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Columbus, Mississippi, Program is Challenging Young Adults to Dream Big

by Jon Kalahar

Rene Hill, In This Together program participant


Raising a child on your own is hard enough. Imagine you’re 20 years old. Sometimes you need a little motivation or, in Rene Hill’s case, a push. After signing up for assistance with the state, she was sent to The Salvation Army of Columbus, Mississippi. That’s where she met Lieutenants Damon and Jennifer Graham.

Lieutenant Jennifer has become Rene’s motivator.

“She’s not forcing me, but she is strongly on me to go to college,” Hill said.

As officers of The Salvation Army, the Grahams see the hardships local residents face after losing their jobs, overcoming addictions, or even trying to piece life back together following jail time. That’s why they are working with the United Way and the Mississippi Department of Human Services to give young adults a boost to get ahead in life through the I.T.T. (In This Together) program.

“We hear a need and see a place where we can help in a person’s life, if they allow it,” Lieutenant Damon said.

“Many of these single mothers grew up in single-parent households,” said Lieutenant Jennifer. “They need that extra motivation to overcome the generational cycle of poverty. There are a lot of barriers in their way, from lack of family support to limited education to their lack of self-worth.”

       Cherrell Murray, program participant

The program was started to show young men and women their value and worth in the community while working in a supportive, Christian environment. The goal is for each person who works through the program to become self-sufficient, not another statistic.

“Receiving assistance from the state is a temporary tool,” Lieutenant Jennifer said. “We are challenging them to dream beyond a temporary fix. This is their first stop, followed hopefully by college or technical training.”

Cherrell Murray, like Hill, has found a new outlook on her future since starting at The Salvation Army.

“It teaches me to love people, care for people,” Murray said.

Now Salvation Army volunteers, both Hill and Murray perform administrative duties while also stocking the food pantry and preparing groceries for people in need. They will soon take a placement exam to find entry level professions suited for their skills. From there, they will begin college level classes. Both women hope to follow in their mentors’ footsteps and become social workers.

“Basically, they both just encourage us to follow our dreams, try to keep on the right path, go to college. They inspire us a lot to make us want to do more,” Hill said.

 

Jon Kalahar is the Communications Director for the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division.

How an alcoholic goes from nothingness to an inspiration

Working in the warehouse of a Salvation Army Family store is anything but glamorous. Working in the warehouse of the Family Store in Lafayette, Louisiana there’s never a dull moment. Fay Portier is the Lafayette Corps warehouse manager.

“Sometimes it’s hectic, but you gotta keep going,” said PortierDSC09319

This week’s highlight is what looks to be an Olympic gold medal…or at least a replica.

With the help of Corps Officers, Majors Mel and Esther James, Portier stopped long enough to share his personal story with me. Portier is always on the go. He starts his pick up route at 7am and returns to the store by ten to begin sorting donations so they can be sold in the front of the store. Portier knows staying busy is better than where he’s been.

Portier will celebrate four years sober November eleventh.DSC09357

“I finally got tired of waking up drunk,” said Portier.

Working his way through The Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation program, Portier first started out as a bell ringer, then served as the driver going around Lafayette picking up donated items. A year later, his current position came open.

Portier is now a corps soldier and Sunday school teacher, sharing the Word and passing on his experiences to men who need his guidance. It’s a role he never thought he’d be in.

“I would have never thought that, but I just tell them to trust in God, and The Salvation Army. They’ll help you get on your feet, get on track,” said Portier.

Clothes, shoes and other goods are dropped off at The Salvation Army when they’re not wanted anymore. Through our stores, they become repurposed and needed again by someone else.

Fay Portier came to The Salvation Army not knowing if his life would ever be of use to anyone. The Lord has given him a new purpose, and he is definitely needed. He’s needed to provide a positive influence in the lives of the many people he comes in contact with each week.