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

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

Salvation Army takes food truck to help isolated seniors

The Salvation Army took its canteen (mobile feeding unit) to serve vulnerable neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic at a downtown Fort Myers senior residence.

An emotional and spiritual care team was also on-site to offer hope and encouragement in a time of uncertainty and isolation for many.

“They are looking out for we the seniors so that we can get food to eat,” 86 year-old Eileen Williams explains. Williams, a resident of Royal Palm Towers, often helps her neighbors who are in wheelchairs or walkers.

Most of her fellow residents are homebound because of physical ailments and others are limited because of changes in public transportation. Even still, those who can go out often avoid public places such as grocery stores because of their higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, according to reports from health officials.

“You have to just take it easy and just pray this epidemic goes [away].” Williams says she will continue to help her neighbors because she is blessed with good health.

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Since the onset of the pandemic, The Salvation Army has continually evaluated its processes to bring assistance to those most in need with everyone’s health and safety of the utmost concern.

“We are going to get through this together,” explains Major Carlyle Gargis, Fort Myers Area Commander. Major Gargis was at Royal Palm Towers helping provide food and emotional counseling; praying with the residents and offering encouragement of God’s love.

Story by Eric Anderson, Ft. Myers Area Command

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

Lynette and her six children found themselves homeless after leaving a domestic-violence situation. She found a temporary home at The Salvation Army.

“They just poured out more love into them and into me. When I first came, I was a wreck. I was exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally, and slowly and surely, I’m rebuilding myself, one day at a time,” she said.

“Right now I’m in a year-long program called Pathway of Hope . . . I feel free, I feel like I’m ready to live. I’m homeless, we’re displaced, and I am the happiest that I’ve been in probably 10 years.”

To find out more about The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program, click here.

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

Pathway of Hope

The Pathway of Hope initiative, launched by The Salvation Army in 2011, provides targeted services to families to take action in breaking the generational cycle of crisis and enabling a path out of poverty.

“Pathway [of Hope] has been a wonderful way for our social work to move beyond a band-aid approach to poverty for our clients and into a long-term relationship with a case manager, who is able to meet clients where they are to provide ongoing support and services,” said Lieutenant LeAnna Marion, Salvation Army Administrator.

“We are able through this program to connect our clients with other community resources that fill a gap in our own for a more holistic program,” Lieutenant Marion said. “We have seen success in some of our clients reaching their own set goals with Pathway of Hope.”

One recent success of the initiative is Alexis Pickens, a young mother of three children who came to The Salvation Army needing help and without a traditional support system.

“Alexis doesn’t necessarily have a strong family support system,” said Tina Nehls, Salvation Army Case Management Specialist. “She doesn’t necessarily know what it’s like to have someone who would understand what she’s going through and have the ability to enable her to help herself. With Pathway of Hope, we’ve been able to do that with her.”

In a short time, Alexis garnered employment, housing, and the stability to provide for her family. While her progress was incremental, her humble, sweet persona made an impact on those around her, and Alexis was able to overcome significant adversity, both financial and physical.

“These families, including Alexis, are just amazing,” the case management specialist said. “I’m not doing anything. It’s the families that are doing the work. They just need a little guidance or maybe need to be pointed in the right direction, but they’re doing the work.”

Other individuals and families are working through the Pathway of Hope, including some escaping abusive and damaging circumstances that go well beyond financial need. The Salvation Army is implementing motivational interviewing techniques in the Pathway of Hope, helping to understand where individuals seeking assistance are coming from and using that information to best serve others.

“I’ve always liked being a social worker, and I always felt like I was helping people,” Nehls said. “But this program is so different. The case management aspect is phenomenal. Instead of mainly troubleshooting, we’re building relationships. We’re getting to know these families and what they really need.

“We’re diving deeper and really helping to mold these individuals and families for the better,” she said. “I wish I could do it every day.”

Each day, families are experiencing total transformations, from virtual helplessness in some cases to full, maintainable stability. That includes not only the securing of stable employment and housing, but also the vital presence of genuine hope for the future.

“It’s amazing how God is working here,” Nehls said. “I’m sure he’s working in other places as well, but every one of my Pathway of Hope families has met every goal and set new ones. Little by little, everybody is enjoying success. Glory to God.”

By: Brad Rowland

To help The Salvation Army continue to help people in need like Alexis, consider making a gift at www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/give

The Salvation Army continues to be flexible and willing to step into the gap in various ways as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Collier County, Florida, that recently included assistance at a COVID-19 testing site in Immokalee.

In coordination with Collier County Emergency Services and the Health Department, three days of COVID-19 testing were administered by the National Guard. This was set up within the Collier County Public Library, with The Salvation Army providing assistance in the form of meal service.

The Salvation Army, in tandem with Three60, a local market, stepped in to feed first responders and workers. All told, more than 1,000 COVID-19 tests were administered to Immokalee residents over the three days.

In support, The Salvation Army served 420 meals, in addition to Gatorade and other snacks, to those administering the testing.

Click here to learn more about The Salvation Army’s response to COVID-19 in Florida.

