Bikes Donated To Aid Shelter Residents in Transporting to and From Job Interviews

Andrew Magee, Criminal Justice Department Coordinator at Louisiana College and Sunday School Teacher at River Outreach Church, and Bobette Lowe, a member of Magee’s Sunday School class, team up every month to host community feedings and giveaways in the Alexandria, Louisiana community. The themes change each month, ranging from community hair cuts, essential winter giveaways, and more. Their latest outreach involved donating ten bicycles to The Salvation Army of Alexandria, Bibles, and a meal consisting of red beans and rice, cornbread, and cake to those in need in Alexandria.

A majority of the homeless community who gather near the levee where Lowe and Magee distribute food and goods are residents of The Salvation Army, so the two decided to donate ten bikes to the corps to aid residents in traveling to and from job interviews. The bikes will provide flexibility to residents so that they do not have to rely on a public transportation schedule or risk being late due to having to walk to interviews. Residents will be able to rent bikes daily so that everyone at the shelter has an opportunity to utilize the gift.

“The Salvation Army is more than thankful to Andrew and Bobette for their generous donation. These bikes will aid our residents in finding employment and securing a brighter future for themselves,” stated Major Tim Williford, The Salvation Army Alexandria Corps Officer.

Lowe and Magee have grown to know the homeless community well by distributing food once a month and passing out blessing bags at the beginning of COVID-19. The kits consisted of jars of peanut butter, crackers, and juices to keep those in need full until they reach the next destination of feeding.

“It was laid on my heart to help people who are trying to help themselves. We wanted to give a hand up, not a handout. The bikes are to aid in residents securing jobs. The feedings are because God tells us that we should feed one another, whether it’s with knowledge or food,” Lowe shared.

“We held an event before last winter, where we filled backpacks with blankets, gloves, and winter essentials. We’ve also invited beauticians out onto the levee to give haircuts and makeovers to the homeless. We made GQ models out of some of the guys. The glow that a lot of them had after getting a haircut was unbelievable. They were so grateful, and it was so refreshing for them. We hope to do that one again,” Magee added.

“These are the people that Jesus witnessed to.”

Magee and Lowe rotate their feedings with other churches, usually taking on the third Saturday of each month. They also do closet cleanups, where they set up tables filled with clothes and other goods. There are even some stores in the area that will inform them when items are going on sale to provide what they can for the homeless. These tables are set up at every community feeding.

“We’ve built a relationship with the homeless community. They know our vehicles, and when they see us, they know we are coming to show love to them and bring them goods,” Lowe said.

“These are the people that Jesus witnessed to. He didn’t go to the All Saints churches. He went to the streets and found the needy. That’s who He loved on and fed. And in His word, we can learn more of His likeness, and that’s the goal; to show his word to others and to be more in his likeness,” Lowe added.

Magee and Lowe would like others to get involved, whether it’s feeding the community or donating bike supplies to the Army.

“I’d like to vocalize to the community that they can take part in this as well. There’s always room to improve and give back. People in the community can get involved by helping with the bikes’ upkeep. —Inner tubes for flat tires, bike helmets, chains, and other supplies. Just swing by the shelter and donate what you can. In my heart, I believe this should be a community effort and it becomes important for the church to connect with the community. Help by action. Just bring your donations to Major Williford,” Magee added.

Overcoming Drug Addiction, Finding Love, and Building a New Life

TJ Lackey, a former shelter resident who arrived with drug addiction problems, is now sober, married, has started a family, and is working over maintenance for The Salvation Army of the Shoals.

Lackey is from Cullman, Alabama. He lived with his grandparents and was raised in the church. Although his grandparents loved him dearly and did everything they could to prevent him from straying onto a dangerous path, Lackey fell into drug usage at an early age. He had been using methamphetamine for 15 years before coming to the Army. Lackey came to Florence for a weekend trip a few years ago to visit a friend, ended up moving in with that friend, who was also a meth addict, and fell into a slump. Lackey and the friend were eventually evicted from their home with nowhere to go, so they decided to turn to The Salvation Army. Lackey got clean and sober while staying at The Salvation Army and met his wife while recovering. She became pregnant, which motivated him, even more, to make sure not to return to his addiction.

“I decided to grow up. I got two jobs and stayed clean. I’ve been clean ever since I’ve joined the Army,” said Lackey.

Lackey has been sober for over three years.

“You give and you get back. God is treating me good and life’s good and I love it.”

Shortly after coming to the shelter, he started attending church at the Army and became more involved, including volunteering to ring the bell during kettle season. He now has a fulltime job in maintenance at The Salvation Army, allowing him to keep up with his financial obligations.

“Thank the Lord for The Salvation Army and everything He’s done to change my life. I’m happy to do my chores when I wake up. It has given me a chance to save money to get a place and other things that I need. I’m never late on the rent, and I pay my utility bills at least three weeks ahead. I like being ahead. God is good to me,” Lackey shared.

“Although I strayed, I’m back. I wasted so much of my life. I guess I just got so lost in my addiction that I didn’t think about my future and kept self-destructing. I’m doing well now. I’ve stayed out of trouble, I don’t associate with any enablers, and I’m enjoying getting closer to God. You give and you get back. God is treating me good and life’s good and I love it,” Lackey added.

“Thank God and The Salvation Army.”

The Salvation Army of the Shoals has a church service on Wednesday evenings. Church members and shelter residents have dinner together afterward. That’s usually the time Lackey would see a Salvation Army officer in uniform.

When I first caught a glimpse of somebody in uniform, I realized I didn’t truly understand what The Salvation Army was about. I was like, ‘Who’s that? What? A Captain?’ The uniforms intrigued me. I didn’t see them much as a resident in the rehabilitation program, but they were at church to bring the message on Wednesday nights. I felt the presence of the Lord with their message and how loving this whole organization is. I’m just so thankful that I came here, and I’m still here. I’m still a part of the church family, too,” Lackey stated.

“I love the mission here at the Army. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’ve come so far. I pray every day that the Lord helps me to stay strong. I stay busy doing my work, studying the Bible, and volunteering. Thank God and The Salvation Army for being good to me. I’m thankful to be a part of a team that does good for others,” Lackey added.