On December 1st, 2000, Hilda Ramos went to The Salvation Army in Riverview looking for work. Money was tight around the holidays, so she and her husband decided the family would benefit if she found temporary work. As soon as Hilda arrived, she was welcomed with open arms and given a job as a bell ringer. A few weeks later, on December 17th, Hilda and the other bell ringers were invited to a Christmas party hosted by The Salvation Army church. She was immediately welcomed into the church community and has gone back with her family every Sunday since.

When Hilda and her husband traveled from Mexico to the United States in 1995, they were chasing the American Dream. When they arrived, they began working for a farm picking tomatoes. The work was tough, but they had aspirations of building a better life for their family, and that motivated them to keep working.

With the help of The Salvation Army, the Ramos family reached a place of financial stability where they were able to shift their focus to helping others. Now, Hilda keeps records for the Women’s Ministry, and her daughter Leslie works at the front office as a secretary.

The Salvation Army reintroduced God to the Ramos family in a way they had never experienced. They now welcome Jesus into every part of their lives, just as they were welcomed into the church community. The Ramos family did not always have an abundance of material possessions, but they were never lacking spiritually. Having such a strong spiritual presence inspired the Ramos’ to give back to their community and help others in need. The more they worked with The Salvation Army, the more they felt their own needs shrink in significance.

With Jesus in their lives, the Ramos’ are empowered to do good for other people. In the past, Hilda came to The Salvation Army to get food and clothes for her children; she is now distributing those goods to other people in need. The Ramos’ believe there is always something to do for others, and they are determined to spread the message of The Salvation Army church by putting others before themselves.

Leslie, who was born shortly after Hilda and her husband arrived in the U.S., is thankful that she grew up in The Salvation Army community. As she gets older, she feels more empowered by Jesus to help others. Working in the front office, Leslie sees many of the people who come to The Salvation Army for help. Riverview has a large Hispanic population, with many migrant workers, who often find themselves at The Salvation Army just as Hilda and her husband did 17 years ago. Leslie, her mother, and the rest of the Ramos family are sure to welcome all those coming. They are always looking to make their Salvation Army family bigger, to help even more people.

By now, some of the Ramos children have grown older and moved away; however, they still see The Salvation Army as their church and home. Hilda believes The Salvation Army will always be their church, and she will look for it everywhere she goes. Hilda and her husband came to The United States with the goal of giving their family a better life, and they succeeded with the help of The Salvation Army. Their children will now be able to keep spreading the teachings of kindness and generosity, and help others find the same sense of love and joy that has changed them for the better.

While The Salvation Army has a strong presence in the homeless community, the organization is devoted to meeting the needs of more than just those without a home. The Salvation Army provides multiple resources for families to make sure children are growing up with the tools they need to build a bright future. Throughout the week, there are various classes and activities in place to support and empower the members of the community.

For many children in the Tampa Bay area, there are few safe and affordable after school activities. When the school day is over, some children go home and have nothing to do. The Salvation Army provides a safe environment for children to keep learning even after school has ended. The Salvation Army offers Sunday School and worship Services at various times during the week for children to learn about God and grow their faith. Along with classes centered on faith formation, The Salvation Army also offers other activities, such as sports, a youth band, and scouting programs to help children build character and skills they can use as they grow older.

The Salvation Army understands the importance of supportive parents to a child’s future, so classes for parents are also offered. There are groups for single parents, men, and women, and there are open gym hours for adults to exercise. Bible Study classes are offered for adults, and there are even sessions taught in Spanish.

Jeager and Somora are a mother-daughter duo who have found their place with The Salvation Army.  When Jeager started attending women’s groups, it didn’t take long for her to feel connected to others in her community. The Salvation Army offered Jeager the opportunity to confide in other women and feel a sense of support while she navigated motherhood.

Somora has participated in all sorts of groups and activities with The Salvation Army. She loves playing games, making friends, and learning about Jesus. Somora considers her friends at The Salvation Army to be like family. Her confidence has grown tremendously since she has started participating in the activities, and she enjoys having friends at The Salvation Arm with similar interests. Somora enjoys her worship classes and is learning songs and dances to perform on stage on Sundays. When the children perform on Sundays, they are able to bond with each other while also connecting with the rest of the congregation.

Donors are essential to the success of The Salvation Army. Through their generosity, the members of the community are able to better themselves in ways that expand outside of the Tampa Bay Area. After participating in women’s groups, Jeager had the opportunity to attend a Women’s conference. Because of the generous support of sponsors, she attended the conference and learned skills she will be able to incorporate into every aspect of her life. Every day, Jeager feels empowered and capable to better her life with Somora.

Donors also assist The Salvation Army in providing necessities for children, such as school supplies and suitcases. Children are able to learn and grow much more effectively when they are not concerned with having the appropriate materials. Along with providing backpacks and supplies during school, The Salvation Army hosts summer camps to continue their learning when school is not in session.

This year, Somora was able to attend a summer camp because The Salvation Army provides accommodations. Most summer camps are expensive, and exclude children who’s families cannot afford to provide materials or pay camp fees. The Salvation Army provides affordable camps so more children can gain valuable experiences year round. This year, Somora was able to attend summer camp with the help of The Salvation Army. At camp, Somora learned valuable lessons and made even more friends.

Jeager and Somora feel loved and included by The Salvation Army, as do others in the community. While The Salvation Army is founded on religious beliefs, their service goes far beyond religion. By providing valuable resources and unwavering support and empowerment, The Salvation Army is able to make a lasting impact on many lives in the Tampa Bay area.