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Revitalization in Anniston, Alabama

When the community of Anniston, AL sees their Salvation Army, they may only see the surface. They can see the Red Kettle in front of a local business, but they may not know where that kettle goes and how far its contents must stretch. They can see the Angel Tree, but they may not know how many more of those Angels they could serve. On the surface are bells ringing though the holidays, but for every bell there are many more who serve and who are served.

The Salvation Army is not a kettle or a bell. Those are windows into the work done by Anniston Corps Officers, Lts. Damon and Jennifer Graham. A person walking past the kettle does not see the food pantry, stocked with donations from the community and distributed by volunteers like John Holcomb. That passer-by may see an old building, but they do not see Lashun Mcgrew, meeting with clients to help them find resources to pay bills or feed young bellies. The Salvation Army is a church whose ministry is to do the most good where it is most needed.

The building is old. A former Coca Cola distribution center, it has served as the Corps office of The Salvation Army in Anniston since the 1950s. But inside, Lt. Jennifer Graham is working on rebuilding the foundations of that building and its place in the community. Not the building itself, but the organization, and their continuing mission to bring hope to those in need. They have traditionally had a shelter for those without a home, but Lt. Graham would like to see more. “I believe that the community does need an emergency shelter and a shelter for women and children and a transitional living shelter. But all those need the case management piece where we’re able to help clients not stay here long term, but to help them to be successful on their own.”

Case management is a means to help individuals rebuild their own foundation. Lashun Mcgrew is the Social Service Coordinator at the Anniston Corps office, and she is one part of that long-term goal. “There is a lack of affordable housing in the area. There are a lot of people on minimal income,” says Mcgrew. “They are using a lot of their income trying to keep a roof over their head.” Helping people find their way to self-sufficiency is part of the mission, but for some of the people that Mcgrew works with, the challenge begins with the having a place to call home.

One of those who has been served is John Holcomb. Originally from Georgia, he moved to the area in 2000 as a contractor for a gas company, but over time that work came to an end and he found himself in difficult circumstances. He had lost contact with his family and was in need of a hand up. “They helped me out when I needed it,” says John. “I wish there were more places like this.” Thankfully, John has taken that hand up and found opportunities for change. He has reconnected with his son in South Carolina, and uses his time at the shelter to volunteer in the food pantry. “I like helping people,” John says.

Rebuilding foundations is part of the mission. And that mission goes on with the support of the community. “In order for our doors to stay open, of course we need the support of the community,” says Lt. Jennifer Graham. “We can offer some assistance, and we can connect clients with other organizations that can help with rent and other services.” And that is just the beginning of the plans that Lt. Graham has for the Anniston Salvation Army Corps. She says that she plans a return of their youth ministry as part of The Salvation Army’s traditional character-building mission. Another foundation of the community itself, being rebuilt with the support of those who want to be a part of that revitalization.

The Salvation Army providing warmth, place to stay as winter weather hits the South

Warming stations, shelters open and extending hours across Alabama and Mississippi

JACKSON, MS -With Winter Storm Helena pushing freezing temperatures, ice and snow into the Deep South, The Salvation Army is responding with a warm place to stay, a hot meal, and  supplies for those in need across Alabama and Mississippi.

The Tuscaloosa Corps opened a warming station Thursday evening as temperatures dropped. The Tuscaloosa’s Center of Hope has 73 beds available with the ability to take in up to 130 residents should the need arise. The warming station is expected to be open through the weekend.

“The Salvation Army has a safe, warm place to stay for those trying to get out of the cold, said Major William Shafer, Tuscaloosa Corps Officer. “If the weather continues into next week, we will keep our doors open as long as there is a need.”

In locations as far south as Biloxi, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama, The Salvation Army has opened its doors and is providing meals. In those locations, once the temperature drops below 40 degrees warming stations are open and shelters extend their hours to help all who don’t have a place to stay.

“”We will open our cold weather shelter with meals until the temperature is better,” said Major Mark Brown, Coastal Alabama Command Officer.

Even in places like Baton Rouge, where last August’s flooding left The Salvation Army without a shelter, officers and personnel will be moving through city streets offering blankets, soup, and coffee.

“The weather this past year has presented many challenges to our neighbors and even to us at The Salvation Army, and today is another challenge with the cold.  After losing all of our command facilities, The Salvation Army is still here to provide help and hope to those in our community,” said Captain Brett Meredith, Baton Rouge Corps Officer. “We will have two vehicles roaming through the city serving from 3pm through late in the evening.”

The Columbus, Mississippi Corps will also deploy a warmth patrol in their area serving hot chocolate, coffee and handing out blankets.

As the storm moves across Alabama, corps in Huntsville, Montgomery and Anniston, Alabama are ready to welcome those who need to get out of the dangerously cold temperatures.

Local residents in need can expect all our locations to include extended hours for shelter as well as hot meals and beverages available to those who need to escape the cold.

