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The Salvation Army Keystone Camp and Conference Center is a year-round center, offering a unique, rustic setting for conferences, retreats, camps, school trips and other overnight or day gatherings.

Located in north central Florida on 260 acres and beautiful Bedford Lake, this site offers a variety of lodging and meeting rooms, to suit the needs of groups of all types and sizes.

Many children from low-income families rarely experience life outside their immediate neighborhood. That’s why The Salvation Army’s annual summer camp programs are so important. Every year, thousands of kids get a fresh perspective on life as they meet new friends, discover new activities, and get a taste of the great outdoors. As campers learn to swim, play sports, create music, make art, and scout, their trained counselors help them navigate the complicated emotions and struggles often associated with their lives back home.

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

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the first National Salvation Army Week in 1954, he noted, “Among Americans, The Salvation Army has long been a symbol of wholehearted dedication to the cause of brotherhood.”

65 years later, National Salvation Army Week continues to serve as a reminder to Americans to give freely of themselves and to join us in upholding our five core values:

  • PASSIONATE | The Salvation Army’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination. We believe Christ changes lives. This faith gives us a motivation that goes beyond simply doing good. We have a passion for doing the most good for body, soul, and spirit.
  • COMPASSIONATE | Caring for the poor. Feeding the hungry. Sheltering the homeless. Clothing the naked. Loving the unlovable. Befriending the friendless.
  • UPLIFTING | William Booth (Founder of The Salvation Army) once said, “The Salvation Army is a place of hope. When every other light is extinguished, and every other star has gone down, this one gleam shines steadily and clearly out in the darkened sky: ‘If I could only get to The Salvation Army, they will do something for me.'”
  • BRAVE | People who serve in The Salvation Army routinely go into places others prefer to avoid: impoverished neighborhoods, jails and prisons, hospital rooms and nursing homes, gatherings of alcoholics and drug addicts, and the immediate scene of natural disasters.
  • TRUSTWORTHY | To those who want to positively affect their world, The Salvation Army is the charity that maximizes their contributions by using 83 cents of every dollar donated to provide direct services to the less fortunate.

Taking place this year May 13-19, the week is just one opportunity for The Salvation Army to thank the volunteers and donors who have made us one of the world’s largest and most-trusted charities.

Without the help of countless donors and more than 3 million volunteers, The Salvation Army couldn’t serve 23 million people in need each year across the United States.

National Salvation Army Week is also a time for new volunteers and donors to join our important mission. Not only for the greater good, but because the upcoming summer months are our most challenging season when giving decreases, but the need for The Salvation Army’s services increases.

Thank you for helping The Salvation Army serve men, women, and children in need in your community.

From the Heart of an Officer- Major Marion Durham

Today in Parkland….

The Family Assistance Center was much less crowded today. School will begin again next week so it was great to give away backpacks and gift cards to replace items lost in the quick evacuation of the school.

I enjoyed meeting therapy ponies along with the usual comfort dogs who have been here all week.

Today’s stories…

The first was an answer to prayer. We met a young woman yesterday who had left her bag in the classroom which included her identification papers. She’s a Canadian citizen and wanted to go home for a few days respite with her father. I woke up last night thinking about her and praying for her for many reasons. She was desperately working through her anger and had gotten a tattoo with Stoneman Douglas’ motto to honor her fallen classmates. First thing this morning she and her mother came back to the Center to book a flight through the resources there (thanks JetBlue) because school had made an exception and she got her papers back. Side note: she wasn’t in the freshman building. They may never get their items from that crime scene.

Also met a couple of young men today who were so impressive. They were sweet freshman, complete with smooth skin and braces on their teeth. The first wanted to replace a soccer jersey in memory of his lost friend. The other in particular is a hero. He herded 20 people into a classroom closet. They were really packed in there. His mother showed us the pictures he texted, including the pitch black one when they turned the light off to hide as they heard screaming and gunshots. They were Colombian and we held hands with the family and Enrique Azuaje prayed over them in Spanish.

Billy Graham died today. The Billy Graham Chaplain Ministry has been here all week too. They spend quite a bit of time at The Memorial and have had a beautiful presence. I wanted to go offer my condolences to them as they offer grief counseling to folks here, but it seemed unnecessary. Promoted to Glory and Home at last, they carry on his ministry in Jesus Name.

As the Director of Camp Keystone, it is a high honor to see the campers that come through our gates each summer. I try to make it a point to get on the buses as they prepare to leave Camp Keystone and head home and say farewell to all the campers.

One day I asked a camper sitting on the bus what his favorite thing was about camp. “Was it swimming?” No. He only shrugged his shoulders and said it was just okay. “Was it fishing? Canoeing? Crafts? Bible Class? The night programs?” All of these were just met with the same tepid, ho-hum, it was okay I guess, responses. Finally, I said, “Man! You got to tell me what your favorite thing about camp was?” With a huge smile, the boy finally came to life and said, “I got to eat three meals in one day!”

It was in that moment that I remember why we exist. This kid thought a day with breakfast, lunch, and supper was the best thing to ever happen to him.

This little boy teaches us to be grateful for everything that we have. As Camp Keystone opens for the summer, we remember the nearly 1,200 campers who will come to us grateful for the small things that you help provide.

God bless.
Captain Matt Satterlee
Divisional Youth Secretary

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