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Columbus, Mississippi Corps Helping Neighbors In Need Throughout 2020’s Disasters

The Salvation Army of Columbus has provided utility and food assistance throughout their community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families have leaned on the Army for assistance during this time due to job loss and health issues leading to unexpected financial responsibilities. Here are just a few of the many testimonials of Columbus residents.

A family of four visited the Social Services office for assistance with their electric bill. The father, the sole provider for the family, had just received a text message from his employer stating that his services were no longer needed.  He’d held this position for four years and didn’t receive an explanation for losing his job.  His unemployment application had been on hold for months due to the pandemic, leaving him and his family in dire need of financial assistance. The Salvation Army was able to fully pay the families’ utility bill through the CARES Act. Food from the pantry and diapers that were donated via the Walmart Salvation Army Registry were also provided.

 

A mother of two contacted the Columbus Corps concerning her need for utility assistance. She worked full time for a factory and was laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  She’d never asked for assistance prior to the pandemic and hadn’t anticipated needing it.  She’d been relying on her weekly $235.00 unemployment check for a while, barely getting by. When the government increased the allowance to $600 she thought things would turn around for her family, but she quickly lost control of her expenses after that allowance was reduced again. Between household upkeep, bills, and food she just could not keep up. The Salvation Army was able to provide groceries for the family as well as cover their utility bills through assistance from the CARES Act.

 

An elderly woman visited the Columbus Corps Social Services office for assistance with her electric bill.  She’d recently moved into a new apartment and could not afford the rent due to her fixed income. She’d originally planned to split rent payments with her daughter but was abandoned with the burden when her daughter made arrangements to get a place of her own. She only receives $613.00 per month in Social Security and the rent is $400. She had nowhere else to go. This apartment was the cheapest she could find in her area.  The Salvation Army was able to assist with her utility bills with funds provided by The Emergency Food and Shelter Program and provided her with food from the pantry.

 

For more information on how The Salvation Army is assisting the Columbus, Mississippi Community, visit https://salvationarmyalm.org/columbus/.

 

 

 

Birmingham Woman Left At Salvation Army As An Infant Returns As Adult to Escape Domestic Violence

Dominique and her three children came to The Salvation Army Birmingham Area Command in 2018 to seek refuge from a verbally and physically abusive relationship with an ex-boyfriend. Because she had witnessed her mother being killed by her stepfather early in life, Dominique knew she had to do something to prevent repeating the cycle. Determined to keep her kids safe, she formed a plan to start a new life.

“Believe it or not, some of the best sleep I’ve ever had was at The Salvation Army. I had peace.”

Dominique and her children were living with her father, stepmother, and sister when an altercation occurred between herself and her youngest son’s father. When presented with the chance to leave, she took it. Dominique found out about the women’s Center of Hope shelter at the Salvation Army in Birmingham. She and her children moved in and began preparing for their new lifestyles.

“Being in a shelter was different. My kids didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t know what to expect,” Dominique stated. “Believe it or not, some of the best sleep I’ve ever had was at The Salvation Army. I had peace,” she added.

Dominique stayed at the Center of Hope for four months before finding permanent housing. During that time, she joined The Salvation Army’s Education and Workplace Development program. The program helps individuals sustain employment through job readiness as well as life and educational training.

“My teacher was constructive. She had us write down our goals. My goal was to go back to school for real estate, and that’s what I did. I had help along the way, and whatever I asked for to better myself, The Salvation Army helped me. They offered assistance with school, my children, and extracurricular,” Dominique shared.

“It took me longer to finish the program because of being in and out of court concerning my domestic abuse case, but my counselors were patient and encouraged me. Kudos to my caseworkers. They tag teamed and helped me get everything I needed with going back to school. They were there for me all the way,” Dominique added.

“To come back with my kids I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ It’s crazy how things circle back around.”

Headshot of Dominique

Dominique was able to realize her dream and obtain her Real Estate license in 2020. However, as soon as she began to build her client base to start a new career, the COVID-19 pandemic put everything on hold. Even with two jobs, she struggled to pay her rent. Thankfully, she was eligible for The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 financial assistance program, which has helped pay her rent and utilities throughout the pandemic.

“It’s been a big adjustment, being a mother of three during the pandemic. My middle son started having more behavioral problems, and we’ve been going to the doctor and therapy all year. He was diagnosed with ADHD, and learning this during the pandemic is tough,” Dominique shared.

Having to turn to The Salvation Army for assistance again, Dominique reflected on previous times when The Salvation Army helped her. Staying at the Center of Hope in 2018 wasn’t her first encounter with the Army. Her mother abandoned her at The Salvation Army when she was an infant. Dominique was entered into the foster care system where her grandfather was able to locate and adopt her.

“To come back with my kids I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ It’s crazy how things circle back around,” Dominique stated.

“I just want to give God full credit because He’s the one who did everything for me and turned my whole life around. I didn’t do anything. There’s nobody but God who has brought me through this,” Dominique added.

