Following Irma work, I’m thankful for family

Walking into an area affected by disaster, you never know what to expect. There’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot you can’t control. In a way, you become like those you’ve come to help.

The one thing you can control is how you react to those in need. Our incident commander, Major Ernest Hull, New Orleans Area Commander, reminded us each day, “You represent the light of Jesus to these people. Be that light.”

We did our best to be a light serving in a county that lost power to over 80 percent of its homes and businesses following Hurricane Irma.

For me, every child who waited for something to eat and drink at one of our trucks reminded me why I’m here. One resident told me how during the day you try to find shade to keep cool, but at night, you still have to sleep in a hot house. The rain was gone and the temperature was up near 90 each day.

Driving into one community followed by a canteen, I saw folks outside and rolled down my window.  A little boy, Mason, age 5 or 6, comes running up, “You guys are beautiful!”, he exclaims. I couldn’t have been more caught off guard. I had to get his picture. Mason was grateful for the food we were able to provide him, his father, and grandparents.

The next day, two little girls, maybe 10 and 6, I never asked their names. Our team handed them their food, and they sat down on the sidewalk to eat. I snapped a picture… smiling and thankful.

These eight days were made better by those smiling faces, and easier because of the people I work alongside in service to those in need.

In disaster situations, your team becomes your family. The commander becomes the father. On our team, Major Mary Meredith was the mother or “Mother Mary” as she was quickly nicknamed.

There were brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles even distant cousins from far-away places like Pennsylvania and Connecticut working out in the canteens. The longer we were there the more people were added, the crazier our family became…in a good way. All toll, we had officers, staff, and volunteers from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut!

There were arguments, laughter, teasing and even concern as several “family” members were injured or became sick.

One of our emotional and spiritual care “sisters” even brought two residents, a father and daughter, to know Jesus as their personal savior.

At the end of the day, we seemed to always eat dinner together and tell stories or discuss our work.

I know not every disaster team is like this, but we seemed to be chosen to be together, to serve a purpose none of us could have served on our own.

The week we served in Sebring, Florida, The Salvation Army provided over 20,000 meals, drinks, and snacks, prayed with 410 people, and loaded 4,100 cases of water into vehicles.

I am thankful this family could be there.

Paychecks running out with many businesses still closed days after Irma, Army filling need

Sebring, FL. –In Highlands County, Florida, power is slowing being restored but for many it’s been five days in the sweltering heat with no air conditioning, no water and no ice. As if that wasn’t enough, many businesses have not reopened and hourly workers have no new income.

Melissa Gage is one of those workers.

“Out of power since Sunday, it just seems like it keeps getting hotter,” said Gage. “My paycheck ran out so we are here for a meal and some water.

Gage picked up six hot meals for her family just like several hundred other local residents in and around Sebring. The Salvation Army will top ten thousand meals served in Highlands County on their fifth day of service.

Ashley Ivey and her husband have two young girls. It’s been hard for them as well without power.

“They told us it would be Tuesday by midnight(for power to be restored),” said Ivey. “But our daughters have suffered heat exhaustion, they’re allergic to mosquitos too so it’s difficult right now.

Ivey said she explained to her daughters about the storm that, “this is what happens when you live in Florida.”

For many, the sooner the power can be restored, the better. The Salvation Army will remain in place to fill any needs for several days once the power does return.

Officer’s prayer bracelets open conversation leading to salvation

Sebring, FL (September 16, 2017) – Emotional and spiritual care during disaster and emergency situations is why The Salvation Army stands out after the unthinkable happens. Not only do survivors need their physical needs taken care of, but just having someone to talk to can make all the difference.

Meridian, Mississippi Corps Officer, Major Young Soon Kim, on deployment in Sebring, Florida, takes a unique approach. She makes prayer bracelets from yarn and hands them out as she ministers to those coming to canteens for food and water.

“Making these bracelets is a hobby of mine,” said Major Kim. “I was packing to serve in Florida, and saw the yarn, so I thought it could be a tool I use to spread the gospel.”

