For Ruth, having her 11-year-old granddaughter, Leslie, around on weekends is the highlight of her week. Unfortunately, Ruth is disabled and often has trouble making her social security check cover all of her needs.

After Ruth pays all of her other bills, there’s not much money left over to buy groceries. As a result, Ruth’s cupboards are frequently bare when Leslie comes to stay.

While Ruth doesn’t mind eating day-old bread from the food bank for dinner, she refuses to serve such a meager and unsatisfying meal to her granddaughter. That’s why Ruth was excited to learn that the local Salvation Army serves an evening meal, and to her relief, she doesn’t need to be homeless to come for dinner.

Now, Ruth brings Leslie to The Salvation Army so the two can eat a full, nutritious dinner without placing a strain on Ruth’s already tight finances. Plus, Ruth and Leslie enjoy the companionship and generosity of the other guests and staff, and appreciate how they work to ensure everybody feels comfortable.

“We always leave feeling grateful for the meal and a full stomach,” shares Ruth. “Thank you for all you do, Salvation Army!”

Your donation can help us continue to provide hearty meals for struggling people like Ruth.

Gladys Aboude came to this country from Venezuela in 2015, accompanied by her two children. A woman of Hispanic origin, Aboude knew little about life in the United States and had to find her own way.

She did not know what The Salvation Army was, and she knew nothing of its mission and work. When she saw a flyer advertising Salvation Army music classes, she checked into it. When she realized that the classes were free, she decided to register her children.

As her children became involved in the music classes, her awareness of The Salvation Army began to grow. She learned it had nothing to do with the military and was actually a non-profit Christian organization. She wanted to know more about The Salvation Army, and that’s how Aboude began attending her local corps (church) in Florida and became part of a beautiful family of Salvationists (church members).

Meanwhile, her children were not only receiving music lessons, they were learning the Word of God. Gladys said she began to realize that as her children were being blessed through their involvement at the church, she was receiving a blessing herself.

“Sometimes I felt like I was in the center of an earthquake, but I felt my rock in this church. I feel safe there,” she said.

“Being an immigrant without the help of The Salvation Army is not easy. Educating children, solving problems – there are many things to do, and this church has given me a lot of help,” Aboude said. “Here, I feel relaxed. I feel safe, here I have sisters, I feel at home. A house can be anywhere, but a home is just The Salvation Army.”

By: Libia Socorro

To learn more about The Salvation Army’s music programs, click here.

OK…this is not another New Year’s resolution pep talk, but a “let’s-get-down-to-what-really-matters” boost. Here are some meaningful steps to a more purposeful new year. Maybe God is speaking to you through one of them.

  • Live like you’re loved by God. Make this the year you sit right down in the middle of that love and soak it into your soul.
  • Act like you’re truly free. This year grab onto true freedom with both hands and don’t let anyone or anything wrench it away – not your job, not toxic relationships, not unsettled sin, not even religious expectation.
  • Walk like you’re righteous. When you accepted Christ, God declared you righteous. You can walk into life this year like you have nothing to feel guilty about – because you don’t! You can stop clinging to past mistakes and failures and start walking out the truth of your position in Christ.
  • Step forward confidently like you’re victorious. You can expect battles and trials this year. God never promised unending ease. But He did promise you victory for the battle.
  • Rest like your power Source is infinite. On those days when you feel your humanness most deeply, rest in the God of all grace who gives His abundant grace.

Remember, these godly mindsets take time. Be gentle with yourself as you move forward your endeavor to be more Christlike.

written by Major Lauren Hodgson

You’re invited to worship services at your local Salvation Army church! Click here to find your nearest location. 

Original Article

With the holiday season approaching and the potential for colder temperatures, a fourth-grade student named Zoey Brown sprang into action.

Zoey, who attends PVPV-Rawlings Elementary School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, was inspired by The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program and, with a bit of help from her family, she created the “Tree of Warmth,” attracting attention from across the Jacksonville area.

Zoey, whose grandmother, Pam Brown, is the sister of Major Candice Biggers, drew her initial inspiration from an otherwise innocuous conversation during a family dinner. Majors Keath and Candice Biggers are the administrators of The Salvation Army’s programs and services in northeast Florida.

“From my understanding, the trigger for this initiative was a conversation we were having during dinner with Pam, her husband, Steve, and their grandchildren,” said Major Keath Biggers.

“We were discussing the Angel Tree, and one of the children, Bronx, began calling it the ‘Homeless Tree’ by mistake. We shared how cool it was that he called it that, and how it would be great if something could come from his ‘mistake.’ Out of the mouths of babes – although he’s in elementary school – came an inspiration that the Brown family took to make a ‘Homeless Tree’ expression into the ‘Tree of Warmth,’ providing clothing accessories to protect against the cold.”

From there, Zoey urged her relatives to help, and the family purchased a Christmas tree, along with gloves, hats, and socks. They used the items to set up the “Tree of Warmth” at The Salvation Army Towers Center of Hope in Jacksonville. Since then, hundreds of winter items have been hung on the tree for shelter residents and homeless individuals to take and use to stay warm during the cold-weather season in the region.