Louisiana Grandmother and Her Three Grandchildren Sleeping In Graveyard Turn to Salvation Army

The Salvation Army of Shreveport has provided a second chance for a homeless woman and her three granddaughters. They turned to live in a graveyard when faced with homelessness at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They now live at The Salvation Army Merkle Center of Hope, where they’ve celebrated Christmas and are being assisted in building a safe, independent lifestyle.

Twyla was living in Arizona when her daughters contacted her, saying that they could no longer care for their children and wanted her to take custody. She quickly made arrangements to move to Shreveport, Louisiana, to care for her three grandchildren.

“Their mamas weren’t acting right. They told me I better come get them, or they’re gonna just walk out,” Twyla shared.

Twyla immediately filed for full custody of her three grandchildren, ages nine, eight, and five, when she arrived in Shreveport. She was told that she could stay in one of her daughter’s homes to care for the children, and her daughter would move in with a boyfriend. After getting settled, Twyla’s daughter changed her mind and stated that she and the boyfriend would be living in the house, so Twyla and the children would have to find elsewhere to live.

The family ended up sleeping in the woods and abandoned houses, but Twyla couldn’t find comfort in those situations.

“I have no family here [ in Shreveport] except two daughters who are only about drugs and thugs. We had no place to go, so I started thinking about the safest places for us to live,” Twyla shared.

“I thought to stay in a graveyard because we’d slept in abandoned houses with no windows, mostly in bad areas. I didn’t get any rest. I’d sit up because I was scared. One time we slept in the woods, and it was the same thing because there are so many drug addicts and alcoholics out here roaming all night, hunting people to prey on. I knew this graveyard was over here, and I thought, ‘You know, most people are scared to walk through a graveyard at nighttime.’ That’s where we went, and that’s where we felt the safest. We never saw anybody except the groundskeeper and we didn’t let him know we were staying there. We left in the daytime with our backpacks and came back at night. Most of the time, we’d go to the gas station across the street and just sit on the curb at the side of the building,” Twyla added.

Twyla used her food stamps and to grab food from the gas station. She added herself to the waiting list for a suite for her and the girls at The Salvation Army. When she received the call that there was a vacancy, she immediately headed over to secure her space.

“It was hard, but my grandbabies are my life. I have to speak for them. I don’t want my babies in the system. Once they get in the system, it’s hard to get them back. I live for them. I’m going to take care of them until I have my last breath. Regardless of what I have to do,” Twyla stated.

Twyla and her grandchildren have been living in transitional housing since March 2019. She’s working with Hope Connection to set up permanent housing. Everything is in place but moving slowly since COVID-19 cases are increasing.

“As long as my babies have a warm bed and aren’t relying on gas station food, I have all of the time in the world to wait. We do not lack anything here,” Twyla stated.

“If it wasn’t for The Salvation Army, I really couldn’t tell you where we’d be. This place has really blessed us. This place is a blessing. People need to keep doing what they’re doing. Keep donating. If you’ve never been homeless or walked in my shoes, then you don’t really know what it’s about,” Twyla added.

The Salvation Army Helping Neighbors In Need During COVID-19 Throughout Alabama

The Salvation Army has been there for our neighbors in need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few memorable events from Alabama Corps.

 

Coastal, AL

Ms. Casey M., a single mother of two teenage girls, was working as an event planner at a local country club. Her hours were severely cut due to the pandemic, and she had difficulty getting unemployment benefits. She was unable to pay her rent and needed help until government assistance kicked in. The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama Area Command received funds from several local foundations for rent and utilities. The Salvation Army helped her with rent payments to keep current. She was so grateful that she reached out to her social worker and send an email saying, “Thank you so much for your help through all of this. This has been a dark time in my life, but you have been a shining ray of hope! Our community is blessed to have someone so devoted to its citizens and to our Lord!

Dothan, AL

The Salvation Army of Dothan received a call from a single working mother of three, requesting rental assistance. She explained that she was working the dayshift at the prison, which worked perfectly with her children’s school day and enabled her to not have childcare. Her hours were cut and changed to a 3 pm-12 am night shift when the pandemic began. She was forced to resign her position as she could not pay her bills or childcare with the reduced hours, and her new schedule would interfere with her children’s school schedule. A United Way Covid-19 grant was able to provide rental assistance for the mother. Her landlord had communicated with The Salvation Army that this was the first time she had ever had an issue paying rent or late notice.

Throughout the rental assistance process, this client was active in looking for employment. She has shared that the rental assistance she received through our program allowed her to keep her household together. She reports that she is currently employed, and the family is working hard to get back on their feet.

