From General Evangeline Booth’s 1934 address:

It is the yearning and passionate desire of my soul, that at this time, when the world is ripped by hatred, fearful of wars and revolutions, and cast down by depressions, that The Salvation Army shall go forth, again and again, holding up the compassionate Christ of the Cross, whose alone we are. And that there shall be no hesitancy because of hard obstacles, but courageous, and fearless, with our trust in Him, we shall hold Him up, to the people of the world, of whom he shall draw all men unto Him.

Click here to learn more about General Evangeline Booth. 

I am one of four children. My mother is a recovering alcoholic and my father struggles with a heroin addiction. I know they both love me. However, their problems created what I can only describe as a destructive lifestyle. As a result, our family has been spiritually and emotionally devastated.

From as early as I can remember, we were evicted from apartment after apartment. At age 15, I started working to help pay the rent and other bills so our home could have some semblance of stability and security. Eventually, we moved into a house.

That house was the first time we were able to plant some roots, so all things considered, it was a happy time in my life. I had school friends and even a crush on Carly, a girl who lived a couple of houses down the road.

Evicted again

But just like always, that stability and happy time was short-lived. My father started to secretly keep our rent money to support his addiction; the same destructive cycle raised its ugly head again.

In time, all our utilities were cut off and we received yet another eviction notice. Having no money and nowhere else to go, my father broke into the basement of the house so we could have a place to sleep.

As we slept one night, we heard a knock on the door. It was a police officer. He immediately escorted us out of the house; he forced us to leave behind everything that we owned. I left little of real financial value, but a lot of sentimental items from my childhood. Later, I found them in a dumpster—broken and destroyed.

When I reflect on that night we were evicted, I remember something else the officer did. He paid for a hotel room and a pizza so we could eat and stay together. In the midst of the most demoralizing night of my life, his amazing act of selflessness would later impress me greatly.

At the time the officer evicted us, I viewed him as someone who was destroying our lives. But when I became a man, I began to see his selfless act of compassion as something that dramatically redirected the course of my life.

I am forever grateful for the kindness that officer showed my family. I can only assume that he was also the person who gave my dad contact information for The Salvation Army Family Caring Center because that’s where we found ourselves the next day.

Food to eat, a place to sleep

To be completely honest, I hated the circumstances that found us living in a homeless shelter. Back then, it was easy for me to feel ashamed and victimized. Now as an adult, I see what my child’s eyes missed; thanks to The Salvation Army, I had food to eat. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Much to my surprise, the food tasted good and the meals were hot. I had a sense of security knowing that the constant threat of eviction was behind us. Rather than dread people knocking on the door, I looked forward to it.

Someone else held my father accountable for his behavior, which lifted a huge burden off my young shoulders. I was able to see the benefit of a structured schedule. Our lifestyle shifted completely from the chaos that I knew.

Something else that seemed small at the time but impacted me later were all the trips The Salvation Army provided. I went to baseball games, museums, and parks. These outings allowed me to be a child; something I so desperately needed.

For sure, the biggest blessings The Salvation Army gave my family were renewed relationships with each other. Without the Family Caring Center, we would have surely been put into foster care. I can only imagine the inevitable cycle and rift of separation that would have taken place among us all. But because of The Salvation Army, my father received helpful resources for housing. This helped us remain the strong siblings we are today.

Sharing our story

At present, my wife and I have recently started sponsoring monthly birthday parties for the children at the Family Caring Center. Throughout the past three months, we’ve had the privilege of getting to know and seeing firsthand what an amazing job Envoy John Barnett, his wife Envoy Nancy Barnett, and all the staff are doing at the center. The amount of compassion and heart they have for each family who enters the building is truly remarkable.

We continue to share with parents and children our personal testimonies of how God transformed our lives. In life, everyone is faced with mountains, giants, and storms. Actual trials and circumstances will look different, but the One who brings us victory over them remains the same.

I stand here today because of the grace of God and my faith in Jesus. God used what I once saw as the most devastating and terrible times in my life, to save, strengthen, and bless me more than I could have imagined.

My story is just a tiny paragraph in a giant book full of testimonies that tell how God uses The Salvation Army to shine a light on people who are living in spiritual darkness. I give all glory and honor to God. It is only by His grace that my eyes were opened.

