Columbus, Mississippi, Program is Challenging Young Adults to Dream Big

by Jon Kalahar

Rene Hill, In This Together program participant


Raising a child on your own is hard enough. Imagine you’re 20 years old. Sometimes you need a little motivation or, in Rene Hill’s case, a push. After signing up for assistance with the state, she was sent to The Salvation Army of Columbus, Mississippi. That’s where she met Lieutenants Damon and Jennifer Graham.

Lieutenant Jennifer has become Rene’s motivator.

“She’s not forcing me, but she is strongly on me to go to college,” Hill said.

As officers of The Salvation Army, the Grahams see the hardships local residents face after losing their jobs, overcoming addictions, or even trying to piece life back together following jail time. That’s why they are working with the United Way and the Mississippi Department of Human Services to give young adults a boost to get ahead in life through the I.T.T. (In This Together) program.

“We hear a need and see a place where we can help in a person’s life, if they allow it,” Lieutenant Damon said.

“Many of these single mothers grew up in single-parent households,” said Lieutenant Jennifer. “They need that extra motivation to overcome the generational cycle of poverty. There are a lot of barriers in their way, from lack of family support to limited education to their lack of self-worth.”

       Cherrell Murray, program participant

The program was started to show young men and women their value and worth in the community while working in a supportive, Christian environment. The goal is for each person who works through the program to become self-sufficient, not another statistic.

“Receiving assistance from the state is a temporary tool,” Lieutenant Jennifer said. “We are challenging them to dream beyond a temporary fix. This is their first stop, followed hopefully by college or technical training.”

Cherrell Murray, like Hill, has found a new outlook on her future since starting at The Salvation Army.

“It teaches me to love people, care for people,” Murray said.

Now Salvation Army volunteers, both Hill and Murray perform administrative duties while also stocking the food pantry and preparing groceries for people in need. They will soon take a placement exam to find entry level professions suited for their skills. From there, they will begin college level classes. Both women hope to follow in their mentors’ footsteps and become social workers.

“Basically, they both just encourage us to follow our dreams, try to keep on the right path, go to college. They inspire us a lot to make us want to do more,” Hill said.

 

Jon Kalahar is the Communications Director for the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division.

The Salvation Army Serving in Jacksonville, Alabama Following Severe Weather

jacksonville alabama tornado
March 20, 2018
Jon Kalahar | jon.kalahar@uss.salvationarmy.org


Jacksonville, AL – A line of severe storms moved across northern Mississippi and Alabama dropping large hail and spinning up several tornadoes Monday evening. The most extensive damage is in Calhoun County, Alabama where Jacksonville State University received a direct hit.

The Anniston Corps of The Salvation Army has been called to feed lunch and dinner Tuesday for 300 first responders at the Jacksonville Public Safety Complex. The Corps will also provide service delivery to volunteers responding to the area, as requested. The Anniston Corps mobile feeding unit will be supported by 3 additional mobile feeding units from Birmingham and Gadsden. Other resources throughout Alabama are on standby to provide support as needed.

“There are several buildings with roofs ripped right off,” said Major Eric Roberts, Anniston Corps Officer. “It breaks your heart knowing what these folks are going through, but we are here to offer a little bit of hope and a hot meal.”

Major Roberts and Salvation Army staff are also trained to offer emotional and spiritual care to residents who may have lost their homes and simply need to pray with or talk to someone.

“We want them to know they are not alone in this. They can always come to us for help.” said Major Roberts.

Other Salvation Army local units in northeast Alabama are continuing to assess service delivery needs.

“We are communicating with local and state emergency management officials to determine if there are additional needs in the state.” said Terry Lightheart, Emergency Disaster Services Director for The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. “We will provide service wherever it is needed.”


About The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army, established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need without discrimination for more than 135 years in the U.S. More than 25 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through a range of social services: food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless, and opportunities for underprivileged children. The Salvation Army tracks the level of need across the country with the Human Needs Index (HumanNeedsIndex.org). The Salvation Army has served survivors of every major national disaster since 1900. The Salvation Army does not place an administrative fee on disaster donations. During emergency disasters, 100 percent of designated gifts are used to support specific relief efforts. For more information, go towww.SalvationArmyUSA.org or follow on Twitter @SalvationArmyUS.