Sweet Relief

Alicia, a full-time candy store employee and mother of four, had her hours cut drastically when COVID-19 struck the U.S., causing her to fall $2,000 behind on her rent. With no other options left, Alicia turned to The Salvation Army. Alicia received $1,000 to help with rent, and she was able to pay the other $1,000. The Salvation Army also helped her with food assistance to further ease the financial burden.

“This helped me out a lot,” Alicia said. “Without The Salvation Army, I don’t think we would be able to continue to stay in this house that we’re in now. Anyone looking for help – The Salvation Army is your best bet. They work with you, and when they say they’re willing to help you, they follow up, step by step.”

Alicia is now back to work full-time and is continuing to work with The Salvation Army to earn her GED and high school diploma.

break the cycle of povertyAfter a challenging and tumultuous period in her life, Crystal checked in to The Salvation Army’s family shelter at the Community of Hope in Lakeland, Florida. Upon arrival, her central goal was to build a stable home for herself and three children, especially after a recent eviction.

Just a few weeks into Crystal’s maximum 90-day stay in the family shelter, she enrolled in the Pathway of Hope program and quickly secured a job at a local restaurant. From there, Crystal opened a bank account to embark on her plan to save money in order to transition out of the shelter and into stable, secure housing.

“We could tell right away that Crystal was ready for change, and that is really what Pathway of Hope is all about,” said Cristina Coulson, Social Services Program Coordinator. “She was really ready to break the cycle of poverty that she had been experiencing for years, and to do it for her children. The program was a great fit for her, and everything worked well, in part because she was so on board with being held accountable.”

With visible and clear motivation to improve her circumstances, Crystal continued to progress. Eventually, she signed a lease on a house, with The Salvation Army providing some financial assistance and Crystal contributing in a significant manner from money saved through her new employment. Ultimately, Crystal’s housing situation is now secure, with her dwelling fully furnished and comfortable for herself and her school-aged children.

Crystal remains active in the Pathway of Hope initiative, including weekly case management meetings with Coulson to help her navigate the coming days and months. Crystal also plans to continue her education by pursuing her GED, and she aims to secure a driver’s license. Her journey continues with an eye toward a better future, and her story stands as an illustration of what hard work and persistence can bring.

“Pathway of Hope works because it is a partnership between the case manager and the client,” Coulson said. “We purposefully work at the client’s pace, meeting them where they are. I think Crystal’s story is really a perfect reminder that, through Pathway of Hope, we can really break the cycle of poverty for people that have faced hardships for large portions of their life. I think she’s a shining example of someone who really wanted to put in the work, and we were able to come alongside her in the journey.”

Find out more about The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope Initiative.

By: Brad Rowland

Ronnie Samuel - Anxiety Alleviated

61-year-old Ronnie Samuel felt as though his problems were piling on top of each other and that his life was too much to bear. After taking time off work as a security guard while he recovered from kidney transplant surgery, he tested positive for COVID-19. During his recovery, bills began to stack up, reaching a total of $4,000.

That’s when Ronnie turned to The Salvation Army, where he was assured that everything would be alright. He explained his experience working with his caseworker, “She was very professional. She was helpful. The Salvation Army grabs you and pulls you back in. It was a huge help to me. It was awesome. I just want to thank them so much.”

The Salvation Army is continuing to work with Ronnie to help ease his burdens.

love thy neighbor

During the darkest times of the pandemic, Amy was driving back from the grocery store with a car full of food and supplies for her and her family when she spotted a line of people waiting for food at The Salvation Army. She called the location and learned how many people were out of work and in need of basic resources.

“It broke my heart,” Amy explained. “I live a mile down the road, and these are our neighbors. There had to be something we could do.”

Amy organized a massive community food drive and brought the food to her local Salvation Army food bank.

“This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” she said. “I couldn’t be more grateful for being able to contribute to The Salvation Army’s work.”

For 26 years, Leslie Marthone passionately worked as a licensed practical nurse in a bustling city. One of her greatest joys was helping to shepherd new lives into the world and ensuring the health and safety of expectant mothers.

After a rewarding and challenging career, Leslie retired her stethoscope. She and her family decided to forego the hustle of city life in exchange for a quieter, slower, and easier pace in the country. Little did she know that just one year later, right around Thanksgiving no less, she and her kids would be homeless.

“I had never been in a position that vulnerable before,” Leslie says. “We were being evicted from our home and had nowhere to go. Every agency in town turned me away—except The Salvation Army.

“Being homeless humbled me more than I ever thought possible,” Leslie says, choking up. “At The [Salvation] Army, I was welcomed with big, warm, open arms. I was impressed with how the knowledgeable staff found available services in [my area]. This is a very needed and useful program.”