Unconditional love

I also thank Carly, the girl who lived down the road from me when I was 15. Although we lost touch with one another when I went into the shelter, we later reconnected in our 20s. Today, I am honored to call her my wife. She has stood by my side through the worst storms and when circumstances seem impossible. Her love is truly unconditional.

Then there are my children, Elijah and Isaac. Because of them, I am reminded daily to be a better man. I know they are looking to me to lead them.

And finally, I thank The Salvation Army Family Caring Center for giving my childhood family the help, resources, and opportunity to stay together during hard times.

by Josh Linder

Original Article

Tiffany is a hard-working, independent mother who has been providing for herself and her family since her ex-husband left her and their two children while she was 4 months pregnant with their third child.

“I found myself alone with no friends and family to help,” says Tiffany. “I was behind on my rent and facing food insecurity.” That’s when she found The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army helped Tiffany with financial support in order to keep a roof over her family’s heads, utility support, food from our pantry, and other wrap-around services.

“As a single mother, my biggest concern was providing stability for my family, and The Salvation Army is the biggest part of my support system, hands down.”

Nowadays, The Salvation Army is working with Tiffany’s family through our Pathway of Hope program, which provides individualized services to families with children who desire to take action to break the cycle of poverty.

“I get really emotional when I think about it because The Salvation Army has helped me so much,” she says. “So if you are reading this I want to thank you. Because of your donation I was able to keep a roof over my family’s head and food in our house.”

Ruth Eckerd Hall

By: Brad Rowland

With many in dire need across the country and the world, The Salvation Army is operating at increased capacity with an eye on doing the most good in local communities. In Clearwater, Florida, drive-thru food distribution events have been a way of life at The Salvation Army’s social services campus but, with demand on the rise and size limitations with the property and its parking lot, an uptick in food delivery was difficult.

As such, The Salvation Army began partnering with Ruth Eckerd Hall on an additional, weekly drive-thru distribution that can accommodate more individuals and make a substantial impact in the process.

“On our social services campus, we were limited in terms of how many cars could be on or around our property,” said Teresa Hibbard, Director of Development. “Otherwise, there would be a real traffic issue. We could only serve so many people. By expanding and adding Ruth Eckerd Hall, our service greatly expanded.”

Ruth Eckerd Hall is a 73,000-square-foot performing arts venue located on a major thoroughfare in Clearwater. As a result of its more than 2,000-seat capacity, the location features a large parking lot and infrastructure already in place. Kevin Chinault, Social Services Director for The Salvation Army in Clearwater, connected with the Mayor of Clearwater and, in the process, touched base with a major food provider to ensure that all food distribution is supported by donations.

In addition to the donated food, the partnership with Ruth Eckerd Hall also netted help on the ground, with staff at the facility helping distribute goods. Security services, in partnership with the Clearwater Police Department, are also offered, with handmade masks distributed after a large donation from a local non-profit.

“Ruth Eckerd Hall was amazing in their support of The Salvation Army’s June events,” said Major Ted Morris, corps officer. “In addition to providing the perfect venue, they donated staff for security, traffic flow, and food distribution. We could not be more blessed.”

“This entire crisis is an ever-moving target,” Hibbard said. “We are adapting, and Ruth Eckerd Hall has been great and wonderful. The Clearwater Police have been wonderful. We’ve really had amazing partners during this time.”

Food boxes include non-perishable items, as well as fresh produce, proteins, milk, cheese, and more. More than 3,000 hungry families were served in June, with this partnership continuing through July with the potential for expansion beyond that timeline.

In mirroring the rest of the country, demand for social services assistance is skyrocketing in the area. This is especially true of individuals who previously worked in the hospitality industry and, with tourism as a central tenet in Clearwater, the community has been hard-hit by closures, reduced hours and layoffs.

While the partnership with Ruth Eckerd Hall is helping The Salvation Army reach individuals with pre-existing relationships and defined needs, the outreach is also wide-ranging and touches many who were not in contact with the organization previously.

“I think we’ve laid the foundation and built credibility and trust with people that we’ve never served before,” Hibbard said. “I think they know that, when the time comes, people in this community know that The Salvation Army will be there for them. A feeding program and a partnership like this can also be an opportunity to open the door to other services that The Salvation Army can provide to people to really make an impact and change lives.”

Original story here.

Fort Lauderdale

By: Brad Rowland

In May, a local news story aired on broadcast television in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, highlighting the growing need for food to stock The Salvation Army’s pantry in the area. Due to COVID-19, demand was already sky-high in Broward County, as it was in many communities globally, and the available supply wasn’t sufficient to serve all those who needed help.

