter, including back-to-school programs, holiday food boxes (for both Thanksgiving and Easter), organizing the Personal Needs program, certified disaster volunteer, providing Salvation Army daily emergency assistance vouchers for 13 years and bell ringing.
“Jill is a founding member and vital to the success of this thriving service unit,” wrote Karasch. “In spite of battling serious health issues over the years, she continuously volunteers and gives up her time and talent. She is a mother of three, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of one.”
Karasch detailed Arnoldy’s dedication to the Salvation Army after she suffered a stroke in 2003.
“Jill learned to walk again. She did not that let that interfere with signing up kids and teens for Salvation Army camp. In April 2008, she was hospitalized with pulmonary fibrosis. Again, she did not give up her opportunity to send children to camp.
“She does not only give up her time and talents to the Salvation Army but to many others. She volunteers for a battered women’s shelter thrift shop, Quilters for Charity and Beyond the Yellow Ribbon quilters for the military. She teaches quilting, sews and crochets caps and scarves for cancer victims, and she’s active in her church. She also is an animal lover, raising chickens for 15 years and donating eggs to local food pantries, plus she was a rescue home for sheep, goats and dogs for seven years.”
“Jill is an inspiration. She has impacted and continues to bless thousands of lives. She is a true service for him (God),” closed Karasch’s letter, read at the ceremony by Salvation Army Service Extension Director JoAnne Lee.
Tom McKee, Salvation Army Northern Division volunteer services director based out of Roseville, opened the celebration Thursday evening.
“Jill, it’s just a real pleasure to have learned a few things about you,” he said. “We’ve had a large number of folks that have volunteered for the Salvation Army – a large number this past year. And we have had a number of outstanding volunteers. But your service has come to the top of the pile.”
McKee also read a note from Lt. Col. Robert Thompson, divisional commander of the Salvation Army. Thompson wrote, “I want to congratulate you for being selected this year’s Salvation Army Northern Division individual ‘Volunteer Award’ winner. Your service in meeting human needs comes through loud and clear in the ways you give of your time.”
For the Northern Division award, Arnoldy was handed a painting titled “The Spirit of Giving,” which depicted Salvation Army holiday bell ringers on duty around the red kettle.
In the Salvation Army’s U.S. Central Territory, there are 10 divisions, including the Northern Division. Arnoldy was also selected as the “Central Territory Volunteer of the Year” out of the divisional nominees. For that, she received an engraved crystal bowl to mark the occasion.
“Oh my gosh!” was the most Arnoldy could utter while receiving both awards at the same time, fighting back tears.
Before photos were taken and supper was served, Kory Erickson, chair of the Isanti County Salvation Army, added, “This unit’s been here for quite a few years. We couldn’t do the things we do without Jill – there’s no doubt about it. We’re very appreciative she’s with this unit.”