Turns out her forethought was correct. Major Kim noticed a family of three waiting in their car for a hot meal as the mobile feeding truck set up to serve.

“We started talking and I heard their stories, how they were hurting,” said Major Kim. “I asked if they are Christians. The mother quickly said, ‘I am, but they’re not.’

Major Kim showed the family her bracelets…blue, red, and yellow interwoven together. Major Kim explained they are Salvation Army colors but also represent the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“The father told me he knew about the Trinity, but it wasn’t coming to his heart, because he had to be baptized,” said Major Kim. “I told him the story of the two men next to Jesus on the cross.”

Major Kim asked him if he thought the criminal next to Jesus was baptized. Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’

“I tied the bracelet on his wrist and told him, nothing is blocking you now,” said Major Kim. “So, we prayed, and as soon as we finished, his daughter said, ‘I need to be saved too.’”

So, they got out of their car, held hands and Major Kim prayed one more time, this time with the daughter.

Major disasters, like Hurricane Irma, can turn lives upside down. We know feeding the body is the immediate need, but feeding the spirit makes all the difference in putting lives back together.


Residents grateful to see Salvation Army truck, thankful for food and drink

Avon Park, FL (September 15, 2017) – In Avon Park and much of Highlands County power has been out since Hurricane Irma blew through taking many power lines and poles with her. Residents spend their days outside their houses simply because it gets too hot. Ice is over an hour away, and many don’t have money to spend on gas to drive back and forth. So, they wait.

“Right now, everything is happening in other places,” said Stacy Teague, Avon Park resident. “We don’t have gas, ice, a lot of things we need.”

Friday, The Salvation Army mobile feeding truck showed up with hot meals and drinks.

“You guys are a blessing, coming to Avon Park,” said Teague.

Those needing food quickly stepped in line thankful for the meal. Maria Jimenez lives just across the street from where The Salvation Army set up and brought her grand-daughters.

“It’s a joy,” said Jimenez. “It’s a blessing The Salvation Army can help those who can’t get a meal at home.”

Luckily, Jimenez has a gas stove at home and can boil water. Many residents like the Riveria’s need electricity for everything in their home. The Riveria’s were happy to see The Salvation Army truck pull up.

“It feels good,” said Iodalis Riveria, helping translate for her grandmother, Naomi Riveria. “Our food has spoiled. Basically, we come out every day looking for food.”

Out of the Sebring, Florida Corps, The Salvation Army is serving food, drinks, and providing emotional and spiritual care in Avon Park, Lake Placid, and in Sebring.

How People Can Help

The best way to help after a disaster is to make a financial donation. Monetary contributions also support local economies and ensure that businesses can operate when relief supplies diminish.


Donate By Phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY

Mail Checks to:

The Salvation Army PO Box 1959 Atlanta, GA 30301

Please designate “Hurricane Harvey” on all checks.

Text to Give: STORM to 51555

The Salvation Army establishing feeding services for Highlands County, Florida following Irma

Sebring, FL  – With Hurricane Irma damage still obvious all across the area, The Salvation Army is working in Highlands County, Florida to meet the immediate needs of residents still without power days after the storm. Water, ice, and a hot meal are all priorities.

“We do have some challenges right now, but we have three feeding trucks at our disposal and those will be out in the county beginning Wednesday,” said Major Ernest Hull, Incident Commander.

The incident command team lead by Major Hull from New Orleans is from the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division and the Kentucky-Tennessee Division.

Sebring Corps Officer, Major Tim Roberts has seen the damage and is helping identify the subdivisions who need a meal, a bottle of water, or just someone who can help.

“We know folks are hurting that’s why we have these crews in town,” said Major Roberts. “The Salvation Army will be here as long as it takes to get things back to normal.

Emotional and Spiritual Care officers will be accompanying mobile feeding trucks to offer encouragement, a pat on the back or a hug.

“We want to minister to the physical needs, but also the spiritual ones, because living without power after you’ve lost so much can be difficult,” said Major Hull. “We want them to know they are not alone in their recovery.”