Florence, AL

While The Salvation Army of Florence was able to assist many individuals and families during the Covid-19 crisis, with many services ranging from financial assistance and food provision, one instance stands out above the rest. Thomas and Brenda, along with their 18-month-old daughter, all contracted the virus around the same time. As you can imagine, this has been very strenuous for the entire family as sickness had been intense, and the financial impact was significant. Amid their struggle, The Salvation Army provided them with daily meals through our Community Care Ministries and provided other personal and comfort items as they pressed through. The family is on the mend, and financial stability will be restored. The services provided daily free up their funds to be used for other financial needs.

Decatur, AL

Sarah Jones, a client in The Salvation Army of Decatur food pantry, has gone through a long and arduous journey over the past year. She and her husband had some severe addiction issues that needed to be addressed and treated. The Decatur Corps was able to advise them on some local treatment options in a community outpatient capacity. Their children were placed in foster care by the Department of Human Resources of Lawrence County and had a safety plan, which they needed to follow.

Throughout the process, Mr. & Mrs. Jones maintained a positive outlook through spiritual and medical guidance, leading them to become better parents and better people. The Salvation Army of Decatur ensured all their most basic human needs were met through the food and clothing assistance provided. Many clients that come into the food pantry for assistance are experiencing a short-term emergency need. However, there is an opportunity to provide guidance and direction to those who ask for help.

The Decaur Corps kept up with the ongoing treatment schedule and progress with Mr. & Mrs. Jones and liaised with the Department of Human Resources whenever information was requested. They completed their treatment program and satisfied all the requirements of the safety plan. Supervised visitation was the first step for them, but eventually, they regained custody of their children. The Salvation Army was able to assist them with food, clothing, household essentials, and assorted kitchen necessities for their new home, and their outlook on the future is significantly improved.

Montgomery, AL

During the COVID pandemic, when people were getting laid off from work, The Salvation Army of Montgomery helped one of our male residents establish a new career in inpatient care in a local senior living facility. Officers taught him about saving money and operating his life on a budget. The Montgomery Corps was able to partner with a couple of local agencies to get the client a fully furnished three-bedroom house and assist him with purchasing his own vehicle to cut back on transportation expenses. The client reports that he is still working on the job now and doing well.

The Salvation Army Helping Mississippians Throughout COVID-19

The Salvation Army has been there for our neighbors in need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few highlights from Mississippi Corps.

Jackson

A disproportionate number of lower-income Mississippians have been impacted by COVID-19. The Salvation Army Jackson has canceled all community programs in their facilities, with the desire to keep their community safe and to follow CDC recommendations.  However, they are delivering boxes of food and supplies to the homes of 70 seniors who have come to rely on hot, nutritious meals at their facilities. The Corps social worker also checks in with the seniors on a regular basis and holds Sunday school via telephone a few times a month so that seniors are able to keep in touch with one another and maintain a sense of community with The Salvation Army.

Hattiesburg

No story sticks more than any other except serving the 425+ who came to The Salvation Army of Hattiesburg every Thursday this summer during for Food Distribution day. This day was made possible with the help of the Farmers to Families program and E&B Grocery in Hattiesburg. Through this program, clients received meat, vegetable, and dairy boxes from E&B Grocery.  Donations have included bags of potatoes, onions, milk, Lunchables, tortillas, bleach, and several other things. This program would not be possible without the help of the incredible Hattiesburg community partners.

Vicksburg

A client was laid off from work at the daycare because of the COVID-19 restrictions. The daycare closed and has not yet re-opened. The client looked for a new job for four months without any luck. In May, The Salvation Army of Vicksburg was able to help with her electric bill. In July, she returned for assistance with her water bill. Her water had been shut off for a few weeks, and she was making due. The Vicksburg Corps supplied her with drinking water and spoke with the water company about paying the bill. An agreement was made so that the water would be turned back on the very day the Salvation Army paid the bill. There was a delay in writing the check, and it wasn’t ready until Friday. Since we wanted her water turned on as soon as possible, the corps officer hand-delivered the water bill, so her water was turned on before the weekend.

Greenwood

A young lady with four children was just laid off from work and just had a house fire that took all she had. We gave her a clothing voucher so she could have clothes for herself and her children. The Salvation Army of Greenwood agreed to furnish her new home once ararngements were made. Since the Greenwood Corps doesn’t have a shelter, corps officers supplied the young woman with a week’s stay in a hotel and helped her make arrangements to stay in a nearby local shelter. We ended our time together with a word of prayer. We are hoping that she would be willing to participate in our pathway of hope program ministry.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Helping Neighbors Amid COVID-19

The Salvation Army of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Command has been busy helping our neighbors in need throughout the pandemic, whether through rent and utility assistance, grocery delivery, or just being a listening ear. COVID-19 has made it difficult for some people to get their medication, particularly those dealing with mental illness. Dave contacted The Salvation Army, and officers noted that he was angry and unsettled. The Salvation Army contacted a service provider who went to Dave’s home and helped him get the medications he needed. Dave became calm quickly and reached out to The Salvation Army again to share how thankful he was for the help.

