90-year-old rounding up Salvation Army funds to help those in need

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 7:14 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Being generous on her own just wasn’t enough.

Ever since Salvation Army’s “Match Day” was created over a decade ago, 90-year-old lifelong Sioux Falls area resident Jane Egan has found a way to make it to a Hy-Vee and put some money into the red kettles — money that goes to local families in need of food, clothes, and heat.

In the senior independent living community where she is, Match Day may as well be callled “Jane’s Day.”

Saturday, Dec. 10, is that day this year. For every $20 that goes into those kettles, it will be matched with $80 to turn it into a $100 donation. Donations can come in cash, checks, or via mobile phones after scanning the code on the kettle and entereing a custom amount.

And Egan will be there, with bells on. Well, maybe with the images of bells on her Christmas sweater, if she wears the same one she wore when Dakota News Now vistied her on Thursday.

”I think this year with inflation and everything, there’s just an awful lot of people that need a little boost,” Egan said.

But she won’t be pitching in with just her own money. When Egan moved into Good Samartian Society’s Prairie Creek senior apartments 7 years ago, she had a Eureka moment one holiday season.

”We have people here that can’t drive and can’t get out and can’t do things,” Egan said. “I asked if I (could) take their money with me (on Match Day), and they said, ‘sure.’”

And so, Egan spends the two weeks leading up to “Match Day” remind ingeveryone she sees — in the dining room, the lobby, the library, her bridge and rummy games, anyone, anytime — that “Match Day” is coming up.

Plenty of help comes from Prairie Creek activities director Taryn Siemonsma-Garry, who sends out both nightly and weekly newsletters and e-mails to the 150 residents in both “The Lodge” — the apartment building where Egan lives — and nearby the senior independent living twin homes on the Prairie Creek campus in southwest Sioux Falls.

”Jane is such a joy to have here,” Siemonsma-Garry said. “She brings life. She brings commentary. She’s just great to have a conversation with, have some laughs with. I think Jane has a very helping hand and wants to help people in the community.”

So far this year, Egan has raised $1,300 from her neighbors, with a couple days left.

Some of it shows up in a mailbox Siemonsma-Garry set up in The Lodge. But some residents prefer to go straight to Egan — even when she’s not home.

”It’s fun,” Egan said, laughing. “I come home and there’s 20 dollar bills that are shoved under my door or on my counter. We’re very trusting here.”

She takes all the bills and checks and neatly folds them so they’ll fit into those tiny slots on top of the kettles.

“I learned the hard way to fold them before you go there,” Egan said with another chuckle. “It takes a while if you don’t.”

On Saturday, she’ll deliver all of the cash to HyVee. But not alone.

”I take somebody with me to deliver, so (donors) know it really got there and I didn’t have a party on them,” Egan said.

Again, she let out a giggle.

Depending how much comes to her in the final 48 hours, Egan will have raised over $3,000 for the Salvation Army, thanks to the organization’s “match” on Match Day.

Even though she claims, “I do nothing,” Egan’s simple, extra-step-taken act of kindness means a lot to those who receive the money.

“They’re very thankful,” said John Mogan, a Salvation Army board member for 15 years and bell ringer for a quarter century.

“These are hard-working people — some who may have five or six kids, and came here from other countries,” and can’t quite get a handle on establishing enough financial security to pay for basic needs.

The recipients have to apply at the Salvation Army and be cleared to receive funds.

”It’s very satisfying to realize that you’re helping families can’t pay their rent, can’t for their heat, their food, their clothes,” Mogan said.

He added that helping others is “what the Bible tells us to do.”

Egan herself recently felt extreme warmth in others lifting her up. In May, she lost her husband of 20 years, Noel. Asked what living in Prairie Creek has meant to her these last seven months, Egan said “everything.”

“The friends are great, the staff is wonderful, and there’s so much to do,” Egan said, wrapping up an interview before leaving for a bridge game.

“Those of us who live here, we don’t understand why (other seniors) would want to be alone in their house all the time.”

Siemonsma-Garry called Prairie Creek a “family,” with some residents who have been friends for 50 or more years, and some who just met a new one today. It’s a community that enjoys helping each other, and those outside their community.

And as thankful as some of the least fortunate people in Sioux Falls may be for what Egan does to help them, it appears her gratitude is “matched” — every day, not just Match Day.

“I’m just grateful to the Lord that I’m able to get up, able to do things where I enjoy life,” Egan said. “I’m very blessed, and, so, I like to help other people if I possibly can.”