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'A servant's heart': Fargo 11-year-old inspires others to donate

Winona Welle, 11, visits with a shopper while ringing bells for the Salvation Army at the Moorhead Kmart. David Samson / The Forum

Eleven-year-old Winona Welle saved her allowance for six months to buy

an e-reader.

But then the Fargo girl decided the Salvation Army needed the $96 more than she did, so she donated it all.

And she didn't stop there.

"I thought it would be nice to help out in other ways," Winona said. "I didn't think that was good enough."

So the sixth-grader at Discovery Middle School signed up with her mother, Laura, to ring the bell for the kettle campaign. They'll work their third 2½-hour shift today.

Winona first decided to support the Salvation Army after the Oct. 11 fire that destroyed the Galleria On 42nd apartment complex in south Fargo and displaced 150 people.

Although the Welles didn't know anyone directly affected by the fire, Winona saw how the Salvation Army aided the people in need and decided she wanted to help.

Winona worked at her family's craft show in Bemidji, Minn., selling bells she made with plastic canvas and candy canes and angels made of pipe cleaners and beads. She also set up a donation box at the craft show.

With donations, the crafts she sold and her allowance money, Winona raised $96.

Since that initial contribution, Winona has given other donations when she can.

"Every cent she gets, that's what she's been doing with it," Laura said.

Winona had people in tears when she brought her first donation to the Salvation Army.

"This young lady is just really exhibiting a servant's heart," said Gerri Leach, community relations director for the Salvation Army. "That's touching when we see the younger generation doing that."

Winona's actions inspired a 6-year-old girl to donate her piggy bank to the Salvation Army as well. To thank Winona for setting that example, the girl's family gave Winona a Nook - the e-reader she had been saving up to buy.

"I taught her a lesson, apparently," Winona said.

Winona's spirit of giving isn't likely to end with the Christmas season.

Next week, Winona plans to serve meals for the Salvation Army.

"She seems to be really driven toward this cause," Laura said.