Putting Life Back on Track

The Salvation Army is a place where people find hope. For some people, it is the second chance they need to change their lives for the better. Larry Hamilton experienced great success at a young age but his life soon became shackled by addiction and eventually homelessness. With time to make the changes he needed, Larry became an example of the success that a person can find through the mission of The Salvation Army.

Larry’s life moved quickly in his younger days. It was a life on wheels, traveling from city to city on the Roller Derby circuit. Larry was originally from Los Angeles, California, and grew up in a happy home. “Coming up I had a very happy family. I was brought up with my mother, father, sister, and brother. We were active in church, also Cub Scouts and the YMCA. My mother kept me busy,” says Larry. It was an active childhood that led him into professional athletics, traveling for a number of years on the circuit.

Larry had always been close to his family. His father passed away after complications from heart surgery while Larry was still a teenager, but he found comfort with his mother, brother, and sister. When his success in roller derby allowed Larry to purchase his own home at the age of 19, his older brother moved in with him. Unfortunately, tragedy soon struck again. “My brother had just bought a motorcycle. And one day I came home, and my neighbors told me that my brother had just been killed in a motorcycle accident,” Larry says.

His understandable grief started him on a hard road. “I started doing a little drinking. And then, about 5 years later, my mother passed away. And that is what really hit me. Then about 4 years later, my sister passed away,” says Larry. Without his family, he moved from Los Angeles to Louisiana to work as a chef. But his substance addictions cost him his job, and he eventually found himself homeless. With nowhere else to turn, he found his way to The Salvation Army shelter in Shreveport, Louisiana.

There were some false starts and some struggles. He left for a time, still struggling with addiction, and eventually returned. “I told them that if they allowed me to come back, they would not have a problem with me. So, they give me a chance and I came back, went through the programs they had to offer. I volunteered, had a lot of counseling sessions with the Corps Officer. Eventually, I started working through the issues that I had,” says Larry.

It was a change that stuck with him, and it led to a life that was finally free of addictions. Today he is semi-retired but still speaks to the men in the shelter about the hope and change that he found at The Salvation Army. He shares his story with others, helping them find their own road to a new life. “I have 10 years of sobriety, thanks to The Salvation Army. I learned that I have to give back what was given to me. It’s just being clean and sober, life goes on. But how I deal with it all…with hope, I try to share that with others.”

Meridian Shelter Reopens

On August 16, 2019, the men’s shelter at The Salvation Army of Meridian, Mississippi, returned to operation after a four-month hiatus that was due to a severe staffing shortage. In the intervening time, the vacant facility fell into disrepair. Lt. Tamara Robb, the newly appointed Meridian Salvation Army Corps Officer, took over in June and immediately made it a top priority to get the shelter back up and running. “I had a man come to our door, sunburned and bitten by mosquitoes, who needed a place to stay. I knew with the summer being so hot that we had to get the shelter back open as quickly as possible,” says Lt. Robb.

It’s fair to say that while most people know homelessness exists, few see what it looks like on a daily basis. The Salvation Army works diligently every day to address the problems of homelessness and generational poverty by providing a new direction for people who have lost their way in life. Once again in Meridian, those with nowhere to go have a safe place to turn and the help of people who truly care.

Lt. Robb and her small staff have been working hard over the summer to get the shelter back up and running. With the help of “Love out Loud,” a cooperative ministry with the Baptist church, they began the process of clearing out overgrown landscaping, cleaning, and making small repairs. With the help of generous donations from the public and Habitat for Humanity, the shelter was made ready to serve those in need. It is that service that Lt. Robb is most eager to get back to. “We’re excited to reopen and to give these men a clean and safe place to stay,” says Lt. Robb. “Our goal is not just to give them a place to sleep and a meal, it is to feed them spiritually as well, and to help them find permanent housing,” she says. With the support of the public, The Salvation Army can continue to provide a meal, a clean place to sleep, and the opportunity these men need to make a lasting and positive change in their life.

Back to School!

Children from families that can afford access to educational materials and supplies have a solid advantage over those who don’t. Which is why The Salvation Army works to address that inequality by providing the materials that can give children a leg up. The right supplies can be the tools they need to compete with those who have access and opportunities that many families cannot afford. The Salvation Army takes part in local partnerships to nationwide efforts that encourage communities to give back to those in need.