Another group of people who have had an even greater need during the pandemic is senior citizens. Many Biloxi seniors feared going outside of their homes, and relatives were afraid to visit them, so meal services to seniors during COVID-19 were especially welcomed. Hot meals were provided first to all who needed them as a grab and go lunch. After a few weeks, the corps moved to senior meal delivery for those who could not leave their homes. Seniors are being delivered meals twice a week in the Biloxi community. A happy face delivering food to their doorstep is always much appreciated.

Walker County Service Center: “We’re more than just a thrift store.”

COVID-19 has impacted most communities in one way or another. Some have adjusted by working and learning from home, and others follow CDC guidelines with their office life. Some lost their jobs or received pay cuts that have altered the daily functioning of their lives. Some families suffered such financial hardship that they have turned to The Salvation Army for assistance with food, utilities, and holiday aid.

‘There’s just so much that The Salvation Army does. We are more than a thrift store,” stated Cynthia Smith, Walker County Service Center Director.

Although The Salvation Army provides food and hydration for our neighbors in need, we also provide financial relief amid COVID-19. People who have never been in the system before have reached out to The Salvation Army throughout 2020. Some have lost their jobs, had pay cuts, or gotten sick from COVID-19 and weren’t able to work, which meant they couldn’t pay their bills. Smith was able to get a grant for the Walker County Service Center to take care of all of anyone who needed aid’s bills for a month. It gave them a month of not having to worry about bills. The bill type didn’t matter (car note, insurance, utilities, etc.). If they showed a need, The Salvation Army would cover it.
“Now what we are seeing is people who are actually sick with the coronavirus who need assistance with their bills. We’re also dealing with house fires and other disasters this time of year,” Smith stated.

Other ways the Walker County Service Center offers assistance includes Project Share, where we cover utilities for seniors or anyone who is on 100% disability. The Army is also partnered with Daybreak Family Resource Center, which deals with domestic abuse. When women and children have a domestic violence situation, it’s through this program. It’s confidential and hidden away to keep them safe. Most of them leave home with nothing to escape the abusive situation. When they are ready to get back out on their own and get a new home, the Army supply’s them with food and household goods.
The Walker County Service Center is also partnered with the Department of Human Resources. Six children were taken from their parents due to substance abuse and placed with a great aunt and uncle. The new guardians didn’t have any clothes for the children or the resources to provide those necessities. Smith allowed the family to come into the thrift store after hours and let them shop for anything they needed, free of charge.

“A little girl came running across the center to me, and she had something cuffed in her hand. She looked at me and said, ‘Can I have this!?’ She was so excited, and I looked to see what it was. It was a pair of socks. She’d never had a pair of socks, and it meant the world to her. She received her first pair of socks at age four. These are the things that we can do,” Smith shared.

To learn more about what The Salvation Army does to serve the Walker County community, visit https://salvationarmyalm.org/walker-county/. To Support the Walker County Service Center, donate at SalArmyALMKettle.org.

Providing Food and Hydration to Students in Walker County Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Salvation Army of Walker County, AL has assisted the Walker County, Marion, Winston, Coleman, Marshall, and Blunt communities throughout the pandemic by helping with rent and utility payments, delivering meals to the elderly, and grocery services, but the most unique service that this corps has provided during the pandemic is partnering with the Jasper County School System to provide snacks and hydration to students who are without water. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, all school water fountains are off-limits, leaving many students who do not bring water dehydrated throughout the school day.

“We have a relationship with the school district, so I reached out to see what could be done for students doing the pandemic. It’s great to be able to help our neighbors,” stated Cynthia Smith, Walker County Service Center Director.

Nearly 87% of students are below the poverty level and have zero percent parent participation. After a Stuff the Bus school supply drop off, Smith asked what The Salvation Army could do to assist these children in need. The school principal asked for the Army to provide water and juice to students. Teachers have provided these supplies in the past, but it gets expensive over time. The Salvation Army received a grant to provide the school with hydration and snacks for the entire school year. Water delivery services began in October 2020, and hundreds of cases have been delivered to schools since then.

 

“If there’s a problem, there’s a solution.”

 

During Covid-19 isolation, students at Maddox Intermediate School in Jasper County had to bring the proper paperwork to schools to enroll for online learning. One of the students confided in the school librarian, Molly Bailey, informing her that she didn’t have food at home. Bailey, a United Way Spokesperson for Jasper County, called The Salvation Army and told Smith about her student’s situation.
“If there’s a problem, there’s a solution. I called Ms. Cindy [Cynthia Smith], and she immediately told me to go to Suns Grocery in Jasper and get that baby and that family whatever they need food-wise. No questions asked. It gives me the chills just thinking about this,” Bailey shared.

