Smoke the Therapy Dog

The Salvation Army of Baton Rouge has welcomed a new member to their family. Smoke is a therapy dog to the men and staff in the Corps Recovery Center (CRC).

Welcoming a therapy dog into the recovery program was Major Donald Tekautz’s idea. He often took his dog to the CRC during a former appointment in Memphis. He realized that having a dog was beneficial to residents and decided to bring a therapy dog on board in Baton Rouge.

“In other appointments, I have seen the quality of life a dog can bring to our clients. They become the best counselor the men have because dogs keep secrets no matter what you tell them. Though it sounds tripe, dog is the same name as God just backward, so I do believe that they have an innate quality to bring peace and tranquility to our lives. They are messengers of peace, and Smoke certainly has brought that to the property for our guys. Smoke is a great dog, and the guys in the program are benefiting from him greatly,” shared Major Tekautz.

Smoke is two years old and was adopted from a local Baton Rouge shelter. He lives at the CRC, and residents are in charge of caring for him. A monthly schedule rotates responsibilities for residents, who take turns feeding, bathing, and walking Smoke as well, making sure he takes his heartworm medication until he heals.

The men in the CRC program spend a lot of time with Smoke. He has a kind heart and continuously wants to be petted and hugged. A lot of the residents enjoy him being around because he signifies comfort.

“It’s been great to have a dog around. It has brought a piece of home to my life and my recovery. Smoke seems to like it here, and I know we enjoy having him here. We’ve all fallen in love with Smoke, and we think he might love us too,” shared Percy, a CRC resident.

 

Blessings and Perseverance with Seniors Amid COVID-19

Coined “Baskets of Blessings,” baskets filled with gloves, masks, sanitizer, a Bible study book, and chocolates were delivered to the homes of seniors and members of The Salvation Army Shreveport Corps’ Women’s Ministry. Distributing the baskets was the Army’s way of staying in touch with church members and reassuring them that they are cared for and loved while also practicing social distancing.

Virginia Fernandez-Schalewski, a member of the women’s ministry for over ten years, appreciates the basket of goods and says it helps her to feel more protected while running errands.

“I would like to thank The Salvation Army for the gloves, face mask, and candy. I carry the sanitizer with me everywhere I go,” shared Fernandez-Schalewski.

Retired Salvation Army officer, Major Patricia Johnson, was also one of the women who received a “basket of blessings” and was grateful for the added resources to her and her family.

Major Patricia Johnson, former Salvation Army Corps Officer

“I appreciate the gifts and The Salvation Army for thinking of me. You can’t always find these things when you need them, so I’m grateful for the tissues and hand sanitizer,” Major Johnson stated.

“I enjoy the Army’s programs. I was raised in the Army. My parents were very active at the Corps. I plan to join the Shreveport Corps in assisting the Boys and Girls Club once the pandemic is more under control,” Major Johnson added.

Major Johnson and Lieutenant Tamarique Ellis know each other from previous appointments in Atlanta. Major Johnson offered advice to Lieutenant Ellis early in her career as a Salvation Army officer. Nearly 20 years later, they live in Shreveport, Louisiana, and are still involved with the Army.

“Time is one circle. It comes back around. Major Johnson blessed me as a young soldier in Atlanta, and now we’re both in Shreveport and keep in touch,” Lieutenant Ellis shared.

“I just love my Army and want to give back, despite my losses and time of mourning.”

Although the Army is continuing to serve members of its community during the coronavirus pandemic, the past few months of self-isolation have been hard for some and even harder for others. Patsy Wallace, a member of the Shreveport Corps’ senior’s ministry, lost both of her daughters during self-isolation due to ongoing health issues and the coronavirus. Through all of this, she has still kept the Army in mind and has donated what she can to assist the Shreveport Corps. She regularly visits the Corps for the senior’s ministry and weekly meals, which has only been offered drive-thru style since the start of COVID-19. Due to the loss of her daughters, Wallace has been unable to travel, so Lieutenants Ellis brought lunch, flowers, a handmade vase, and a handmade necklace designed by the Ellis’ children to Ms. Wallace at her home. While receiving her gifts, Wallace offered a gift of her own to the Army.

“Ms. Patsy has given us a financial donation from her heart. In all her suffering, she says she has meant to bless us. Her love and care for others and the ministry in her time of bereavement is so wonderful. Ms. Patsy is a blessing to the Army. The Lord is with her,” Lieutenant Ellis stated.

Wallace has been a member of The Salvation Army Women’s Ministry for over 20 years and also participates in the senior’s ministry. She goes above and beyond for the Army. Just last December, she took the initiative to volunteer to help organize Angel Tree and tended the tables throughout the fundraiser’s duration.

“I just love my Army and want to give back, despite my losses and time of mourning,” Patsy Wallace shared.

Lieutenant Ellis says members of the senior’s ministry keep in touch with one another via phone calls. The Corps checks in with Wallace and other seniors weekly to see how they are doing, whether it be a phone call or driving by their homes to wave and chat from a safe distance.

“We are a family. We see that family spirit in our corps, from mothers taking care of kids, to the senior’s ministry checking in on each other through coronavirus. It’s beautiful,” Lieutenant Ellis shared.