“With lines wrapped around the building each week and demand so incredibly high, we’ve been asking more and more people for help,” said Robert Beasley, Special Events and Community Relations Coordinator in Fort Lauderdale. “We simply need donations and even more support from the community in order to meet the increasing demand.”

One viewer of that local news broadcast was Trinity Ward, a Broward County resident who was not an active donor to The Salvation Army at the time. In short order, though, Ward reached out to Beasley and others with The Salvation Army, led by Majors Stephen and Connie Long, Area Commanders, on some ideas to make the greatest impact possible, as she was moved by what she saw and the opportunity to help.

“Trinity contacted me, and she said, ‘Rob, seeing Major Connie (Long) and seeing that The Salvation Army’s food pantry was running low really touched me,’” Beasley said. “Then, she shared with me that she didn’t have much food growing up and she could really relate to the challenges many are facing. Having been blessed, in her words, she saw the opportunity to give back and help us.”

Ward decided to organize people in her spheres of influence to gather as much food as possible, reaching out to family, friends, and neighbors at the condominium community in which she lives. Donations from Ward and company have been frequent and prolific, with Beasley estimating that a staggering total between 600 and 700 pounds of “grade-A quality” food products arrived by early July.

“It is truly amazing to see Trinity and what she’s been able to do,” said Beasley. “Really, she was able to rally everyone, to bring everyone together, to support what we do. I think this is a great time to show the community what The Salvation Army does and how we help to impact those who are struggling in times of crisis such as this.”

Food donations from Ward and others are used to stock the food pantry and aid in ongoing service. Each Thursday, food is distributed between 9 a.m. and noon, with the only requirement being proof of residency in Broward County. Demand remains incredibly high due to mounting challenges prompted by COVID-19, but Ward’s donations continue, and her story has already inspired others to join in the fight.

“I think what Trinity has done is so great, especially now with the constant negative stories in the news,” Beasley said. “There is a lot of division and confusion in the world, but this, to me, shows the power of good and that we’re all interconnected. If you see a family without food, it can touch you and you want to do something about it. What Trinity is doing is fantastic and it starts with a decision to get involved and make a huge difference. We’re challenging folks to join us in serving the community, and she is truly a shining example.”

Tneesha

TneeshaTneeshia enrolled in The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Her goal was to find housing for herself and her two-year-old son and start her path toward earning her GED.

“By early March, me and my son had moved into an apartment, and I was taking in-person GED classes,” said Tneeshia.

Unfortunately, Tneeshia’s efforts to obtain her high school diploma were jeopardized when a government stay-at-home order forced her to stay in her apartment without daycare. This put her in the difficult position of juggling online schooling and caring for her toddler.

A local Salvation Army employee called Tneeshia regularly and delivered food to her home along with household items such as a bathroom set and dishes, encouraging her not to give up.

A few weeks ago, Tneeshia earned enough credits to obtain her high school diploma. Her next goals are to find a job and daycare and to obtain a driver’s license.

Gary

not just another statistic

The COVID-19 crisis has hit vulnerable individuals especially hard. This includes people like Gary, who is homeless and relies heavily on The Salvation Army not only for shelter but for food and emotional and spiritual care as well.

Gary has been to multiple shelters during his 17 years of struggling with homelessness, but he says that The Salvation Army holds a special place in his heart.

“When I first became homeless, I was just another statistic,” Gary explained. “This Salvation Army gave me clothing and food, and I would praise The Salvation Army 100 percent.”

 

pathway of hope angel story

pathway of hope angel story

“I fell asleep at police departments sometimes just to know my children were safe.”

These are the words of Angel, a mother of two daughters who was living in her car with her girls after becoming homeless during the COVID-19 crisis. The family was referred to The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program to get back on track.

“It was a support system that was genuine. It wasn’t just for show. They really got down on the level I was on and felt what we were going through,” Angel explained.

“My caseworker didn’t judge. He told me, ‘Human to human, I see what you’re going through, but I believe in you.’ He saw me at my lowest and helped me climb back up.”