Bailey and another teacher grocery shopped for the student’s family and delivered the groceries to the child’s home. The confidentiality stays there so that the child doesn’t receive backlash for letting someone know that they need food.
“That teacher and I filled up two grocery buggies with groceries. We were thorough and thought through what we should get for the mom and her two daughters. We were able to feed this family for weeks and help the mom get back on her feet. We couldn’t have done that without Ms. Cindy and The Salvation Army. The mom didn’t ask for groceries, but it was the right thing to do,” Bailey stated.
Bailey signed up to volunteer with The Salvation Army during COVID-19 and became a regular volunteer.
“We built a rapport with the Salvation Army and ended up turning to them to partner to help our school systems provide water for students,” Bailey stated.
“I got my role of United Way spokesperson through volunteering with the Salvation Army. Ms. Cindy is a huge blessing to all of Walker County, whether we notice it or not. She does what she can to help those around her. No matter who they are., if she sees a need, she’s going to help or find someone who can. If we know there’s a need with students, we will help them,” Bailed added.

“There’s just so much that The Salvation Army does.”

 

The Walker County Service Center also partners with The Children’s Advocacy Center for abused kids. Comfort food provided by The Salvation Army helps these kids who have dealt with trauma to open up and become more welcoming to receiving help. The Army also helps Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), where students in foster care go for a safe place to visit with potential adoptive parents. These kids are also entered into the Angel Tree Program so that they can receive gifts for Christmas.
“That’s something they don’t have in their budget, but we do. So the organization comes to us for comfort food for their programs to help make the kids comfortable,” Smith stated.

 

“All of the kettles add up and it all helps.”

 

“I tell my funders that we’re blessed. Everyone has a role that God puts them in. For many, their role is the funder. It comes down to the journey of that donation. We’re on the front line. We see the donations and exactly how far every dollar goes when paired with other donations and how they help others. It’s huge. It all starts with the giving,” Smith stated.
“Partnerships are huge within our community. As we partner with other agencies, we can reach so many more people within our communities, but it all starts with that donor. If they didn’t do it, we couldn’t do what we do. For instance, with kettles. Many people think they are just sticking a little bit of change in it, but that change adds up. Last year, my granddaughter requested to add a kettle to her school. She and her classmates rang the bell upfront at their school for one week. At the end of that week, they’d raised $600 plus dollars in change from one small elementary school. That taught those kids what it means to give. You’re never too young to start giving, and you’re never too young to start volunteering. You can make a difference.
“All of the kettles add up, and it all helps. You figure out a way to make it happen, and you don’t stop. Our social services have not stopped since Covid-19 began, and that’s what you do. That’s what our mission is. That’s what we’re here for. You don’t stop when you’re tired; you stop when the job’s done, and it’s not done yet,” Smith added.

 

From New York To New Orleans: Carla’s Story

 

Carla turned to The Salvation Army New Orleans Command in early 2020 after being evicted from her Miami apartment. She lost her job due to a periodic reduction in force and was living on a fixed income. One month Carla ended up being $1.43 short on her rent. She was evicted and decided to leave Miami to return to New Orleans, a place she’d lived many years ago.

“That’s how you become homeless in the first place. You just don’t have enough money for your basic needs. At least there’s a place like The Salvation Army where people can go. At the end of the day, you have a roof over your head, and you have a meal,” Carla shared.

“It must’ve been God.”

 

Carla didn’t qualify for Medicaid after losing her job despite having diabetes. She entered The Salvation Army as a low-income senior. Many seniors are left in similar situations as Carla and don’t know where to turn. Thankfully, Carla turned to The Salvation Army.

“It must’ve been God because I didn’t choose any other place. I immediately turned to The Salvation Army. Looking back, it was the best decision I could’ve made,” Carla shared.

Carla worked as an artist in New York, doing restoration and embellishment for Mark West Gallery for over 20 years. After settling into her new life of living in a shelter, she walked out on faith and began working with a social worker to find employment. Carla came across a flier on the receptionist’s desk concerning a virtual job fair. She applied to a position with Volunteers of America, where she’d assist with packing lunches for school-aged kids during Covid-19 school shutdowns. She got the job and prepared meals for children until the position ended once schools reopened for the fall semester. Thankfully, an opening for a new cook at The Salvation Army New Orleans Command opened.

Carla enjoys baking pastries, so she applied for the job and was offered the position and will work with The Salvation Army until she retires next year.

“I worked in the art industry for 22 years and somehow ended up a cook at The Salvation Army,” Carla laughed. “I don’t question things, and I don’t believe anything is by coincidence,” she added.

“The Volunteers of America job ended up preparing me for my current position as a cook with The Salvation Army. Isn’t it funny how things work out?” Carla stated.

 

“The Salvation Army bolsters you if you’re smart enough to see it.”

 

Carla feels that she sometimes serves as a therapist to those who enter her kitchen. She ensures that everyone has a relaxing experience during their meals. Residents often linger to tell her about jobs that they’ve found or what’s going on in their lives. She also gets to interact with children who are staying at the shelter during meal times.