Today, you can find Leslie volunteering five days a week as an administrative assistant at The Salvation Army’s shelter. She does whatever is needed. She answers phones and uses her 26 years of nursing experience to educate and empower the shelter’s residents.

“First and foremost, I have to give back to show my appreciation to The Salvation Army,” Leslie says, smiling. “They not only helped me get back on my feet, but treated me with dignity, respect, and compassion. They’re all very special. Just lovely.

“I also like to feel needed. It makes me feel good to help people. Plus, (she continues with a wink) it gives me something to do.”

Shelter Program Director Cymanda Robinson said, “I will always remember the day Leslie came through that front door. I could tell she was tired, overwhelmed, and just feeling hopeless. I told her ‘to just breathe.’”

Leslie entered the shelter program just after Thanksgiving and was placed into permanent housing the next March.

“We helped give Leslie guidance and made those connections for her,” a beaming Cymanda said. “She did the rest. She just hit the ground running. Nothing was going to stop her.”

Leslie said she would like to change people’s preconceived notions about the homeless.

“Everyone has a picture in their head of a homeless person,” Leslie says. “We see the pictures and videos that the media shows of the homeless. But I want everyone to look at me. Do I look homeless? No, but I am the face of homelessness. This is the face people need to see.

“It’s the same for mental illness. We see pictures of people’s behavior, screaming, and yelling. Not everyone who struggles with mental illness displays those characteristics. Our society needs to stop putting people in a box. We are all in the same place, just one step away from homelessness. Everyone has a story and most importantly, one should not be judged.”

by Cari Friend

Original Article

Like a battering ram dropped on a skyscraper, the coronavirus smashed through seemingly solid structures that supported our way of life and our self-understanding. The body politic struggled to grasp the nature of the problem and workable solutions. The world’s economic underpinnings became unmoored. What we took for granted—from stocked supermarkets to ready access to family, friends, community, work, and entertainment—were held in the balance. Pain and loss became acute for those who contracted COVID-19. Frustration, anger, and grief hit home for those trying valiantly to care for them and for those who saw loved ones, associates and neighbors die.

This shaking of the foundations ushered in questions about who we are and how we define ourselves. Questions about life’s unfairness lingered around us. Exposed to an unknown future, one that experts say will change the way we live, we came face-to-face with our own material and spiritual resources, with our need to persevere, with our need to overcome despair with hope, with our need for each other, with our need for that which fights against any scourge or curse with the light of love and the promise of a new life. How ironic that this pandemic gained momentum during the season of Lent leading up to Easter.

Amid the fallout and confusion, something resilient has emerged. It is the same Spirit that has guided humanity through historic periods of struggle and threat. It is the same Spirit that compels The Salvation Army to respond to this and every and any crisis, circumstance or soul-threatening reality with practical service and straightforward compassion. It is the Spirit of the God who loves all and who invites all to have His saving, redeeming, forgiving, merciful, righteous, eternal nature lived out through them.

That is the bedrock of character emerging from this latest challenge to our transcendent identity as God’s creation. Moving forward together in the Spirit of Jesus, who took upon Himself our shortcomings so that we may know His eternal nature in the here and now, makes for an unshakable foundation.

What is left now that this pandemic has altered the trajectory of individuals, families, communities, nations and the world? What’s left is the essence that outlives any tragedy, any disfigurement of the person, any death, any loneliness or any grief. And it accomplishes this through the care and concern each extends to others, just as God extends His essence to us.

In talking about how The Salvation Army is helping others come through this pandemic by reaching out to those with the greatest need without discrimination, Commissioner David Hudson said, “We will overcome this, but we need to do it in a way that honors God.”

With that in mind, how can each of us come through? One way is to rediscover our true identity by “being transformed by the renewing of your mind…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Romans 12:2, 21 Galatians 5:22, 25).

How to Help

While we shelter in place and practice social distancing, there are practical ways to support The Salvation Army’s concerted efforts to meet human needs during this crisis. There are four things of critical importance:

  1. Non-perishable food items. The Salvation Army is supplying food and water in many locations around the country. The need ranges from children cut off from school meals to emergency disaster workers and the unemployed and indigent.
  2. Hygiene items. The demand for these products remains high.
  3. Monetary donations. The Salvation Army is stretching its resources to meet needs at the point of need. Donations given online are routed to the locality where the donation originated. Local Salvation Army units can also be contacted for any donation items.
  4. Volunteers. Lend a helping hand. There are many ways to help The Salvation Army as local officers find essential ways to serve their communities as they assess needs and go where needed.

The post Coming Through appeared first on War Cry.

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.