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

As a truck driver for The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in his community, Richard Alvarez typically spends his days collecting donations of furniture, clothes, and household items from the homes and businesses of generous donors. But for the last several weeks, Alvarez has been delivering much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) in his Salvation Army truck to hospitals and essential workers.

“I was proud to be asked to deliver PPE for of The Salvation Army,” said Alvarez. “It’s good to know what I’m doing is helping staff in hospitals and other locations who look after people and save lives.”

The Salvation Army is partnering with emergency management to provide transportation of essential PPE in cities throughout the state. Deliveries are made to strategic locations including hospitals and other essential services directly affected by the increased demands caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alvarez has a deep appreciation for places taking care of people in their time of need. He is a graduate of The Salvation Army’s 180-day rehabilitation program and vividly recalls walking through the doors of the Adult Rehabilitation Center on Feb. 5, 2017. “I came in broken and in desperate need of help,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about The Salvation Army other than they rang bells at Christmastime and I saw them on Thanksgiving Day with the Dallas Cowboys. But walking in here on that first day, I knew it was the right place for me.”

The day after completing the rehabilitation program, Alvarez was hired as a full-time truck driver responsible for collecting donated items and stocking his local Salvation Army Family Stores. “My mom shopped at the stores when I was growing up,” he said. “It’s now come full circle. Instead of shopping in the stores, I’m now the one stocking them.”

Social distancing protocols and shelter-in-place orders resulted in the temporary closure of The Salvation Army Family Stores, putting significant financial strain on operations. As a result, most of the workforce was laid off. Alvarez is one of the few remaining drivers, working fewer hours and at a reduced rate.

“I might be making less money right now, but I can put gas in my car, pay my rent, and look after my kids. God will take care of me,” said Alvarez. “I really believe in the ministry of The Salvation Army and am thankful for all they have done for me. The PPE delivery is a great way for me to give back during this crisis. Each day I put my armor on and do my part.”

Salvation Army ARC Graduate Celebrates Sobriety by Providing Emergency Services

By: Philip Burn

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.”

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

A message from General Brian Peddle, International Leader of The Salvation Army

Surely he took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(Isaiah 53:4-6 Berean Study Bible)

The Easter message is the most profound, true, life-changing, life-giving message we can ever hear, respond to and participate in. In short, the Easter story is the culmination of God’s plan of salvation for the redemption and restoration of humanity. Such unconditional sacrificial love unleashes the mercy, grace and forgiveness of God. We should be experiencing boundless joy, caught up in awe and wonder, celebrating our new-found freedom and living in a new dynamic relationship with the Almighty.

We see in these verses from Isaiah just what God has done for us in Jesus. In going to the Cross, Jesus does something extremely positive, yet it involves him being subjected to pain, ridicule, brokenness and separation from the Father with whom he has shared a deep intimacy for all eternity. Jesus takes on everything that is negative, destructive and painful. This display of genuine, unconditional and sacrificial love is unparalleled in human history.

Even as we read and consider what Jesus takes on himself, we sense a release, an unburdening and a freedom. Jesus takes on our infirmities and carries our sorrows. Yes, there is a glimpse of the humanity of Jesus here as the Word that became flesh (John 1:14) – fully human while fully divine – understands the frailty, weakness and imperfection on a personal level. Having said that, we need to recognize that there is much more going on.

Jesus is doing more than identifying with us. He is taking on our weaknesses, infirmities and sorrows so that we don’t have to carry them. Link that opening statement to Philippians 4:6-7 (Do not be anxious about anything …) and 1 Peter 5:7 (Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you) to better understand what is offered to us in Jesus. Look again at what happens to Jesus – he is pierced, crushed, punished and wounded. Why would Jesus accept all of that? Why would God allow his only Son to endure all of that?

Another read of the verses from Isaiah illuminates what we receive through
this sacrifice – peace and healing for ourselves. The punishment inflicted upon Jesus brings us peace. We experience healing because Jesus was wounded. It is almost beyond our understanding, but a horribly painful moment brings us healing and a horrifically violent act brings us everlasting peace.

