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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.

Blessings and Perseverance with Seniors Amid COVID-19

Coined “Baskets of Blessings,” baskets filled with gloves, masks, sanitizer, a Bible study book, and chocolates were delivered to the homes of seniors and members of The Salvation Army Shreveport Corps’ Women’s Ministry. Distributing the baskets was the Army’s way of staying in touch with church members and reassuring them that they are cared for and loved while also practicing social distancing.

Virginia Fernandez-Schalewski, a member of the women’s ministry for over ten years, appreciates the basket of goods and says it helps her to feel more protected while running errands.

“I would like to thank The Salvation Army for the gloves, face mask, and candy. I carry the sanitizer with me everywhere I go,” shared Fernandez-Schalewski.

Retired Salvation Army officer, Major Patricia Johnson, was also one of the women who received a “basket of blessings” and was grateful for the added resources to her and her family.

Major Patricia Johnson, former Salvation Army Corps Officer

“I appreciate the gifts and The Salvation Army for thinking of me. You can’t always find these things when you need them, so I’m grateful for the tissues and hand sanitizer,” Major Johnson stated.

“I enjoy the Army’s programs. I was raised in the Army. My parents were very active at the Corps. I plan to join the Shreveport Corps in assisting the Boys and Girls Club once the pandemic is more under control,” Major Johnson added.

Major Johnson and Lieutenant Tamarique Ellis know each other from previous appointments in Atlanta. Major Johnson offered advice to Lieutenant Ellis early in her career as a Salvation Army officer. Nearly 20 years later, they live in Shreveport, Louisiana, and are still involved with the Army.

“Time is one circle. It comes back around. Major Johnson blessed me as a young soldier in Atlanta, and now we’re both in Shreveport and keep in touch,” Lieutenant Ellis shared.

“I just love my Army and want to give back, despite my losses and time of mourning.”

Although the Army is continuing to serve members of its community during the coronavirus pandemic, the past few months of self-isolation have been hard for some and even harder for others. Patsy Wallace, a member of the Shreveport Corps’ senior’s ministry, lost both of her daughters during self-isolation due to ongoing health issues and the coronavirus. Through all of this, she has still kept the Army in mind and has donated what she can to assist the Shreveport Corps. She regularly visits the Corps for the senior’s ministry and weekly meals, which has only been offered drive-thru style since the start of COVID-19. Due to the loss of her daughters, Wallace has been unable to travel, so Lieutenants Ellis brought lunch, flowers, a handmade vase, and a handmade necklace designed by the Ellis’ children to Ms. Wallace at her home. While receiving her gifts, Wallace offered a gift of her own to the Army.

“Ms. Patsy has given us a financial donation from her heart. In all her suffering, she says she has meant to bless us. Her love and care for others and the ministry in her time of bereavement is so wonderful. Ms. Patsy is a blessing to the Army. The Lord is with her,” Lieutenant Ellis stated.

Wallace has been a member of The Salvation Army Women’s Ministry for over 20 years and also participates in the senior’s ministry. She goes above and beyond for the Army. Just last December, she took the initiative to volunteer to help organize Angel Tree and tended the tables throughout the fundraiser’s duration.

“I just love my Army and want to give back, despite my losses and time of mourning,” Patsy Wallace shared.

Lieutenant Ellis says members of the senior’s ministry keep in touch with one another via phone calls. The Corps checks in with Wallace and other seniors weekly to see how they are doing, whether it be a phone call or driving by their homes to wave and chat from a safe distance.

“We are a family. We see that family spirit in our corps, from mothers taking care of kids, to the senior’s ministry checking in on each other through coronavirus. It’s beautiful,” Lieutenant Ellis shared.

“Seniors would come and sit and encourage each other daily before the pandemic, so we are staying in touch with them to let them know that we are thinking of them and praying for them. They are praying for us as well. We like to encourage seniors and remind them that they have a presence and a place in this world. If society takes time to lift both of our vulnerable populations, the children and the seniors, we can learn so much from them,” added Lieutenant Ellis.