“I understand the people come through the line because I’ve lived with them. Not only am I a kitchen assistant, but I’m also a therapist. My job is to make dinner a pleasant experience for these people. They have to live outside all day in harsh conditions. I try to relay that if you’re still standing at the end of the day, you’re good. You’re stronger than the average person because you’ve learned how to survive under harsher conditions. It’s the truth. The Salvation Army bolsters you if you’re smart enough to see it. Sometimes you have to look outside of yourself,” Carla shared.

“There was one little girl who wanted an extra piece of cake at dinner, but I wasn’t able to give her one. Sometimes there’s enough food for seconds, and sometimes there isn’t. I saw the disappointment on her face and told her that I’d be sure to give her an extra slice the next day. She’d forgotten by dinner the next night, so I reminded her, and her face lit up so bright! It was adorable. I hope that if I do things now to touch these children who are in the shelter, maybe 10-15 years from now, they’ll remember and be kind to others. That’s how life works,” Carla added.

 

Majors Hull both told me not to worry. They would find me help, and everything would be okay.”

 

Carla says the most influential part of her short journey of living at The Salvation Army were her interactions with Corps Officers Majors Ernest and Debbie Hull.

“The greatest thing I got out of The Salvation Army was Major Debra Hull,” Carla shared.

“Major Debbie had a brand of discipline that I grew up with, and I give her all the credit for my sanity while living in the shelter. I just love her. Majors Hull both told me not to worry. They would find me help, and everything would be okay. That’s what kept me going. Those two are incredible people,” Carla added.

Carla and Majors Hull both share New York as their hometown and bonded over their shared culture.

“Both Major Debra Hull and I love Carla. She’s a wonderful person. We’re so proud of the effort she put in while in the shelter. She did everything she needed to do for her success. We were in COVID-19 isolation lock-down with her for 54 days in the shelter, so we became close. Carla became like a sister to us,” stated Major Ernest Hull, former New Orleans Commanding Officer, currently serving at the Armarillo, Texas Corps.

 

 “I’m happy to be able to spread a message of faith and strength to the people of The Salvation Army.”

 

A corps social worker reached out to Carla one day and told her that it was time to start working on an exit plan. Carla asked her to help look for a new home because she wasn’t familiar with New Orleans well enough to understand the best neighborhoods for her to live in.

“New Orleans is providential and backward to me! I don’t understand it, but that’s part of its charm. The people don’t move fast; everything is fluid,” Carla shared.

She found an apartment within a day and began the process of moving in.

“I love the city. I’ve been here before. I worked for Blain Kern in the ’90s. I left and went back home to New York for a while, but I’m back now,” Carla shared.

“I live near the French Quarter. Everything is within walking distance. It’s so convenient. I like being near the river. The Mississippi River and I have an amicable relationship,” she added.

Although she has returned to living independently, Carla enjoys returning to the shelter daily to positively contribute to people’s lives as a cook who can share a message of perseverance.

“You can lose your mind. You can literally lose your mind when you are homeless. I went from living in an apartment by myself for 15 years to living in a dorm room with 32 women who have all kinds of problems. I don’t get ruffled by a lot of things. I’m a New Yorker. I’m a progressive thinker. I see where people in the shelters are dealing with a lot. Multiple personality disorder, drug addiction, women who have dealt with abuse, or have dealt with the death of a child. I can see these people struggling to overcome their past. You see how some of them are so strong,” Carla shared.

“It’s important for everyone to know that you can make a situation as good or as bad as you want, and I’m happy to be able to spread a message of faith and strength to the people of The Salvation Army,” Carla added.

 

 

 

On the Road to Victory: New Orleans Mother of Six Finds Home Amid COVID-19

Tyronika is a 29-year-old mother of six children between five months and 11 years of age. She was laid off from her job at a nursing facility right before COVID-19 hit her community. With the loss of income and no other form of financial support, Tyronika and her children experienced homelessness and turned to The Salvation Army New Orleans Corps for assistance.

Tyronika, along with her six children, entered the shelter in January 2020, without food or shelter, and having just the clothes on their backs. During her time with The Salvation Army, she received nutritional meals for her family, assistance with searching for a job, finding childcare, and locating a new home.

“I lost my job last September and was evicted from my home. The only person I had to help me was my mother. She provided for my family when she could, allowing my kids and myself to live with her, but it eventually put her in a financial bind as well,” Tyronika shared.

She stayed with her mother for a while but eventually needed to find a shelter for her family until she could become financially stable. Tyronika was scared when she arrived at the shelter because she didn’t know what to expect, but soon grew to enjoy her neighbors and the Army.

“Living in a shelter was something new to me. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I felt comfortable after a few days. I started getting motivation from people who didn’t know me from Adam or Eve. My social workers, Ms. Treshone and Ms. Jhana, and Major Debbie Hull, were always there to help me,” Tyronika shared.

“I connected with Ms. Jhana a lot. She always told me to pick my head up and that she was proud of me. Ms. Treshone always told me how strong I was and let me know that she was there to help me. Their daily smiles lifted my spirit and helped me want to take care of myself and get back on track,” Tyronika added.