“Several hundred men, women and children have already been recipients of the tree, and it will continue serving during the winter months, especially when the temperature drops those cold nights,” Major Biggers said. “We thank God for Zoey, Bronx and the family making this a reality and a great service to those we serve in Jacksonville.”

Zoey’s family has been a long-time adopter of angels through the Angel Tree program and, with that backdrop of experience and the familial connection, the pathway was clear. Still, the inspiration was centered on improving the lives of others by any possible means.

“Knowing that you truly can make a difference in someone’s life is huge,” said Pam Brown. “I want the children to grow up feeling that way. I want them to know how wonderful it feels to help others. We can’t thank Candy and Keath enough for allowing the children to do this and helping them to get it set up. It really means so much to our family to participate in giving back.”

By: Brad Rowland, original article

By: Brad Rowland

With Hurricanes Hermine, Irma and Michael making landfall in the area within the last half-decade, The Salvation Army of Tallahassee, Florida, is all too familiar with on-the-ground disaster work. With that as the backdrop, The Salvation Army saw an opportunity to both maintain its readiness for emergency disaster services (EDS) and serve the population of Leon, Gadsden, and Wakulla counties on a regular basis.

The result is the “Feed the Need” program, deploying each week to serve hot meals in the community and address an emerging local issue of food insecurity. Simultaneously, these deployments allow The Salvation Army to stay sharp, expanding a volunteer base and maintaining crucial equipment for a time when an immediate need arises.

“Our goals for ‘Feed The Need’ are two-fold,” said Julie Smith, Social Services Program Coordinator in Tallahassee. “First, we can meet the needs of people in our community that are in need of a hot meal. The other side is that the program is operated by our EDS volunteers. There is a lot that goes into it and there is a lot that people can learn by doing, rather than only going through the typical training, even if that part is also necessary.”

In addition to vital disaster response training that must take place with any volunteer, the “Feed the Need” program allows for a hands-on experience that also opens the door for regular engagement with The Salvation Army. Four teams of four individuals operate on a rotating basis, going into the community on Thursdays to serve after important preparation takes place. There are four distinct positions held by team members, ranging from crew chief to food service specialist, and deployment locations are predetermined, in conjunction with social services, to meet the greatest local need.

“This is a great way for us to meet a need in the community but also to simply be prepared for the future,” said Lieutenant Ryan Meo, Salvation Army Administrator. “We’re praised often for our response times in The Salvation Army and how quickly we’re able to respond on the ground after an incident. With that said, people don’t always realize the work that went in before it and all of the training and team building it takes to do it well.”

The program launched in 2018 on a four-month basis, experiencing real success both in volunteer recruitment and critical service to the community. After a brief hiatus, “Feed the Need” launched in August 2019 with an expanded, four-team format, and plans include a year-round utilization.

Early returns have been exceedingly positive for volunteer engagement and the overall impact of the program and, with the dual purpose of aiding those with immediate needs, success is being achieved.

“These people are now ready to go when an incident occurs and, in the process, we’re serving our community,” says Smith. “This has motivated individuals in a fantastic way and people are getting involved.”

“I think our disaster services program is uniquely able to engage stakeholders in the community as volunteers that other programs and services don’t always seem to reach,” Lieutenant Meo said. “Our disaster volunteers are sometimes people that we aren’t able to engage with in other ways and, when we’re able to allow people to be a part of The Salvation Army through a program like this, people serve with a sense of agency.”

To learn more about The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services, please click here

Mejean had always loved everything about space, NASA, and technology, but her dream to go to college kept getting postponed.

First, she began a career in law enforcement to help her family with finances, and then she became a mother of two. She always held on to her dream of becoming an engineer and joining NASA, though. She decided to pursue her dream shortly after becoming a mom.

Her family had always been “just okay” living paycheck to paycheck, but after Mejean quit her job to become a full-time student, things became harder for her family. Her husband, Ray, became the sole breadwinner.

Then tragedy struck.

Mejean was hit by a car. Ray quit his job immediately to take care of his wife and tend to her every need. At the time, Mejean was a University of Houston student pursuing a computer engineering degree. The bills began to pile up, and their finances spiraled out of control. They lost everything.

“We didn’t have a car, and we had to depend on the bus to get everywhere,” said Mejean. “At one point, I had to make the decision, am I going to make it to class, or am I going to have enough money to eat?”

Eventually, the family could not pay bills or rent, and the electricity was cut off. They had to move out of the apartment they’d called home for eight years. That is when Mejean did a Google search to find a shelter, and she found The Salvation Army Family Residence. Mejean and her family moved into Family Residence, and things began to come together for the family.

“Everything we needed was there, and I don’t know if I would have had that anywhere else,” explained Mejean. “They talked to us about nutrition, meal planning, finances, and budgeting. I was even seeing a doctor regularly for the first time in 10 years.”

The Salvation Army provided Mejean with a safe space to breathe, self-evaluate and process everything that was happening. When Mejean was ready, The Salvation Army connected her with the United Way who assisted the family with career placement, apartment down payment assistance, and furnishing their first apartment.