There is something of an unfair transaction going on that demonstrates the extravagance of God and his unmerited favor that we call grace. There is also something profoundly theological, sacrificial and covenantal taking place.

The sacrificial code and practices we find in the Old Testament are there to atone for our sins and imperfections. Here on the Cross, the spotless Lamb of God pays the ultimate sacrifice once and for all, ushering us into a new dispensation of grace and deliverance.

We have peace with God because of all that was accomplished by Jesus, and this peace is experienced by having faith in Jesus (see Romans 5:1: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ). Yes, it’s that straightforward – we don’t have to complicate it!

The Easter story doesn’t end with Calvary. Easter Sunday is about resurrection and new life. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are reminded that, If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! The old reality of being held captive by sin, of death being our final enemy, is gone! On Easter Sunday, we rise to new life in Christ – that new life is eternal life, it encapsulates victory over sin and death, it includes our healing and wholeness, it is a life of deep peace.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

This Easter, you can experience healing and wholeness in Christ. It’s why Jesus came to earth. It’s what God desires most for you.

We hope you will be blessed by ‘And Can It Be’ from The Salvation Army’s Southern Territorial Songsters (Choir): https://youtu.be/Yy5G0j5T7_Y

A few months before Fidel Castro took control of Cuba in the 1950s, Olga Lastra, her husband and two young sons left the country with the notion they would return shortly. However, time passed, and Lastra discovered her home had been taken over by the Castro-led government. By that time, her husband was working on an assignment as a civil engineer in the United States, and that positive fortune allowed for a smoother transition to a new place to call home.

Adjusting to the United States as the new home base for her family, Lastra decided to take a chance that a local boutique would hire her for work. She was, in fact, hired and quickly became a top salesperson. Her exceptional personality and passion for fashion fueled her work.

Lastra and her husband eventually retired in the Florida Keys, settling into yet another new home. Initially, she volunteered for the local animal shelter and was also a committed caregiver for an elderly woman. While accompanying the woman for typical errands, the duo decided to stop at The Salvation Army to do some shopping. Upon arrival, Lastra mentioned to the store’s manager that if she ever needed any help, she’d be just one phone call away. Shortly after, the manager called Lastra with a plea for assistance, citing an extreme situation with staffing and the need for a helping hand. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lastra has been a steady volunteer at The Salvation Army in Key Largo, Florida, for 27 years. Her love for helping others, coupled with her innate love of fashion, have been a perfect fit for her retirement years. Now 90 years strong, she still volunteers on a consistent basis and many customers, from one-time visitors to recurring seasonal regulars, come in expressly to say hello and visit with Lastra.

She regularly shares her passion for The Salvation Army, saying that the organization has been a salvation for herself. Following the passing of her late husband, she found comfort in her continued work in the store. Always the fashionista herself, Lastra continues to curate and maintain the store’s boutique, upscale handbags and jewelry departments and, in recent days, the store held a celebration for her 90th birthday.

By: Rebecca Corum

To learn more about volunteering with The Salvation Army, please contact your local office. Click here to view a list of locations in Florida.

 

“What is the use of preaching the gospel to men whose whole attention is concentrated upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive?” General William Booth, Founder of The Salvation Army, posed this question in the late 1800s; over 100 years later the question is as relevant today as it was when he presented this challenge to the world.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm, hit Collier County, Florida, on Sept. 10, 2017. Trees toppled onto roofs; other roofs were ripped from homes; exterior shells were shredded, and flooding destroyed floors, walls, ceilings, cabinets, appliances, and furniture. Many residents lost everything.

More than two years later, they are still struggling to rebuild. Families and seniors who were already hard-pressed to put food on the table were exposed to the worst of the devastation. Though previous storm patterns could never have predicted the people least able to recover would be the worst hit, this was the reality for people in southwest Florida, especially in the cities of Immokalee, Copeland, Everglades City, Chokoloskee, and Goodland.

