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.

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.

Ministry of Comfort