 

“That’s why I fight hard.”

 

Tyronkia deals with chronic anxiety and depression, as well as PTSD from being hit by a car while crossing the street a few years ago. Growing up, she dealt with these issues alone, not understanding their origin. She has learned more about mental health and is in therapy to learn how to cope with her conditions. She found it hard to manage these issues while living in a shelter because she wasn’t surrounded by close friends or family to connect with personally. There were also limited activities due to COVID-19. However, with the help of her social workers, she was able to pull herself through the ups and downs and continue being strong for herself and her children.

“Depression is a big monster. One day you’re motivated, and the next day you don’t want to be bothered. Staying at The Salvation Army was a good experience for me. My social workers were always there with an open heart and an open mind. They never turned me down. Ms. Jhana and Ms. Treshone helped me with my kids and loved them as their own. If I could go back to the shelter and give them all a hug, I would. I love them. I look at them as my family,” Tyronika shared.

“Being in a shelter during coronavirus with children was terrifying. The thought of one of my children contracting the virus scared me. Thankfully, we were never around a lot of people in the shelter. There were rigorous regulations to inform people to limit their contact with children, so I felt confident that my children were safe at the shelter,” Tyronika added.

“Tyronika stayed in our Rapid Rehousing program apartments for two and a half months. I was blessed by her sweet attitude and fell in love with her children. We are so happy for Tyronika. She is a true success story,” shares Treshone Collor, New Orleans Corps Director of Social Services.

 

“I’m home now.”

 

Tyronika met with social workers regularly to check on the progress of finding a job and home. On May 25th, Collor secured permanent housing for Tyronika and her family. She is now working as a home healthcare provider.

“It’s taking me one day at a time to get myself back on track financially. I’m now able to provide for my kids. Being a young mother with six children is a lot, and providing for them is a major accomplishment,” Tyronika shared.

“I’m so thankful for my mother and The Salvation Army because they helped me through such a trying time in my life. You go through things, and you learn from it. I’m home now. I have a home. I’m doing better and I’m working again. I’m getting back into a normal routine,” Tyronika added.

Tyronika is just one of the many stories of success we share atTheSalvationArmy. Through our staff’s dedication to others, we can guide families to self-reliance and advancement. Find out ways you can get involved to assist The Salvation Army in helping other families like Tyronika’s.

Camp Hidden Lake: Backyard Edition

Each summer, with the help of donors in the community, we send kids to our summer camp near Lexington, Mississippi. The Salvation Army’s 300 acre Camp Hidden Lake helps disadvantaged boys and girls in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi open their eyes to a whole new world. Summer camp is much more than a vacation for these kids. Camp Hidden Lake teaches new skills, healthy attitudes, and high values. Long hot summer days, a dip in the pool, canoeing, star-filled nights, campfires, roasted marshmallows, pillow fights, cabin devotions, emblem work, seeing old friends, and making new ones. Expanding horizons and creating memories: That’s what camp is about, and this is what the kids are missing out on during summer 2020.

Camp Hidden Lake was canceled this year due to the novel coronavirus. Since so many of our corps are no longer able to host the Evangelism Campaigns, The Salvation Army Youth Department wanted to find a way to still get Jesus to kids throughout our division. This was done by providing “camp in a bag,” a modified camping experience. Camp Hidden Lake: Backyard Edition is a 3-day resource bag that provides a camping experience for 700 children at home, complete with all the items and directions they need for the daily activities.

Each day followed the following schedule:

  1. Morning Manna (Bible Story with questions)
  2. Daily Camping Experience
  3. Camp Craft
  4. Recreational Activity
  5. Daily Wrap up

This year’s camp theme is “Fearfully & Wonderfully Made,” with the scripture Psalm 139:14 being a focus in the daily “Morning Manna” readings and provided Bible stories. The focus will be on “making and creating” as the youth are encouraged to engage God’s creation and look at their ability to create. Each bag will have three packets for three days of the modified camping experience and a smores kit, complete with instructions on making the camping dessert via microwave. A postcard from Camp Hidden Lake and the Youth Department will be included in each bag as well. This resource will also allow for the children to earn an “Ecology Badge” in character building if they participate. Officers and service center staff are encouraged to use these bags to engage the youth in their localities and think outside the box on evangelism.

“The kids in our division come from all walks of life. You have kids whose parents have an internet connection, but many of our communities don’t have that capability. And even more so, there are still parents who have to work, so teens are home by themselves,” Captain Michael Good stated.

“Helping these kids is our ministry, so we’re trying to figure out how we can help them during this crisis. It also gives officers in our division the opportunity to think outside of the box and meet kids where they are. They get to go to the homes, shelters, and foster homes where these kids reside and give them Camp Hidden Lake,” Captain Good added.

Camp in a bag provides all materials with instructions for a three-day camping experience. Officers are encouraged to check in with the kids to check their progress. The campers learn everything from ecology, boating, camp crafts, and devotions so that this summer feels as close to any other summer at Camp Hidden Lake.

