Thanksgiving over for Salt Mine

Donations still needed
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Thanksgiving is over and there is a sense of relief at Lincoln’s main food closet, the Salt Mine.

Eric Long, minister at the Salt Mine, said, “Thanksgiving is our Superbowl.”

“Honestly, it’s a huge relief when Thanksgiving is over. It’s a very rewarding relief,” Long said in an interview with The Lincoln News Messenger. “Thanksgiving is really the only holiday about getting together and eating; and we’re the primary food closet in town.”

Long said the Salt Mine distributed more than 300 Thanksgiving boxes and more than 2,000 Thanksgiving meals this season. The Salt Mine also served dinner to nearly 100 people who could not cook for themselves or did not have a place to cook.

“Yesterday, Nov. 24, we gave out all of our Thanksgiving boxes,” Long said. “Today we are preparing Thanksgiving meals for people who can’t make dinner at home.”

Although the work at the Salt Mine doesn’t end on the last Thursday in November the effort does.

“Monetary donations are the biggest way to help during Christmas,” Long said. “It allows us to specifically help those with unique needs; medication, rides, utility bills. It’s not all we need, but it’s our biggest need

“It’s hard when you have to tell people you can’t help them because you don’t have the funds,” Long added.” Money is one of the best tools to help people.”

And, Long said, there is more focus on the young.

“Children and families during Christmas; blessing children goes a long ways,” Long said.” Instilling life and hope within them.”

Long, who has been married to his high school sweetheart for 28 years, has three boys and a girl; all home-schooled by his wife and college scholarship recipients. He said Thanksgiving at his house is a blast.

“We have four kids, the oldest is married and we have two granddaughters,” Long said. “It’s an enjoyable time. We play games, and they are all food connoisseurs. They like good food so we have a lot. It’s good family time.”

Long said his passion to help those in need stems from his childhood.

“I grew up with a single mom and we depended on organizations like the Salt Mine,” Long said. “A whole year of my life, 10-11, I lived in a tent in Wisconsin, in the snow and it was cold.

 “I get choked up when I think about how we survived and made it through,” added Long. “We were a transient family. We survived by utilizing organizations like the Salt Mine wherever we went. We know what it’s like because we lived it”

Long said his mother and siblings are all still alive and doing really well.

Long was 14 when he arrived in Lincoln.

“My grandmother, my mom’s mom, lives here and still does,” said Long. “She gave us a place to stay until we could get on our feet. I am so proud to be part of Lincoln. I feel blessed to be part of this community.”

Long added that he would like people to know the Salt Mine does more than help the homeless.

“We help those who are down and out,” said Long. “One of the aspects of the Salt Mine’s helping, that many don’t consider, is that we keep those on the brink of homelessness from going homeless.

“People don’t have to pay for food so they can pay their bills. To me that’s a big deal,” Long added. “The testimony I hear most is, ‘Now I can pay my rent, water bill, utilities because I don’t have to buy food.’ These are things we can do to help people stay in their homes and out of the hole. A huge amount of what we do that helps people from becoming homeless.”

“Our objective to give a hand up; to help people get through tough times,” Long said. “We depend on people’s compassion to those in need during the holidays and the desire to help anyone in need, especially during the holidays.”