To find a Salvation Army Corps in your area, please call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or log onto our website at salvationarmyalm.org and click on LOCATIONS.

Anniston nurse helps heal body, mind and spirit by volunteering

Lyndsey Watts Butterworth is a licensed practical nurse at the Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center. She spends her weekends taking care of patients, usually working twelve hours shifts.

I learned about Lyndsey’s story as The Anniston Salvation Army’s Captain Bert Lind walked me around the grounds. Lyndsey volunteers , and on this day,  was helping out at the warming station opened to keep folks out of the dangerously cold temperatures. She did not offer up the information about herself, just smiled, shook my hand, and went back to her work.

It was only later after a conversation with Captain Lind I decided to return the next day to “surprise” Lyndsey with a request for a picture and some brief questions.

Lyndsey made a chance visit to the Family Store before Christmas last year to shop and happened upon parents wanting to buy bikes for their children. Lyndsey felt she needed to help them. She gave them the money they needed. Lyndsey would return to the store, this time helping more folks who needed furniture.

“This isn’t enough. My husband and I have been blessed,” said Lyndsey.

Lyndsey’s husband suffered a stroke not too long ago. She has seen him fight to recover, and with her help, he has done just that. In fact, his recovery inspired her to take the next step.  So, she approached Captain Lind about dedicating one year of her life to volunteering at The Salvation Army.

“I’m giving a gift to help, but there’s a greater gift….God’s.”

With that in mind, Lyndsey helps wherever she’s needed. Her only request to Captain Lind is she cannot and will not work behind a desk, and he’s honored that request.

Usually she sorts donated clothing, but with the warming station opening every time the weather drops below 40 degrees, her main job is providing comfort and support for anyone who walks in the door… just like her job at the hospital.

At The Salvation Army, she’s turned that into helping those who may not be injured on the outside, but somewhere in their lives have lost their way. They need someone to listen. They want to be treated like a normal person. That’s why Lyndsey responds to everyone with a “sir” or “ma’am.”

“It doesn’t matter homeless, rich. They all deserve the same respect. It lets them know someone cares,” said Lyndsey.

In the Alabama, Louisana, Mississippi Division, there are 32 places where someone cares. If you need help, a meal, a place to stay, or help overcoming an addiction or know someone who does, please visit www.salvationarmyalm.org and find the local Salvation Army closest to you.

We are always looking for more volunteers like Lyndsey. Please consider volunteering

 

Anniston Corps working for God’s Glory, Doing The Most Good

Being a parent of five children, I often hear the statement, “that’s not fair.” Usually, those three words come from a child who feels his or her parents purposely jobbed them out of getting the most awesome piece of candy ever created or the toy of all toys made by Santa himself.  They’re really dramatic about it too.

In another example, a friend’s parents bought them a scooter and it just wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t get a scooter also or so they’d say. Our reaction is the same…yes, Braden, Will, Olivia, Thomas, Lillian (I’m sure the order here has the youngest two yelling, “How come I can’t be first? That’s not fair!”) life is not fair and you don’t always get what you want.

I can imagine our heavenly father’s response to us would be the same. After all, God promises to take care of us, not necessarily that all will be fair throughout our lives.

These examples entered my mind as I left the Anniston Corps of The Salvation Army.  I visited with Captains Bert and Christy Lind for a couple days to figure out how we could garner more attention for the work they and a handful of dedicated employees and volunteers are doing.

You see, if there was ever a reason to cry “not fair”, it’s in Anniston right now. The Corps is housed in an old Coca Cola bottling plant, and when I say old, I mean 1926 old. The problems at the moment include a roof repair that will cost thousands and some old pipes that don’t like the cold weather.

This isn’t to say the facilities are inadequate. Walking around the grounds you can see just how much space the Anniston Corps has to work with…and work is not something the Linds or their workers shy away from.

Walking into the building for the first time, I was greeted by an employee helping a family wheel out groceries that will help them through the weeks ahead. The colder temperatures called for a warming station to be opened so the area homeless could get out of the dangerous weather. A volunteer mans the warming station to help those who come inside. (I counted at least fifteen who’d come in out of the cold when I was there). On that same day, volunteers gathered to go pass out food bags to the needy in town, and that doesn’t even speak of the busy Family Store on campus.

I’m definitely not writing this to make you feel sorry for these faithful officers, soldiers and employees, but rather the opposite. You see, these folks will spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what their building looks like and no matter what it becomes in the future. In fact, the Captains aren’t ones to talk about their accomplishments.

I’m not sure about this because I never ask Captain Lind, but if I had to guess, my guess is he subscribes to the motto: “Let go, and let God.” So, the Linds will keep working, they’ll keep serving, and they will keep sharing the Word of God. One thing you won’t get from them though is a lot of complaining. They know who’s in control.

To me, that’s what makes The Salvation Army a great place to work and that’s why you should help out with your time, donations, and prayers. To make a donation or volunteer, contact The Salvation Army of Anniston at 256-236-5643