 

Camp Day #1

Morning Manna: Study of Creation (Genesis 1:1-25)

Camping Experience: Study of trees w/ leaf imprinting & study

Camp Craft: Birdhouse

Recreation: Nature Scavenger Hunt

 Camp Day #2

Morning Manna: Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)

Camping Experience: Study of a plant’s life cycle w/”Grow Your Own” activity

Camp Craft: Suncatchers

Recreation: Miniature Boating Activity

Camp Day #3

Morning Manna: Study of Creation (Psalm 139:13-18)

Camping Experience: Study of Ecosystem’s w/”Make Your Own Ecosphere” activity

Camp Craft: Leather Bookmark Craft

Recreation: Sidewalk Chalk Games

“I’m excited for the kids to experience the science portion of camp. They’ll practice leaf imprinting. It’s the story of leaves and trees to feel like they’re truly at camp. The second day, the kids get to plant their seeds, and the material talks about the life cycle of a plant and what plants do for us. The last day is my favorite. They will be making an ecosphere. Each kid received a mini mason jar, and they can make an ecosphere. It’s a self-supporting ecosystem, and they won’t have to open the jar to feed the insects or clean it,” Captain Good shared.

One of the things that Captain Good and the Youth Department made sure of was the bags were reusable so that campers could keep them as “camp swag”. The bags are branded with the Camp Hidden Lake logo in hopes of the kids being able to bring them to camp next summer.

“I can imagine them coming to camp next year with their bags. Having camp swag at home is a cool feeling because it’s a sense of belonging and togetherness. Some of these kids come from rough home situations. We get to think about vacationing in New Orleans or Memphis, whereas the kids we serve with The Salvation Army don’t always get that chance. Vacation for them is Camp Hidden Lake. For many of these kids, camp is a week they don’t have to worry about life. It’s a week that they don’t have to worry about food. They don’t have to see their parents fighting. It’s a week where they don’t have to take care of their siblings. They can just be kids,” Captain Good shared.

“That’s one of the most frustrating parts of changes within my job in 2020. The kids don’t get that opportunity. We’re hoping that this backyard edition of the camp hidden lake will allow kids to feel like they are at camp,” Captain Good added.

 

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter Visits Salvation Army Hurricane Laura Relief Operations

Lake Charles, LA (September 16, 2020)— Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter, State Senator Ronnie Johns, and United Way of Southwest Louisiana President Denise Durel visited The Salvation Army’s Hurricane Laura incident command site on Tuesday. Mayor Hunter said he wanted to tour the operation to say thank you to The Salvation Army for all of the good work he’s witnessed the organization doing in his community since the storm.

“The Salvation Army was some of the first people that were on the ground here, helping right after the storm when it was so needed. I’m a local guy and work with the local affiliate, but you don’t quite appreciate the national organization until something like this happens. You have all these assets that you’re able to mobilize and get here,” said Hunter. “Thank you so much for what you’re doing,” he added.

The local Salvation Army facilities, including the home of Lake Charles corps officers, Lieutenants Thomas and LeAnna Marion, were severely damaged in the storm. But their focus remains on helping their community. “The Salvation Army of Southwest Louisiana greatly appreciates the support we get from our local leaders and Mayor Nic Hunter. He is always there to back us up when we respond,” said Lt. Thomas Marion.

To date, The Salvation Army has provided 293,954 meals in response to Hurricane Laura throughout affected areas of Louisiana and Texas. 210,814 of those meals were served in the Lake Charles area.  Services are ongoing in the Lake Charles area, where approximately 49,000 are still without power.

The best way to support the disaster work of The Salvation Army is by making a financial donation at www.helpsalvationarmy.org or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY. For the latest emergency disaster services news from The Salvation Army, please go to www.disaster.salvationarmyusa.org and watch for regular updates on our social media pages at www.facebook.com/LakeCharlesCorps, www.facebook.com/salarmyalm/ and www.twitter.com/salarmyalm.

As natural disasters can increase mental stress, The Salvation Army’s Emotional & Spiritual Care HOPEline remains available. Anyone needing a caring listener – whether because of natural disaster, COVID-19, or the stress of life in general – can call 844-458-HOPE (4673) for support. HOPEline hours are 8 AM to 11 PM CDT, 7 days a week.

About The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army annually helps more than 23 million Americans overcome poverty, addiction, and economic hardships through a range of social services. By providing food for the hungry, emergency relief for disaster survivors, rehabilitation for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, and clothing and shelter for people in need, The Salvation Army is doing the most good at 7,600 centers of operation around the country. In the first-ever listing of “America’s Favorite Charities” by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Salvation Army ranked as the country’s largest privately funded, direct-service nonprofit. For more information, visit www.SalvationArmyUSA.org. Follow us on Twitter @SalvationArmyUS and #DoingTheMostGood.