Angel and her girls are now living in the safety of their own apartment, and all three are thriving.

a little time

a little timeLooking up from my early morning chores I was surprised to see a man plodding toward me through the small pasture between our home and a busy highway. I could see a pickup on the shoulder of the road. Something was obviously wrong—it looked like a strong wind could tip it over. The man drew close and advised he had just blown the right rear tire and wanted to know if I had a heavy duty jack. His jack would not lift the pickup with its heavy load of hogs.

I was already running behind with my chores and normal morning routine prior to going to my office job, but I located my jack and drove him down to his pickup. My jack would lift the pickup, but we found another problem. After the man laboriously reached his spare by climbing the sideboard and squeezing down between tightly packed hogs, he saw that the spare was flat.

 

Internal Struggle

At this point I honestly was wishing I had given him some lame excuse and let him solve his own problems. I had several pressing issues at the office that day and I hadn’t even showered yet. However, time was important for this man too, as it was starting to get hot and the tightly packed hogs would likely die if he didn’t get them moved quickly.

The man’s clothes and the shape of his truck gave the impression that he was well acquainted with hard times. However, he did not panic and asked if I could get him to a phone. Before we headed back to my house I noted the make and age of his vehicle. I remembered I had a set of mounted snow tires from an older car I had sold. Since both vehicles were a product of the same company, I thought the wheel holes might match.

We took a wheel down to his pickup and fortunately the holes matched up and we were able to change the tire–mounted wheel and get him on his way. Still thinking of my own agenda for the day, I didn’t get his name, address or even his license number. He had assured me he would return the tire and wheel, but at the moment I was just happy to get him going again.

 

Giving Thanks

Later in the day, when demands on my time had slowed and I thought of the morning’s activity, I realized I was remiss in not getting at least the man’s name and had no way of checking to see if he made it to his destination safely. I was feeling rather good about having helped the man and not letting my momentary personal struggles of time get in the way.

The Bible tells us: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV). I am just thankful for God’s grace that prodded me to lay aside my personal focus to help the man.

James teaches that if we see someone in need but only wish him or her well without doing something about the physical need, the value of our words is diminished (2:16).

Two days later, when I backed out of my garage, I found my wheel positioned between the two garage doors. With it was a note thanking me and advising that the stranger had made it to his destination without further problems. He had also clipped some money to the note for the wear on the tire.

This experience is a reminder for me that the need to reach out to help others in times of trouble rarely comes at our convenience. If we are praying to be used of God and asking for His direction, we will more likely respond to the needs around us, regardless of the agenda we have set for ourselves.

Walter N. Maris in a writer from Savannah, Missouri. Lisk Feng is an illustrator from China, now based in New York, New York.

This story originally appeared in The Salvation Army publication War Cry. You may also like: Overcomer

Delivering HopePantry delivery serves vulnerable families during the pandemic

Meal and grocery delivery services became a staple for many families under Safer at Home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, already and newly vulnerable people were left with fewer options to provide basic needs like food for their families. Wage and job loss, changes to public transportation, and increased food insecurity as a result of the pandemic brought increasing uncertainty and, in some cases, hopelessness. Enter, The Salvation Army.

Sarah Rafiq, Social Services Program Coordinator for The Salvation Army in Bonita Springs, Florida, started a pantry delivery service of sorts to help make sure local families didn’t go hungry.

“Food insecurity is a year-round issue,” said Rafiq. “But it is heightened during the pandemic.” Rafiq was quick to recognize new challenges for people to access the pantry in its usual form at the local Salvation Army office. “The most vulnerable…do not have access to reliable transportation,“ she noted. “Even if someone walked to the [pantry] distribution, it can be challenging to carry the items back.”

Rafiq was determined to help when the community needed it most. She delivered that help – and hope – right to the doorsteps of struggling families who couldn’t travel to the outreach office for food.Hope

Some weeks, visiting 26 families on delivery day, Rafiq donned a mask and gloves to leave non-perishable food, hygiene supplies, diapers, and other needed items in driveways and at front doors in Bonita Springs and Estero, Florida. Much of the response to this new initiative has been gratitude and relief, “I could not repay you for your kindness, but I pray that God will,” read one text message.

You can help meet the needs of local families when you make an online donation or drop off nonperishable food items, hygiene items, baby supplies, paper goods, or cleaning and sanitizing supplies at any local Salvation Army office.

Collecting food items among neighbors and using grocery delivery services to send items directly to your local Salvation Army office are great ways to help, stay safe, and practice social distancing.

Story by Eric Anderson, Ft. Myers Area Command