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Lasting legacy

SOS, Fort Dodge honor Pastor Al by paying it forward

-Messenger file photo
Cory Husske, Fort Dodge assistant police chief and member of the Fort Dodge Police Association, holds a sign in memory of the late Rev. Al Henderson outside Dunkin Donuts in 2020. Members of the Fort Dodge Police Association handed out gift cards to customers for Pay It Forward Friday. It was a demonstration of kindness to honor Henderson. The idea was made a reality by Serving Our Servants and St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Four years after the death of the Rev. Al Henderson, members of the Fort Dodge community will honor Henderson’s legacy of selfless service to others next week.

Henderson, who was the senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church for nearly two decades and also served as the chaplain for local public safety agencies, was killed outside his church on Oct. 2, 2019. A year later, Henderson’s family opened their door to the community to demonstrate kindness in the late pastor’s honor, calling it Pay It Forward Friday.

This year’s day of kindness, compassion and service will be on Friday.

Serving Our Servants, a Fort Dodge organization dedicated to serving first responders that Henderson founded in 2014, takes the lead of promoting Pay It Forward Friday each year. But the event doesn’t belong to SOS, it belongs to the community and those who knew and loved Pastor Al, the organization’s president, TJ Pingel, said.

Pingel encourages those participating on Friday to post on social media with the hashtag, #PayItForwardFriday.

-Submitted photo
Capt. Dennis Quinn, of the Fort Dodge Police Department, hands a gift card to a shopper outside of Hy-Vee in 2021. Fort Dodge police officers gave out gift cards as a way to celebrate Pay It Forward Friday.

SOS will be giving gift cards to local first responders to pass out around the community, Pingel said. The Fort Dodge Police Department, Webster County Sheriff’s Office and Webster County Crime Stoppers will be out in the community throughout the day as well, he said.

Over the last four years, Pay It Forward Friday has expanded across Fort Dodge and into other communities, Pingel said.

Activities for Pay It Forward Friday don’t need to involve money, Pingel said. It was the little things, the small gestures from Henderson, that made people feel special.

Something as simple as holding the door for someone can be a way to spread kindness and #PayItForwardFriday, he said. Pay It Forward cards to hand out can be picked up at Shimkat Motor Co., 3126 Fifth Ave. S.

SOS and the Henderson family invite the community to the gazebo at City Square Park from 4 to 6 p.m., where they will have ice cream and collect free will donations to be given to the family of Algona Police Officer Kevin Cram, who was killed in the line of duty earlier this month. This is in addition to the more than $38,000 that Fort Dodge-area businesses pledged to donate from touchdowns scored at Fort Dodge Dodger and St. Edmond Gael football games.

-Messenger file photo
A pumpkin with the words “Carry on!” written on it is displayed in a wagon at the Henderson’s home in 2020. Carry on is a phrase the late Rev. Al Henderson would often say at the end of a conversation.

Henderson’s family will also have supplies to make sympathy and encouragement cards to send to Cram’s family along with the donations.

“Thinking of Officer Cram’s situation, it’s a lot like their situation where it just tears the family apart,” Pingel said. “And I think it’s really cool that we can do this for them, because they know what it’s like … and it’s their way of giving back.”

As a fundraiser for SOS, the organization is also selling shirts online for Pay It Forward Friday. Shirts can be ordered at www.facebook.com/ServingOurServants.

Pingel said he hopes to see Pay It Forward Friday continue to grow, expand and keep Henderson’s legacy alive.

“It starts with honoring Pastor Al and his kindness and all he did for us, but it goes beyond that,” Pingel said. “This is about Fort Dodge and who we truly are.”

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