The Salvation Army will be providing meals at the Sebring Corps location at 3135 Kenilworth Boulevard. Staff will also be assessing damage in Avon Park and Lake Placid to determine feeding locations in those areas.

How People Can Help

The best way to help after a disaster is to make a financial donation. Monetary contributions also support local economies and ensure that businesses can operate when relief supplies diminish.


Donate By Phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY

Mail Checks to:

The Salvation Army PO Box 1959 Atlanta, GA 30301

Please designate “Hurricane Harvey” on all checks.

Text to Give: STORM to 51555

The Salvation Army in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi serving on two fronts waiting for Irma

JACKSON, MS – The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi is working to help residents affected by Harvey in Texas as well as evacuees leaving Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma. Currently, twelve mobile feeding trucks or canteens with staff are working to provide food, drinks, snacks and emotional and spiritual care in several parts of Texas.

As of Friday evening, The Salvation Army in Dothan and Selma, Alabama will be supporting shelters through food service for Florida residents leaving their homes in front of Irma.

“This is an unprecedented month with two major hurricanes expected to make landfall,” said Terry Lightheart. Emergency/Disaster Services Director for The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. “This is an all hands-on deck situation for equipment and personnel from across the South and nation. This division will be providing both equipment and personnel to Texas and in Florida.”

The ALM Division is expected to send specialized equipment to Florida following Hurricane Irma including a communication trailer designed to aid communication with the storm potentially knocking out power, cell service and wireless internet.

“Communication is vital so we can help the most residents. This trailer allows us to keep the lines of communication open with our personnel so we can meet the needs of those affected by the storm,” said Lightheart.

The Salvation Army will also provide food, emotional and spiritual care, and comfort kits to areas affected the most following the storm.

“This is our most vital service and what people expect when they see the shield on our trucks. To get into the most devastated areas with food, drinks and a simple conversation means a great deal to those who have lost so much during these terrible storms,” said Lightheart.

How People Can Help

The best way to help after a disaster is to make a financial donation. Monetary contributions also support local economies and ensure that businesses can operate when relief supplies diminish.


Donate By Phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY

Mail Checks to:

The Salvation Army PO Box 1959 Atlanta, GA 30301

Please designate “Hurricane Harvey” on all checks.

Text to Give: STORM to 51555

The Salvation Army ALM personnel, equipment heading to Florida for expected relief following Hurricane Matthew


Salvation Army locations across the Southern United States are preparing for a major relief effort as Hurricane Matthew continues its path towards the Florida coastline. The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi (ALM Division) is no different. Thursday the ALM Division is sending six mobile feeding units or canteens and a communications truck to Florida to be in place to support disaster relief operations following the expected landfall of Matthew.

“We have learned from past disasters that communication systems are vital for effective and timely disaster relief efforts,” said Terry Lightheart, Emergency, Disaster Services Director. “The mobile  communications unit will provide The Salvation Army with the ability to communicate not only with Salvation Army personnel, but with our partners, externally to ensure we identify the areas most in need.”

The Salvation Army Southern Territory has placed equipment and personnel on standby in fifteen states to support the affected areas. Along with the equipment, the ALM Division is deploying fifteen disaster service personnel and volunteers. More resources are expected to be requested in the coming days.

“This storm has the potential to do major damage.  If that’s the case, The Salvation Army will be there to provide meals, drinks, and emotional and spiritual care for those in need,” said Lightheart.

The best way to help after a disaster is to make a financial donation to The Salvation Army. Cash is flexible, can be used immediately in response to a crisis, and allows disaster relief organizations to purchase exactly what is needed, when it’s needed.

To make a financial gift to The Salvation Army, give:

  • Donate Online:
  • Donate By Mail:The Salvation Army PO BOX 1959 Atlanta, GA 30301 Please designate ‘Hurricane Matthew’ on all checks.
  • Donate By Phone:1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769)
  • Donate By Text:Text STORM to 51555 to receive a donation link for easy mobile giving