One of those local partnerships was in Birmingham, Alabama, where The Salvation Army placed a single truck outside of a local Staples. It was part of a small program, where over the course of the weekend customers were encouraged to donate supplies to local children. “Working with a local Staples in the Trussville community was part of our effort to help collect supplies those in need,” says Lori Cork, Public Relations Director for the Birmingham Salvation Army. “Those supplies will go to help serve students in the Birmingham City School District and Jefferson County schools,” she says.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, The Salvation Army had their 2019 Backpack Giveaway. It was an outdoor event where families could come to receive a backpack stuffed with supplies for their child. “It’s so important for the young people of our city to have school supplies so that they can have success and the tools they need to break the chains of poverty,” says Major Donald Tekautz, Corps Officer of the Baton Rouge Salvation Army. The event placed over 500 backpacks in the hands of young people, all while offering refreshments to those who came to the event.

In Jackson, Mississippi, the annual “Back to School Bash” provided school supplies as well as free health and dental screenings. Attendees were treated with fun and food, with jump houses for the children in attendance and food trucks to serve the party atmosphere. According to Michelle Hartfield, Director of Public Relations for the Jackson Salvation Army, “Successful early childhood education is so important in breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Without the necessary supplies for basic learning, students cannot be expected to thrive. Our goal is to set students up for success as young as possible to carry that success through the rest of their lives.” In the end, they gave out roughly 500 backpacks filled with supplies for local children getting ready for the school year.

Saturday, August 3rd, saw the “Stuff the Bus” event—a national partnership between The Salvation Army and Walmart—in thousands of Walmart stores across the country. Salvation Army volunteers greeted customers with an opportunity to fill a bin with supplies for local students. “There are thousands of children heading back to school soon, and many will need assistance to start the school year off right. By donating school supplies for a child in need, you’re easing the burden parents experience at the start of the school year and helping set the right tone for these kids as they head back to school,” says Major Kent Davis, Divisional Commander of The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division.

The terrible cycle of generational poverty affects far too many low-income families. Which is why The Salvation Army places an emphasis on education as a part of service. With the help of the community, The Salvation Army can continue to help those in need escape the cycle of poverty and set whatever path for themselves they set their minds on.

Stuff the Bus

Salvation Army Actively Serving/Preparing in New Orleans & Baton Rouge Over Weekend

The Salvation Army’s preparations for Tropical Storm Barry have been in full swing over the weekend, as staff and volunteers worked hard to get ready for the impact of the storm. Barry made landfall as a hurricane early Saturday afternoon near Intracoastal City, Louisiana, and quickly weakened back to tropical storm status. It’s still too early to breathe a collective sigh of relief, however, as the storm system is moving very slowly there is still the possibility of severe flooding. Tropical Storm Barry could potentially dump a tremendous amount of rain on already strained waterways. The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi (ALM) Division stands ready and prepared to serve as needed, with the bulk of activity so far being in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Terry Lightheart, the ALM Division Emergency Disaster Services Director stated, “Preparedness and partnerships are key to an effective disaster relief response and recovery. The Salvation Army seeks to “Do the Most Good” which includes providing much-needed resources to the communities where we serve in a time of need.”

Beginning on Friday, The Salvation Army of Greater New Orleans has been serving three meals a day from their mobile feeding unit (canteen) to local Department of Transportation employees who are stationed at Baby Cakes Field to inspect a fleet of buses on standby for evacuations. Lunch on Friday included sandwiches donated by Subway. The Salvation Army New Orleans Area Command also spent much of the day preparing their Center of Hope shelter for an expected increase of shelter residents as a result of the storm. Employees unloaded pallets of drinks donated by PepsiCo and moved them, along with water and other supplies, to the fourth floor of the shelter to prepare for the possibility of flooding.

