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.

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

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.

20200415-IMG_8748 fort myers florida resize

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

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.

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

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.

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.