“What I remember most about [The Salvation Army] Family Residence is how great they were with my kids. The kids loved their time there. They remember playing guitar with First Baptist Church, playing games, and going on field trips to Cirque du Soleil.”

Mejean was able to go back to school and went on to graduate in summer 2018, with a job waiting for her at NASA. Currently, Mejean is a Linux developer and configuration management analyst for NASA at the Johnson Space Center.

“People think you are brave when you go through things like this, but when you’re actually going through this, you don’t feel brave. When I moved into [The Salvation Army] Family Residence, I was falling into pieces. But, I left Family Residence with resources and an entire village to help my family and me get to where we are now.”

To help us continue to serve people like Mejean, consider making a donation at www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/give.

respite program

Meet Rick and Jane | Rick and Jane experienced financial difficulties which caused them to lose their home and relocate to Florida. While living in a motel, they had a traumatic experience where they were robbed at gunpoint. The thieves took everything Rick and Jane had. After calling the police, they were taken to The Salvation Army’s Day Respite and Resource Center.

The Day Respite Center offers a place for people experiencing homelessness to take a break from being on the streets. Case management is provided to them with the main goal of eliminating the barriers to stable housing.

The Salvation Army case manager met with Rick and Jane to talk through the events that led them there. While participating in the program, they were able to get new social security cards, Florida state ID cards, and clothing vouchers. Their case manager provided them with low-income housing options and connected them with an employment specialist.

The Sheriff’s Office was able to find and return some of their stolen possessions, but their progress took a turn when Rick’s health declined causing him to be hospitalized for a week. Their case manager was there to encourage them not to give up and provide more resources to help them receive permanent housing.

In just a matter of weeks, Rick and Jane were able to find an apartment. They’re both planning to become volunteers with The Salvation Army after they get back on their feet so they can help others facing hard times. Jane still calls their case manager once a week to keep her posted on their progress.

To help The Salvation Army continue helping people in your community like Rick and Jane, please consider giving today.

Pathway of hope family

The Quintana-Arroyo family (husband, wife, and three sons) met The Salvation Army through Emergency Disaster Services after being displaced from Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria, forcing them to relocate to Florida.

The family stayed in The Salvation Army’s Emergency Shelter and learned about the Pathway of Hope Initiative.

Over time, the wife found employment, followed by her husband, who began working at a Salvation Army board member’s construction company.

Through affiliation with a local community partner, the family was gifted a vehicle.

With one son recently graduating high school and another in college, the family has been able to save more than $7,000 and are now in the final stages of purchasing a home.

The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope Initiative has helped the family to become financially stable, increase their credit score, and position themselves to become homeowners.

The Salvation Army provided the necessary tools and services to help this family re-establish their life while working cohesively with community partners toward meeting their goals.

Through the support of donors, The Salvation Army is able to help families like this every day. Your gift today will help The Salvation Army serve families in need in your community.

By: Antoinette Vitale

Richard Stetina has fond memories of going to parks as a child. He still can recall every detail of the ones that are most special to him. When he took a tour of The Salvation Army’s Towers Center of Hope and the Red Shield Lodge shelter for women and families in Jacksonville, Florida, the playground made an impression on him – but not for the right reasons.

It was old, in disrepair and clearly in need of some love. After he went home, the playground kept coming up in his mind. Finally, he decided that he needed to do something about it.

“I went home, and I guess it was two or three days before I started thinking about it again,” Stetina said. “And I thought, you know, I could so something that would be better. I made my proposal, it was accepted, and here we are today.”

Stetina could have just written a check and felt good about the difference he made. But he isn’t that kind of fellow. He researched the best playgrounds and the best building materials and imagined what would provide the best playground experience for the children, drawing from his own happy memories. When the time came to tear out the old playground and build the new, Stetina put in hours of his own sweat equity.

The result of his labor of love is incredible. Hope Park is now a vibrant and engaging playground of the highest quality. The children who stay at the Red Shield Lodge now bound out of the doors and play with abandon on a playground created with an enormous level of care. Stetina designed the entire experience of the playground with intention.

“What I tried to do here was to incorporate some of the things that I remember from the days that I visited parks,” he said. “We’ve incorporated a mural on the perimeter wall which has some phrases and inspirational words that hopefully the children and parents can take with them. Maybe it will be inspirational enough that it will change their lives a little bit.”

Hope Park is not the only thing Stetina has created that will change the lives of shelter residents and other Salvation Army clients in the Jacksonville area. He is also providing funding through his two endowments to enable veterans and other adult clients to continue their education or job skills training so they can build a better life. Stetina’s sustaining gifts support The Salvation Army’s local Pathway of Hope program that offers participants the opportunity to break the cycle of generational poverty. The overarching goal of the program is to provide participants the order to become more stable and self-sufficient. In addition to creating Hope Park, Stetina has also created a third endowment to provide for the future maintenance of the park, ensuring its preservation.

At the center of the Hope Park project for Stetina, from the start, was the children.

“Really, the kids here are the innocent victims of their particular situation,” he said. “I thought if I could turn a frown into a smile, that would be an achievement. Who knows, maybe they’ll be brought back someday having remembered the good times that they had here and want to be a part of this organization in some fashion. You never know where things like this will lead.”