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

Julie Gray with The Salvation Army puts groceries in a van during a food distribution. [DEVON RAVINE/DAILY NEWS]

A young elementary school teacher stopped by her local Salvation Army food pantry and asked whether it was possible to have bags of food for some of her students’ families. She shared with us that she remembers, that as a little girl, it was always difficult for her family to put food on the table.

She said, “I can’t imagine what these families are going through. I have been there and I want to help, if I can, to alleviate a little bit by bringing food for those families.”

The Salvation Army was able to provide food baskets for the families, and the teacher picked them up and delivered them herself.

Click here to learn more about The Salvation Army’s response to COVID-19 in Florida.

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

The Salvation Army in Ocala, Florida, held a drive-through distribution designed to fill much more than physical needs.

To help ease the burden of grocery expenses, each car received a box of food with non-perishable items, fresh produce, baked goods, and frozen meat, but it didn’t stop there. They also received a hot takeaway meal for everyone in their household.

The Salvation Army recognizes that needs during a crisis go far beyond financial, so each person was also offered an activity bag for children in their family, a Bible (English or Spanish), and personal prayer from an emotional and spiritual care team member.

In total, more than 350 meals were provided to 175 cars that came through the distribution line.

Click here to learn more about The Salvation Army’s response to COVID-19 in Florida.

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

Lt. Camilo Rojas, director of The Salvation Army of Okaloosa and Walton counties, carries bags of groceries to a vehicle during a food distribution at The Salvation Army’s offices in Fort Walton Beach. [DEVON RAVINE/DAILY NEWS]

The Salvation Army hosted an emergency food distribution in Fort Walton Beach, Florida for residents of Okaloosa and Walton counties to help meet the growing need in their community.

Staff and volunteers prepared 200 bags of groceries, each with enough food to feed a family of five for a week. Lt. Camilo Rojas, Administrator for The Salvation Army in Fort Walton Beach, says they decided to host a drive-through food distribution after seeing a large increase in demand at their regular food pantry.

“There’s a lot of people we’ve never seen before in our food pantry,” said Rojas. “So we know there’s a great need.”

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More than 2,100 pounds of food delivered to senior living community in need

The Salvation Army delivered more than 2,100 pounds of food to residents of a senior living complex in Fort Myers, Florida. Many of the men and women have disabilities and have been unable to access food and other necessities on their own for weeks.

Physical ailments and transportation changes have presented a challenge for the apartment residents looking to gather needed supplies. Bus routes have been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the community leaning on each other for help.

“I’ve been running around and try to help those that can’t come out to get [food],” Geneva Ward, apartment resident explains to Major Carlyle Gargis, Area Commander for The Salvation Army serving the Ft. Myers area. “There is a definite need here,” Geneva continues, “We’re glad to have y’all come out.”

The Salvation Army’s Canteen (mobile feeding unit) loaded up and delivered emergency food bags, each filled with enough food items to last at least one week. Oatmeal, canned beans, rice, soup, and other non-perishables were hand-delivered to each member of the complex that needed assistance.

“Every little bit helps and we’re just so grateful for each of our donors because we are making a difference in the lives of the people right here in this neighborhood,” explains Major Gargis.

The Salvation Army has also increased its pantry service from one to three days each week to help meet the growing needs of the community. Two of those days are dedicated to taking resources directly into vulnerable communities.

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Click here to learn more about The Salvation Army’s response to COVID-19 in Florida.

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

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92555022_10222595900949963_728006147902013440_n landscape pasco county floridaThe Salvation Army of Pasco County (New Port Richey, Florida) is doing its part in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic through making face masks for local medical personnel, first responders, essential business employees, and those in their domestic violence shelter.

“We quickly began to realize that masks were greatly needed in our community by those that so tirelessly care for us every day, as well as the most vulnerable that we serve,” says Major Shannon Winters, Administrator for The Salvation Army serving Pasco County. “While many agencies in our area were able to fill in gaps in other areas of need, this need was left unmet.”

Masks have been provided to hospital and NICU nurses, hospice care providers, the local Sheriff’s office, bank tellers, mail carriers, domestic violence shelter residents, and the elderly. They have also partnered with the local homeless coalition to distribute face masks to homeless individuals across the county.

“We knew that we couldn’t cure COVID-19, but we could help ‘flatten the curve’ in our community if we could help provide face masks to those that needed them.” 92242922_10222596039953438_8050081306249265152_n pasco county florida

The group of makers started out as Salvation Army employees making them during their lunch breaks but has since grown to members of their women’s ministry program as word began to spread about the project.

“As this is an activity that they could safely participate in from a distance, and even from home, it helps volunteers contribute to our service to the community.”

The Salvation Army of Pasco County also offers utility assistance to those impacted by the economic climate, as well as the life-saving service of shelter to survivors of domestic violence and their dependents.

“While it has been said that we are all ‘safer at home,’ to victims of domestic violence, this is not always true. By offering safe shelter and assistance with all human needs, victims are not forced to choose between safety from COVID-19 and safety from abuse,” says Winters.

Click here to learn about The Salvation Army’s response to COVID-19 in Florida.

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

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