The Baton Rouge Corps of The Salvation Army has also been busy in the community and at their shelter, taking full advantage of the lead-time that an event like this gives for preparation. “The good thing about hurricanes is you know they’re coming. You do get to prepare at least,” said Major Donald Tekautz, Baton Rouge Salvation Army Corps Officer. At the request of the Cajun Navy on Thursday, the Baton Rouge Salvation Army provided hydration at one of the main sandbagging locations in town. They also helped to fill sandbags and even sent Salvation Army volunteers to drop off sandbags to elderly residents who otherwise would not have been able to get them. The Baton Rouge Corps continued to help with sandbagging efforts on Friday and Saturday. The Salvation Army shelter in Baton Rouge was also a hub of storm prep over the weekend, with employees stocking the warehouse with disaster relief items such as bottled water, clean up kits, cots, and personal hygiene kits. Extra food was also put in place in the shelter kitchen in anticipation of a storm-related surge in shelter occupancy.

Preparing to Respond to Tropical Storm Barry

Disaster personnel from across The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi (ALM) Division are gearing up to respond to the effects of what is predicted to be the first hurricane of the season. The National Hurricane Center has reported the tropical system is expected to make landfall in the next 48 hours producing heavy rainfall and flooding.

Preparation for this event began days ago when the ALM Division placed as many as 28 Salvation Army units on standby. These units are prepared, as needed, to provide disaster relief equipment and personnel to affected areas along the Gulf Coast and affected areas inland.  Service delivery will include the deployment of canteens stocked with meals, snacks and hydration and trained personnel to provide emotional and spiritual care. Each mobile feeding unit (canteen) has the capacity to provide anywhere from 500 to 1,000 meals per day.

To maintain situational awareness, The Salvation Army disaster personnel are working in close coordination with local and state emergency management partners which aids in the identification of the most affected areas and determination of entering that area when it is deemed safe to do so.

Terry Lightheart, the ALM Division Emergency Disaster Services Director stated, “Preparedness and partnerships are key to an effective disaster relief response and recovery. The Salvation Army seeks to “Do the Most Good” which includes providing much-needed resources to the communities where we serve in a time of need.”

For additional information, go to https://disaster.salvationarmyusa.org/news/

If anyone wants to help, we are not accepting in-kind donations at this time. To make a financial contribution please go to helpsalvationarmy.org.

Salvation Army Monitoring Potential Hurricane in Gulf of Mexico

As the first potential hurricane of 2019 brews in the Gulf of Mexico, The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi Division disaster personnel are working closely with local and state emergency management officials to monitor the situation.

Severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, and localized flooding have already occurred in New Orleans. The National Hurricane Center is predicting similar conditions to continue over the next 48-72 hours as the system tracks along the coastline from Mississippi to Texas and many parts inland.

The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services disaster relief includes providing food, water, and emotional and spiritual care to residents in the affected areas and first responders.

Do Good Day

“Good afternoon, thank you so much for calling The Salvation Army’s ‘Do Good Day’ phone bank!” That was the greeting callers heard as they phoned into The Salvation Army of Jackson, Mississippi’s inaugural “Do Good Day” event. It was a “Mediathon,” where for 18 hours, with phone lines open as early as 4:30 am, the community called, texted, and hand-delivered cash to help support The Salvation Army’s life changing services for those in need.

Donations began early, as every broadcast media outlet in the city came out to partner with and support the work of The Salvation Army. As live reports flooded the airwaves in the morning, drivers on their way into work could hear the message, “It’s Do Good Day!” on local radio across the dial. Billboards lit up the early morning streets and stayed running all throughout the day, reminding the community that June 27, 2019 was a very good day to do the most good for their community.

The event was a first in the Jackson community. The first with such a broad reach, and the first with so much cooperation and support from local businesses and local media. Do Good Day was the story of the day across the Jackson metro area. “It’s a broad range, multi-media event to raise awareness and money for the missions of The Salvation Army. We say missions because there is a lot we are doing,” said Jackson Development Director and event organizer, Jennifer Bennett.

And those missions are many. The Salvation Army mission is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.” Those needs can include something as immediate as emergency services, as simple as a meal, or as enriching as art education for the next generation. The message of Do Good Day was that the community can help to support these services as volunteers and as donors.

It was a message heard throughout the Jackson area as media outlets, in partnership with The Salvation Army helped raise awareness all day. More than a simple news story, it was an event seen and felt all throughout the community. It was a day where people could see the work of The Salvation Army as more than Red Kettles at Christmas. It was a day when the mission of The Salvation Army became the mission of the people of Jackson. And it was a day where those people raised over $50,000 in donations.