Livelihoods there are primarily based on agriculture and fishing. Men and women at the mercy of Mother Nature to make a living endure in a perpetual state of poverty or near poverty. Resiliency is not in their vocabulary, though persistence, determination, hard work, and survival are the esprit de corps of their very nature.

In keeping with General Booth’s vision for practical living assistance as a real example of Christ’s love, The Salvation Army has a longstanding and powerful policy of disaster assistance to those in need. To that end, Ashley Jones was appointed to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) in 2016 after more than 15 years of responding to natural disasters as a Salvation Army volunteer and staff member.

Jones’s commitment to helping Collier County recover from Hurricane Irma led to partnerships with other humanitarian organizations.

One of these was Team Rubicon, a group dedicated to helping the survivors of natural disasters. Its membership is unique: 70 percent are military veterans, and 20 percent are first responders. It had been sponsored as a VOAD member by Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe, former National Community Relations and Development Secretary of The Salvation Army. Led by former service personnel whose commitment to serve is deep in their DNA, Team Rubicon celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2020.

Because of Jones’ reputation for excellence, knowledge and practical experience, David Venables, Team Rubicon’s Deputy Director of Rebuild Operations, knew that by partnering and building on the strengths of the two organizations, they could repair and rebuild homes throughout Collier County.

Team Rubicon has more than 100,000 volunteers. They’re run through a training program that covers “muck and gut” cleaning up, roof tarping, tree sawing, heavy equipment operations and damage assessment, among other topics. Before any can deploy – whether to small-scale flooding or a massive fire response – they must pass background checks and complete two FEMA classes in the National Incident Management System.

Upon completion of “basic training,” volunteers earn their badge of honor on their first deployment – a gray T-shirt with the Team Rubicon logo and a “space bar” for their names or call signs.

It isn’t the shirt, but the sweat, dirt and sometimes blood that soaks the shirt, that show these heroes offer hope through the physically demanding work of responding to natural disasters.

There’s a deep desire to provide purpose and comradeship post-service within the organization. Given the reality of 22 veterans a day taking their own lives – veteran suicides have a higher annual death toll than active-service combat casualties – the Clay Hunt Fellowship Cohort Program was born. In the spring of 2018, the eighth round of class members was selected from hundreds of applicants. The eight members of “Cohort 8” would have a profound and lasting impact on Collier County, particularly the town of Immokalee.

Team Rubicon committed to a one-year partnership with The Salvation Army. The morning of Sept. 17, 2018, found the Cohort 8 team at the Disaster Assistance Center Naples of The Salvation Army.

Repair and rebuild training began immediately as disaster case managers of The Salvation Army provided the requests for help from local families and seniors. Some sought repairs; some, funds for roof replacements; and some, total demolitions and rebuilds of their homes.

In the end, 124 residents benefited. Families and seniors who had no hope and no options, who had no insurance, inadequate FEMA assistance and certainly no savings accounts from which to rebuild their lives, received not only safe and comfortable homes but security, safety, peace of mind and a renewed spirit of hope. The Cohort 8 team led 185 “Gray Shirt” volunteers repairing 40 residences and funding repairs on an additional 33 dwellings, thereby turning hurricane victims into survivors.

A new component to Team Rubicon’s long list of services was developed at the Florida rebuild. Working with Paradise Coast Builders, a local partner with The Salvation Army repair program, total rebuilds were initiated. In collaboration with owner Gene Silguero, the Cohort 8 team built two homes from the ground up. Where complete devastation had shattered the lives of two families, the renewed hope, resiliency of spirit and simple, safe living conditions now stood strong.

The spirit of service and championing of recovery for families following a disaster is the heart of both The Salvation Army and Team Rubicon. These two committed organizations have partnered successfully, bringing together all aspects of humanitarian aid in disaster response and recovery. Their heart to turn Hurricane Irma victims into thriving survivors has changed the lives of families and seniors and replaced trauma with hope for the communities of Collier County.

Lisa Loren is a long-term recovery coordinator with the Naples, Florida, Corps. Original story appears in The Southern Spirit

For more information on The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services in Florida, please click here

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.

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