By: Cyrondys Jackson
BIRMINGHAM, AL (February 15, 2022)- In 2019, Amber Gardner, welcomed her second child, a son, just before a global Pandemic gripped the world one year later, and left people facing growing uncertainty. Having worked in education for a decade, Gardner suddenly found herself without a job, and later contracted COVID-19 following her pregnancy. With Christmas around the corner, Gardner turned to a familiar organization, The Salvation Army Greater Birmingham Area Command, for help with putting gifts under the tree for her daughter and newborn.
As a teenager, the Birmingham native was involved with several service organizations, including Jack and Jill of America, and was introduced to volunteering at The Salvation Army. As a working professional, Gardner was familiar with the programs and services offered by The Salvation Army and reached out for help. “I thought it was a blessing, and I put my pride aside and asked for help,” said Gardner. Gardner quickly picked up the phone and with one call, wraparound services were offered to her and her family.
“When I came in, the gentleman at the front desk (Jimmy Rice, Social Services Receptionist) was so kind, and I wasn’t expecting that. The process was fast, and I made connections with people that I still check on,” said Gardner. “Ms. Barbara Carlton has a heart of gold and was so awesome. I call her my “Angel on Earth.”
Barbara Carlton serves as Assistant Director of Social Services and remembers working with Amber and her family. “She suffered a job loss due to COVID-19 and needed assistance. We were able to provide services, but also provided support and encouragement so she would know she wasn’t in this situation alone and God’s love goes beyond any hardship we may face,” said Carlton.
Amber’s children were registered for The WBRC Fox 6 Gifts for Kids Birmingham Salvation Army Angel Tree program, and their wish lists were picked by donors sponsoring children in the program. Each Angel on the tree represents the wishes and desires of a local child, and through the Angel Tree program, families and children have their specific needs and wants met for Christmas. In 2021, the Angel Tree program served 3,191 children in the Birmingham Metro Area, by providing toys, clothing, and gifts to children during holiday season.
Gardner said she, remebered the Angel Tree Distribution Day like it was yesterday. “It was exciting seeing other families being supported, and good to see the other families, moms, and dads. Everyone with the Salvation Army made families feel like you were working with someone you already knew. The people who serve are non-judgmental and they leave you feeling like everything will get better.”
Gardner said she is grateful The Salvation Army Greater Birmingham Area Command was able to help, and feels it is her responsibility to “pay it forward.” I previously taught parenting classes, and always tried to impress the importance of “giving.” Gardner said, “You don’t have to be rich to give. My daughter is doing her part now and is already engaged in service projects.”
Today, Amber says she and her family, “continue to put God first, and give back.” “You have to do your part and working with The Salvation Army gives people tips and tools that help them get better and back on their feet.”
Amber Gardner is now the owner of a small business, Cleaning for You, which evolved from her love of organizing and cleaning. “Cleaning is a stress reliever for me, and it started as a way for me to help people. I started out organizing and cleaning for people who have let things get out of hand or overwhelmed, and it has developed into a thriving small business,” said Gardner. One year later, Gardner is working to grow her small business with God’s provision.
“I would tell people that you are not alone, and these trials and tribulations are truly your James 1:2 moments,” said Gardner.
Amber and her children continue to volunteer as a family, by sponsoring food drives for people experiencing homelessness, and sharing the love of God. Small commercial businesses and households may contact Gardner about her services by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”- Romans 13:10