The Salvation Army of Jackson Corps hosts a year-round Senior Citizens Program where community members over 65-years meet for ministry, arts and crafts, and socialize. The program runs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 9 AM – 1 PM. Different activities are offered, such as health and nutrition classes, daily devotions, community gym, and workout classes. Representatives from companies throughout the community also come to speak with seniors to keep them abreast about life skills and what’s going on around Jackson. Examples of companies that visit are health insurance representatives, funeral home directors, and brokers. Seniors participate in many activities during each program session and end the day with snacks and lunch. Seniors also have opportunities to participate in different Salvation Army programs to share their talents.
“This program was designed for seniors. We take field trips, host programs, and many other activities. Right now, we have a partnership with Comcast, so we’re able to provide internet essentials to our seniors. We have a virtual session coming up where we will do our first Zoom session with the seniors to try to help them better navigate the computer and get them to be more comfortable,” Jackson Corps Community Center Director, Nita Humphrey.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have not been able to have the program on-site, so I’ve been checking on seniors to see if they need anything. We also do biweekly devotional conference calls to help with their spiritual growth. We have made it where we are available. They have my cell. Some of them call and need immediate assistance. Anything that they need, we are there to make sure that they are taken care of during this time,” Humphrey added.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how the program operates, but The Salvation Army and members of the program have stayed in touch throughout the past year in hopes of maintaining a sense of community. A few of the Senior Citizen Program members have been hospitalized, or in nursing homes, so Humphrey and officers go to them to provide community care. They take items that the seniors may need and attend funerals when members pass away. Humphrey contacts families on behalf of the Army to see if they need anything.
“We do the best that we can to make sure that we are there for them. And making sure they’re okay throughout their daily lives,” Humphrey added.
Ms. Inez Rushing is one of the seniors who keeps in touch with members of the program.
“I’ve spoken with everyone individually. They tell me they miss The Salvation Army and wish we were back. Being unable to meet with our group or family members has been really hard on us,” Rushing shared.
“We’ve stayed creative and keep in touch with each other. This is the reason we’re part of the Senior Citizens Program; to meet and form a community within our age group.
What’s been most missed is in-person devotions and gym class. One of the seniors uses her local Kroger to work out. She uses a buggy for support and walks around the entire store for exercise. Other members have taken to walking around their homes and yards as their source of physical activity.
“The Salvation Army has helped me a lot. First thing in the mornings, we’d have devotion, prayer, and scripture reading. I like doing that. Sometimes we have a guest speaker and other times we have a chance to go to the gym. That helps strengthen my lungs because I have certain respiratory issues. Everything is organized. We have lunch after our activities, and we have recognized birthdays every three months. I’ve also had the opportunity to participate in planning the Christmas program, which I enjoy a lot,” Edna Rhodes, member of the Senior Citizens Program.
Isolation Amid A Pandemic
Many seniors spent their quarantine with family to avoid complete isolation. One member has an 82-year-old aunt who she’s taking care of during the pandemic. She’s able to assist her aunt, and her aunt keeps her company. The Salvation Army of Jackson’s Senior Program hosted a weekly devotion throughout the pandemic to ensure seniors don’t feel completely isolated or forgotten.
“We’re all retired, and most of us don’t have many places to go. I’ve missed gathering; talking to each other. I miss the food,” Rushing said.
“We’re anxious to return. We’ve kept in touch. We’ve shared phone numbers and have a great line of communication. We call ourselves The Salvation Army Senior Citizens Family,” Rushing added.
The Seniors began meeting in person on January 11, 2021. Social distancing is in place, and masks are required.
Vanessa Brown, Boys and Girls Club of Shreveport Executive Director, is one of seven 2021 Maytag Dependable Leader Award (MDLA) recipients. She will receive $20,000 to use towards Boys and Girls Club program efforts in a safe, dependable place that enables young people to achieve their great futures. Brown received this national award because she has projected a reliable, positive impact on youth throughout the Shreveport community.
The MDLA award will be used to create a summer program – “Responding With Connections.”
