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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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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

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.

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.

When we think of those on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, we think of our much-needed medical professionals and first responders. Still, thankfully in St. Petersburg, Florida, one neighborhood also thought of The Salvation Army.

Pam and a group of her neighbors had seen the call to make washable, reusable facemasks from fabric to help cut down the spread of the virus.

Knowing those that live and work at emergency shelters can be vulnerable populations, the group of neighbors sewed more than 100 colorful and most importantly washable face masks, enough for each staff member and resident at The Salvation Army.

“Every day we are working with staff and residents to practice social distancing and increase daily cleaning measures to keep everyone safe and healthy,” says Lt. Colonel Gary Haupt, Salvation Army Area Commander in St. Petersburg, Florida. “But when you have a group think of you and bring you a gift like these masks, you are reminded you are not alone, we are all in this together, and we will get through this as a community, helping each other.”

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.