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Henderson family pays it forward to D/SAOC

Organization supported them in a personal way throughout trial

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Kandi Loven, the daughter of the late Rev. Al Henderson, poses with a necklace of hope outside of the Henderson family’s Fort Dodge home on Friday.

Friday marked almost two years since the Rev. Al Henderson was killed at age 64 outside of St. Paul Lutheran Church.

The death of the beloved Fort Dodge pastor on Oct. 2, 2019, sent shockwaves throughout the Fort Dodge community. And the pain felt by Henderson’s family that night remains with them.

“We just picked up his clothes today,” said Henderson’s widow, Kris Henderson, on Friday. “It’s as real today as it was two years ago.”

Henderson’s killer, Joshua Pendleton, 37, of Fort Dodge, was sentenced to life in prison in August, almost two years after the crime.

Delays in the court system and the COVID-19 pandemic each played a role in the prolonged process of having a trial.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
TJ Pingel, president of Serving Our Servants, left, poses with the late Rev. Al Henderson's family Friday outside their home.

“The delays,” Henderson said. “Writing an impact statement took a lot out of us. It was heart-wrenching. Then there wasn’t a sentencing. We didn’t know for quite some time when we would be giving statements.”

“It was exhausting,” said Kandi Loven, one of Henderson’s daughters.

Last year on the anniversary of Henderson’s death, his family decided to open their door to the community and demonstrate kindness in his honor. They did that with the help of Serving Our Servants, an organization dedicated to serving first responders that Henderson founded. The occasion became known as Pay It Forward Friday, a concept thought of by TJ Pingel, SOS president.

The idea was for local residents to demonstrate acts of kindness, big or small, in the community. And it was successful by all accounts.

But this year, the family decided they wanted to pay it forward to an organization that helped them tremendously from the time of Henderson’s death to the day of Pendleton’s sentencing.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Keychains of hope were one item included in kindness kits that were given away by the late Rev. Al Henderson's family on Friday.

The family raised money on Friday to go toward the Homicide/Other Violent Crimes program through Domestic Sexual Assault Outreach Center.

“When you go through a tragedy like this with your family, you need support,” Kris Henderson said. “They (D/SAOC) understand in a different way. The court process takes so long. They help walk you through that. They sit through the whole thing and debrief you afterwards. D/SAOC was such a big help to us. Very personal.”

The added financial support for D/SAOC couldn’t come at a better time.

Marie Harvey, D/SAOC’s Homocide/Other Violent Crimes Program director, said the organization’s federal funding has been “drastically” reduced.

“We took a cut this year and are taking a significant cut next year,” Harvey said. “Then it’s supposed to get better.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Kindness rocks were on display Friday outside of the Henderson's Fort Dodge home.

The organization recently moved into a smaller office to cut expenses.

Harvey is grateful for the Henderson family’s kindness.

“We are incredibly grateful that they are doing this for us,” Harvey said. “By no means did we expect it, but we really appreciate it.”

Despite some setbacks with funding, Harvey said the program will push forward to support other families like the Hendersons.

The Homicide/Other Violent Crimes program helps people confront grief and financial worries.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
The family of the late Rev. Al Henderson raised money for Homicide/Other Violent Crimes program through Domestic and Sexual Assault Outreach Center on Friday.

“Whatever we are able to help with we will,” Harvey said. “We are there whenever. If it’s 3 a.m., it doesn’t matter.”

“They are very good listeners,” Kandi Loven said, referring to the D/SAOC staff.

Harvey said hearing that D/SAOC has helped families is meaningful to her.

“Hearing from families that what we do is important means a lot,” Harvey said.

Harvey said D/SAOC is also hoping to bring back its support group, which was disrupted by COVID.

-Submitted photo
Capt. Dennis Quinn, of the Fort Dodge Police Department, hands a gift card to a shopper outside of Hy-Vee on Friday morning. Fort Dodge police officers gave out gift cards as a way to celebrate Pay It Forward Friday.

“It had been going for 20 years,” she said.

In addition to raising money for D/SAOC, the Henderson family set up a stand in their driveway with apple juice, snacks and kindness kits. The kits included keychains, necklaces, wristbands and cards. The items were offered to the public. Those who took the items were asked to spread kindness.

“You wear it (necklace) until you find someone else who might need hope,” Kandi Loven said.

Henderson said her husband would have been a huge fan of Pay It Forward Friday.

“He would be front and center for something like this,” she said. “He would be out there greeting people.”

Kristen Willingham, another of Henderson’s daughters, said speaking with residents has been helpful.

“People stop by and share their story,” she said. “Some people knew him, some people didn’t. But it helps. Fort Dodge has a big heart.”

Meanwhile, local law enforcement was out doing its part to spread kindness.

Officers with the Fort Dodge Police Department stood in front of Hy-Vee Friday morning to hand out gift cards to more than 100 shoppers.

SOS members, Fort Dodge police officers and Webster County sheriff’s deputies gave away $1,000 worth of Casey’s gift cards to random people.

In another development, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 347, donated $500 to the annual Santa Cops event, which helps brighten the holiday season for a number of local children.

Kris Henderson praised Pingel for his efforts to keep Henderson’s memory alive.

“We are so excited that TJ took that initiative,” she said.

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