Brown got the idea for “Responding With Connections” because there’s a big disconnect between Shreveport youth and families and first responders.
“Responding With Connections” is the selected 2021 camp program. The Boys and Girls Club of Shreveport summer camp serves as a supervised environment where youth can develop into successful adults. Summer camp will take place June – July, Monday-Thursday, 10 AM – 3 PM, and is open to ages 6-13. High school-aged kids can come on Fridays and do “Dollar Days” where, for one dollar, they can enjoy all Boys and Girls Club activities, including lunch, snacks, sports, and just having fun.
“When I received the award, I said, ‘I have the best idea!’ I was so happy when they told me. I was like, ‘No way, no!’ because hundreds of people apply, and only seven are selected. I felt honored and blessed. The individuals who mentored me and helped me, I thank them,” Brown shared.
A superhero theme will accompany the “Responding With Connections” program. Brown feels that first responders are the superheroes of our communities. She will use The Avengers and other themes to assist in intriguing kids in learning more about first responders.
“The Avengers is one of the coolest movies I’ve ever seen. I’d like to incorporate some Avenger themes in accordance to which first responder presents and how their job relates to a Marvel hero’s powers,” Brown stated.
“The goal is to be able to establish a connection that enables a positive response. When first responders visit the Boys and Girls Club, they can see young individuals who have a bright future but may have some obstacles against them. In turn, the youth will see the human behind the uniform. I want to establish those connections that will enable us to have a positive connection and a positive future.”
“Responding With Connections” will include field trips to local agencies and scheduled community events. Law enforcement and first responders will see the Boys and Girls Club facilities and meet individuals in the community that they serve outside of their regular job duties. First responder mentorships will also be arranged for students. Paramedics, police officers, and firefighters will be able to visit and mentor community youth and teach them about their daily job duties, introducing possible career fields to community youth.
Law enforcement will also visit four times a week to teach basic survival lessons that may not be taught in school, such as fire safety, what to do when a police officer pulls you over, signs of a stroke, and other essential life skills.
Changing the Conversation
Brown hopes that a structured environment will help to find the disconnect between law enforcement and low-income communities.
“There’s so much violence in the world. Law enforcement does not have a good connection with youth and vice versa. We can start to change that. My goal is when they interact outside of the Boys and Girls Club, there’s already an established connection and not a blind face-to-face meet.”
“I think if the world could understand each other better, there would be less tension and fewer casualties. Both community and law enforcement have to understand that.”
Brown has been part of the Boys and Girls Club Movement for five years. She began her journey at the Boys and Girls of Nothern Louisiana, and transferred to Shreveport a few years ago. She briefly participated in her local Boys and Girls Club as a youth but didn’t feel that she received adequate mentorship. She wanted to change that conversation.
“I did not specifically need Boys and Girls Club growing up. I lived in a well-rounded household, but my mom wanted me to interact with my peers. We lived fairly close to my local Boys and Girls Club, so it was no trouble for my mom to drop me off. Kids come to our programs for different reasons. I came for the mentorship,” Brown shared.
“I tell boys and girls that they all come for different reasons. Some come for food, some come for shelter and security, and some come for mentorship. I didn’t receive that at mine, and I told myself I would never want that for the kids that come through our Club. I joined Girl Scouts and eventually turned to sports, which is what I feel saved me.”
“Many children have options for their extracurricular, but a lot of our kids in Shreveport don’t. The Boys and Girls Club fills that gap for them.”
Bridging the Gap
The main message of “Responding With Connections” is if we don’t change history, it will repeat itself. This program’s mission is to bridge the gap between low-income youth and law enforcement with the hopes of building a better tomorrow.
“Kids understand American history. They know the history of crimes against Black Americans. We have to figure out how to make the journey of changing this reality impactful to our kids, which involves giving them the tools they need. For example, if they have an issue with someone, how do they use words to explain their views? They should be able to walk away saying, ‘I didn’t physically win as in a fistfight, but I won differently.’ This program is ultimately trying to change that behavior and that culture,” Brown shared.