The all-day media event that helped raise that money also raised awareness of how The Salvation Army is making a difference in Jackson. Donations help feed and house people in need. They also make a difference in the lives of children and families. Donors to The Salvation Army do good every day.

“I learned forgiveness at camp”

National Donut Day 2019

A sweet treat can bring a smile to your face, but it’s even sweeter when it can do good for those around you! In 1938, while the Great Depression saw 12 million Americans facing unemployment, The Salvation Army held the inaugural Donut Day event in Chicago as a fundraiser to help those in need. The event served to commemorate the “Donut Lassies,” Salvation Army volunteers who made and delivered donuts to the troops during World War I.

In 1917, The Salvation Army sent about 250 volunteers on a mission to provide spiritual and emotional support for U.S. soldiers fighting in France. These women became known as “Donut Lassies” because of the many donuts they fried and served to soldiers from small huts near the front lines. The Donut Lassies are often credited with popularizing the donut in the United States when the troops (nicknamed “Doughboys”) returned home from war. The donut became a symbol of comfort for Americans that endures to this day.

National Donut Day is held annually on the first Friday in June, and The Salvation Army celebrates the work of the original Donut Lassies by delivering donuts to those in need and to donut lovers across the country. Donuts and National Donut Day are part of a legacy of American goodwill, home comfort, and tradition that is celebrated every year with these sweet treats. But, of course, the calories don’t count on Donut Day while you’re helping to do the most good!

Commissioner Howell Speaks at Gadsden Corps’ Annual Dinner

The Salvation Army of Gadsden, Alabama’s Annual Dinner was held on May 14, 2019. It was an opportunity for the Gadsden Corps to meet with their community of supporters and volunteers and discuss their work in the community. The speaker and guest of honor, Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army Southern Territory, Commissioner Willis Howell, spoke about that work and the significant difference The Salvation Army can make in the lives of those in need. It was part of the Commissioner’s initiative to remind the community of The Salvation Army’s “Why” — why The Salvation Army exists and what it should accomplish.

Commissioner Howell spoke about the organization he leads as a safety net that can help save people who are fallen and hurting. It is a “mission and a vision of The Salvation Army that I am 100% behind,” said Gadsden Corps officer, Captain Dennis Hayes, who introduced the Commissioner. As a former student of Commissioner Howell, Captain Hayes spoke of his dedication to the Army. And it was a dedication to that vision that the Commissioner continued to address.

Commissioner Howell’s speech was about helping people in the world who are at spiritual risk in their life, as well as those in physical need. “If The Salvation Army stopped only with catching people when they fell; if all we did was stretch out our safety net to catch those who find themselves in free fall, people in communities all around the south, people would applaud,” he said. As he continued, he made the point that the “why” of The Salvation Army, in Gadsden and all over the world, is to help people find something more. Commissioner Howell said,“We don’t help people simply to help them, and that’s that. We help people to, yes, get them back on their feet, but it also gives us the opportunity as The Salvation Army to talk to them about Jesus.”

International Leadership Visits ALM Division

The Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division of The Salvation Army was honored in April with a visit from the international leadership of The Salvation Army. International Chief of Staff, Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham, and the World Secretary for Women’s Ministries, Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham took part in a tour of the ALM Division that included special events in both the Jackson, MS and Birmingham, AL command areas.

The Commissioner’s travels took them from The Salvation Army International Headquarters in London, where they have served since January of 2018. They were first commissioned as officers in 1990 and came into their current positions after service in the territories of New Zealand, Canada and Bermuda, and Singapore where they served as Chief Secretary and Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries.

In Jackson the Commissioners took part in a rally where they, along with Divisional and Territorial leadership, joined salvationists in the Jackson Salvation Army community in celebration. It was an event that included musical performances, testimonials from the Commissioner, and saw the enrollment of 40 new soldiers.

In Birmingham, Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham spoke to the crowd at the National Advisory Board meeting about the work of The Salvation Army in the United States and in the world. The Salvation Army serves in 131 countries across the globe, and Commissioner Buckingham spoke about the wisdom necessary to move forward in the world while serving wherever The Salvation Army is called. “We are needed more than ever to be this group of people who testify to what it means to be in a relationship with God and what it means to love our neighbor. It is a testimony that actually extends around the globe,” he said.