Nearing 100 years old, Minnesota veteran to walk 100 miles for coronavirus relief

By KRISTI BELCAMINO | Pioneer Press | Published: May 20, 2020

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(Tribune News Service) — At 99 years of age, Mickey Nelson is proving it’s never too late to walk the walk.

Moved by the plight of his neighbors suffering from the harsh economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nelson and his daughters came up with an idea to help.

Nelson is going to walk 100 miles by the end of summer through his hometown of Clarks Grove — just north of Albert Lea — in what he has dubbed, “Walking to 100,” because not only will he walk 100 miles, but he also will celebrate his 100th birthday next month.

“He’s a fixture in Clarks Grove, often seen walking down Main Street, past the hardware store and the post office, and The Salvation Army clothing donation box. Just about everybody in town knows Mickey and waves hello while he’s out walking,” said Dan Furry of the Salvation Army in a press release Tuesday.

Inspired by a similar effort by an English centenarian who walked 100 laps, Nelson hopes to raise money for the Salvation Army Northern Division, which supplies food and emergency assistance to all of Minnesota and North Dakota.

According to Furry, the Salvation Army’s service centers have “been on the front lines of food distribution since the pandemic began; distributions of groceries have increased as much as 900 percent in some locations.”

Statistics show that 700,000 Minnesotans and North Dakotans have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic, roughly 20 percent of the workforce, Furry said. As much as 40 percent of the recently unemployed have never before visited a food shelf, but now find themselves relying on them to help feed their families.

Nelson, who lives in the same Clarks Grove house where he was born in 1920, maintained tanks in an armored division during World War II and owned a sand and gravel company and a bus business.

“I know that people are struggling, either from the illness or a job loss from all the businesses shutting down,” Mickey said recently. “I just thought there was something I could do to help.”

“We have been working very hard to help those in need since mid-March. Our staff is working overtime and our resources are being stretched like never before,” said Lt. Colonel Lonneal Richardson, commander of The Salvation Army Northern Division. “But this effort being made by Mickey is truly selfless, and we are grateful for and inspired by his efforts.”

You can donate to Nelson’s “Walking to 100” at SalvationArmyNorth.org/mickey. For more information about the Salvation Army’s efforts during the pandemic, visit www.SalvationArmyNorth.org/covid19.

©2020 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)
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