“Many of our kids have the pressure of siblings looking up to them and helping with their household. Many live in low-income apartments and food isn’t where it’s supposed to be. This program will also help our kids navigate through that.”
Brown doesn’t want “Responding With Connections” to be a one-time thing. She wants this to be a recurring program that can genuinely positively impact the Shreveport community.
“I’m excited to be able to represent our Boys and Girls Club here in Shreveport, and I’m excited to be able to give our youth this opportunity. This is what a lot of the kids need; Just that door opener. That opportunity that gives them hope for a better tomorrow.”
Jackson, MS (March 18, 2021)— Thankful that the projected severe tornado outbreak of March 17 was not as destructive as expected, The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi (ALM) Division has been serving pockets of need after yesterday’s severe weather.
Laurel, MS: The Salvation Army Laurel Corps provided snacks and drinks for 70 people at the Jones County Safe Room at the request of local officials.
Birmingham, AL: The Salvation Army Birmingham Area Command provided lunches, snacks, and drinks to residents impacted in Chilton County.
Dothan, AL: The Salvation Army Dothan Corps received a call asking for assistance for a senior citizen whose home was devastated during the storm. They responded to the call by providing water, boxes, blankets, and spiritual care.
Jackson, MS (March 17, 2021) — As the threat of a significant tornado outbreak looms, The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi (ALM) Division prepares to support relief efforts as needed across the division. Salvation Army mobile feeding units are on standby throughout the ALM Division, and crews are ready to serve when called.
“The Salvation Army ALM disaster response team is equipped and ready to respond in every county and parish within the three states. As always, The Salvation Army stands ready to serve, doing the most good in our communities and responding with love and compassion when disaster strikes,” Captain Howard Tate, The Salvation Army ALM Division representative.
The Salvation Army encourages everyone in potentially impacted areas to take every precaution and heed local officials’ advice and local warnings.
It has been a year since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. As we all reflect on the challenges of 2020, The Salvation Army would like to shed hope and light on this dark commemoration and share how we have continued to serve on the front lines, helping our neighbors in need.
In 2020, The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi served 261,658 people and saw the following increases in services provided:
- Disaster Assistance (People Served): up 4,355%
- Grocery Orders: up 42%
- Home-Delivered Meals: up 204%
- Personal Comfort Kits: up 84%
In challenging times, we’re more committed than ever to serving all with love, kindness, and hope. Last year, The Salvation Army consistently served throughout the pandemic and amid the most active hurricane season in recorded history. We continue to serve our struggling neighbors’ needs during this unprecedented time and will continue to serve our neighbors’ needs in the years ahead.
“This past year has indeed been like no other. As I reflect on 2020, I’m proud of the work The Salvation Army in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi has done to help our neighbors in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the back-to-back hurricanes we’ve experienced,” stated Major Kent Davis, The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Divisional Commander. “We will continue to fight the good fight for years to come and look forward to continuing working with donors and volunteers to serve our neighbors in need.”
An uncertain winter weather forecast materialized throughout the ALM Division during the week of February 14, 2021, resulting in back-to-back winter storms. Road conditions became treacherous, with overpasses and bridges beginning to ice. An all-time record was reached with seven consecutive days below 35 degrees, and on most of those days, temperatures were below freezing. The first storm system crippled much of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, resulting in road closures, traffic accidents, and power outages. Tens of thousands of residents were without power at the peak of the storm system, and many are still dealing with water pressure issues. The Salvation Army is committed to serving the most vulnerable members of our community, so our 24/7 cold weather shelters remained open as necessary to provide a safe environment.
Volunteers were recruited to comfort clients and assist shelters with public feedings.
“Those volunteers are living, breathing human beings who choose to be with the guests who are hurting, who are troubled in life quite often,” said Major Bradley Caldwell, Mississippi Gulf Coast Area Commanding Officer. “That person just sitting with them, and just hearing their story, giving them a smile makes a difference just as much as the food and the shelter do.”
“We have people that have found their way here and others who have been directed here by police or the hospital,” added Lieutenant Jamaal Ellis, Shreveport, Louisiana Corps Officer.