“Seniors would come and sit and encourage each other daily before the pandemic, so we are staying in touch with them to let them know that we are thinking of them and praying for them. They are praying for us as well. We like to encourage seniors and remind them that they have a presence and a place in this world. If society takes time to lift both of our vulnerable populations, the children and the seniors, we can learn so much from them,” added Lieutenant Ellis.

Greenwood Corps: COVID-19 Has Changed The Way We Do Ministry

The Greenwood Corps Thrift Store has reopened for the first time since April when the Mississippi Shelter in Place order went into effect. All customers are limited to 20-minute shopping sessions and children are not allowed in the store at this time. Though the thrift store was closed due to state orders, the corps continued all social services, including financial assistance with utilities, rent, hotel rooms for homeless clients, and groceries. All social service appointments are conducted via phone Monday-Friday between 10 AM-3 PM.

“Our customers are more like family. They will mingle and talk, so we had to limit the shopping time so that everyone had a chance to shop,” laughed Captain Keisha McMullin, Greenwood Corps Officer.

Lt. Jason McMullin showing appreciation at City Hall on National Donut Day

“Because of all the stipulations with COVID-19, I felt like we weren’t able to do everything we wanted to do. I wanted to thank all our first responders and frontline workers personally, but we couldn’t do that. Even as we went to the hospital, a representative met us outside. She felt the same way we were feeling. We’ve missed human interaction,” Captain McMullin explained.
The corps recently celebrated National Salvation Army Week by delivering cakes, balloons, and a card to the Greenwood Leflore Hospital, Greenwood Police Department, and Greenwood Fire Department. Disinfectant kits were distributed to families, community youth received snack bags, and balloons and donuts were delivered to Mayor Carolyn McAdams. The corps also gave War Cry magazine’s, cards, coloring sheets, and word puzzles to one of the local nursing homes.

Captain McMullin says not being able to shake hands and hug the people who support The Salvation Army and the Greenwood community has been difficult. Still, she took this opportunity to become more creative and do everything she could to show the Army’s appreciation.

 

“This is the way ministry was meant to be.”

 

The Greenwood Corps makes deliveries to families throughout the area every week. Captains McMullin recently met a new family while out making their routine dropoffs. They gave them “happy bags” (bags filled with snacks, puzzles, and cleaning supplies) and the family was so touched that they agreed to visit the thrift store once reopened to say hello to the McMullins.

“I thanked God for that moment and let the family know that we will be back to visit once the pandemic is under control. This is the same neighborhood where a lot of our youth live. We already have plans to take our ministry into that community. We’ve planned to host block parties and gatherings on Fridays to keep the kids interested and to feed the community. That moment was a great introduction to what we are trying to do once the pandemic is over. It’s often hard to successfully reach out to all of the kids in that community, so we’ve decided to take our ministry to them so that they are more aware of the Army. We also have a group where all of the kids in our youth ministry can stay in touch with each other via text messaging,” Captain McMullin shared.

“This is the way ministry was meant to be. It wasn’t meant to be confined between four walls. It was meant to be creative and innovative. I think that this pandemic has pushed us as pastors and ministers to think outside of the box. It has stretched us, it has caused us to think outside of the four walls, and has helped us to be more creative with our ministry,” Captain McMullin added.

Traveling throughout Greenwood’s neighborhoods to deliver “happy bags” to the community is something that Captain McMullin has truly enjoyed during the pandemic. It has challenged her to be more inventive and resourceful and has helped her to not focus on the negative aspects of these times.

“To be able to find a way to spread the gospel and spread God’s love amid such a dark time has been a blessing for me. Sometimes I can be a sponge and absorb the emotions and anxieties of others, so I deal with the worries and stresses of their situations. I had to get myself to a place where I’m like, ‘Ok now Lord, I know you told me that I’m not supposed to be anxious for anything,’ so I’ve been pressing in like never before. As a pastor, I know that you are going to carry the weight of your people, but it’s been like never before,” Captain McMullin shared.

“One client has a master’s degree and has never had to ask for help. She is struggling to take care of her family, and can’t get unemployment. I let her know that it was alright to receive help and that we’re all going to need somebody at some point in our lives. To hear her on the other end, rejoicing and thanking Jesus for providing for her family brought me so much joy. It’s those moments that remind me that I’m at the right place at the right time. All of the anxieties that I’m feeling from hearing clients’ stories are well worth it, and God is using me to help someone else. That’s what keeps me going,” Captain McMullin added.

A New Kind of Ministry

Since the start of the pandemic, the Greenwood Corps drops off ministry packets every Sunday and holds church service via a phone conference call. The corps delivers “church in a bag” on Sundays when a live service will not be held. Church in a bag includes a devotion, a list of songs that church members can search on YouTube for worship, games, prizes for the games, activities, and crafts.

“We’re being as creative as we can to keep this going. Everything has shut down, but we have to keep on serving. The enemy did not win with this one,” Captain McMullin shared.

The Greenwood Corps also delivers groceries to families in need and always includes a game for the children. Before the pandemic, the officers had plans to take members of the youth program to the Biloxi Kroc Center. That field trip has been postponed until a safer time to travel, so weekly activity packets for youth members include different ways for them to earn points for treats during that trip.