“We are here to serve.”
The Shreveport Corps also set out to find homeless people on the streets and coaxed them to come inside by offering hand warmers and hot chocolate.
Many regular shelters were full since COVID-19 restrictions cut their occupancy in half, so Corps turned to placing cots on whatever floor space they could find — socially distanced six feet apart.
“If anyone needed shelter from the weather, they could take refuge with us. We are here to serve,” stated Captain Wendy Deuel, Florence, Alabama Corps Officer.
“We’re moving stuff around. If there’s any space that we can safely put someone, we’re going to find it. If that means moving furniture around so that we can lay down another cot, that’s what we’re doing. We’ve had to repurpose a room just so that we can make that into a place where people can stay,” Lt. Ellis added.
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. Click here for more information on how The Salvation Army is helping your community.
Jacquela and her daughter became homeless at the beginning of 2020 after a home foreclosure. She turned to live with a church member but could not continue those arrangements after a month, so she had to find a new temporary home. She was referred to The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama Area Command’s Family Haven Emergency Shelter and immediately moved in. A month later, the pandemic hit, and she lost her job. The Salvation Army continued to encourage her through months of interviews and bouts of depression. Her stay at the shelter was extended due to the pandemic, and her social workers continued to provide hope and resources. Jacquela also had outstanding utilities that she needed to pay off before moving forward with the housing process to ensure she didn’t end up in a similar situation after finding a new home, so the additional time helped her catch up with financial planning. Although thankful for The Salvation Army, Jacquela found herself ashamed of her living conditions.
“Staying in a shelter was embarrassing and shameful to me. At one point, I was looking for extended stay places, but things like that would have put me in a worse situation because I’d constantly spend money on top of money,” Jacquela shared.
“My family still doesn’t know I’ve gone through this. Whenever I would face time, I’d make sure my background was discreet so no one would know,” she added.
Her daughter was in a car accident that totaled their only form of transportation, so Jacquela had to use the money she was saving to replace the vehicle. Her caseworker was understanding and extended her stay even more. Jacquela eventually found employment again as a family engagement coordinator for a nonprofit organization and began saving for a new home.
“They saw that I was trying to do the right thing. The Salvation Army was there as a support system. They gave me time to do what I needed to do and didn’t just kick me out because my three months were up,” Jacquela shared.
“My biggest dilemma was finding housing because I wasn’t able to do the traditional thing of finding an apartment because I was under bankruptcy, so whenever a landlord would look at me on paper, I was financially destitute. I wasn’t able to rent normally, so I was forced to try to find an individual landlord to try to work with them. The same situations I try to help families out of with my job, I now found myself in,” Jacquela added.
A Salvation Army employee learned of her troubles finding housing and connected Jacquela with an individual landlord who had properties. She met with the landlord and explained her situation, and they were willing to give her a chance. Jacquela moved into her new home in June 2020. The Salvation Army helped with the first month’s rent to allow time for Jacquela to get ahead with her other finances.
One of the hardest parts of living in the shelter was watching her daughter deal with high school senior year stressors during a pandemic, without the comfort of permanent housing. The entire situation was difficult for Jacquela’s daughter; All senior year celebrations were canceled, including prom, and on top of the stressors of not having her own home, she had to prepare for college. Thankfully, Jacquela was able to plan a graduation party at the shelter to create some type of normalcy for her daughter.
Forming tears, Jacquela shared, “When I lost my house in foreclosure, I lost everything. Not just my house. We literally only had some suitcases. We were vacating the house, but someone broke into our home while we were moving out. We basically left our home with the clothes that we could put in one or two bins. When we left the shelter, we had to start completely over. We lived here for about two months without furniture. We had nothing six months ago. My daughter has been a trooper with me. We go in and are making our house a home—just part of my testimony.
“It is only by God’s grace and mercy. Anything that anyone did is because he put His hands on it, and I believe that He did open doors for us and continues to open doors for us. That is how we survived. I’m thankful.
I want people who may be in the same situation that I was in to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of. I thank God for the fact that I was able to live in the shelter and save money.”