Highlighting Feeding Programs in Louisiana

We’re ending our month of feeding highlights with Louisiana. The Salvation Army locations throughout Louisiana provided thousands of meals and groceries to neighbors in need last year. The Shreveport Corps distributed a total of 85,842 of those meals and the Baton Rouge Corps distributed 95,948.

These two Corps display extraordinary participation in their communities by sending canteens out into extreme temperatures, community holiday celebrations, providing additional food assistance to other local shelters and churches, and so much more. For above and beyond involvement, the Army is highlighting Baton Rouge and Shreveport for outstanding services within their communities.

Baton Rouge

Corps Officers: Major Donald Tekautz and Lieutenant Julie Tekautz

There are food pantries that operate on a daily or near-daily basis in the Baton Rouge area, so The Salvation Army provides an emergency food pantry that supplies food for up to a week for families. Appointments and drop-ins are welcome once a year, Monday – Friday 8 AM – 4:30 PM. The prepped boxes include enough food to feed 4-5 people for up to a week. Daily feedings are available for the shelter’s rehabilitation program (CSRC), and there are two meals a day for residents of the location.

The Baton Rouge location offers many community feeding opportunities, including Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, as well as annual spring and fall festivals. The spring festival includes an Easter egg hunt held at the corps office and a canteen that provides lunches for families that come out to enjoy the festivities. The fall festival takes place around Halloween and is a similar event involving harvest-themed fun for children and families. The corps also hosts a “Back to School” fair each July, where the canteen goes into the Baton Rouge community for mass feeding. Last year’s event had around 1,000 attendees.

Shreveport

Corps Officers: Lieutenants Jamaal and Tamarique Ellis

The Shreveport Corps has a total of 111 beds and offers breakfast to anyone who spends the night. Lunch and dinner are open to those same residents as well as any newcomers. The shelter provides 250-300 meals per day on average.

The corps takes the mobile canteen into the community multiple times a month, depending on the extremity of weather. The canteen runs more during hot and cold weather, supplying refreshing beverages during the summer months and warm soup and hot chocolate during the winter months. Lieutenant Jamaal Ellis says the shelter is aware that the homeless don’t always come to the Army for help. Hence, the Army goes to them, bringing substances to help sustain individuals through harsh temperatures. It has become a routine, and now individuals know when to expect The Salvation Army canteen and gather to receive assistance.

The Shreveport Corps does a monthly feeding at Holy Cross Hope House, a day shelter in downtown Shreveport where the homeless can shower and wash their clothes. Hope House doesn’t offer food, so the Army partners with them for food assistance. The Army also helps with feedings in the Cedar Grove community, an area with a large homeless and underprivileged population. The canteen goes out as needed for these partnerships.

A food pantry is also available in Shreveport, and groceries are provided twice a week to anyone who signs up through Social Services. The Shreveport Corps provided 480 boxes of groceries to the community last year.

Hunger Is Curable

Each night in the U.S., 17.4 million families go to bed hungry. An additional 6.9 million families experience low food security, not knowing where or how they’ll receive their next meal. The Salvation Army ALM collectively served over 1 million meals in 2019 and continues to help fight hunger. Our approach to supplying food is based on the needs of each community we serve. Although food insecurity is still a prominent issue in many areas, The Salvation Army is doing its part to help rid this curable circumstance.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Opportunities With The Boys and Girls Club

Cara O’Kray is playing basketball with some of the younger children at The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Shreveport, Louisiana. They are each taking shots for themselves, missing some and making others. It’s a way to learn and grow together. Cara is helping to work with the younger kids. It is a leadership role, but also an opportunity to help draw out some of those kids that are uncomfortable in new surroundings.

Cara’s service to others includes being a part of the community within the Boys and Girls Club. Aside from working at the front desk, “I help to prepare meals and I help collect the little kids,” Cara says. It’s an effort that is only a part of the time she has spent serving the community with The Boys and Girls Club. “I volunteered over the holidays at The Salvation Army by helping serve food to the homeless, army veterans, and families. Only good things come from this lifestyle. The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club encourages academic excellence,” she says.

“Last summer when I first started volunteering here, I noticed that some kids were kind of in their shell. But as the summer went on, they become more open with the kids around them and with me too,” says Cara. Learning how to work with younger people has helped her on her journey. “I’d like to give those kids a voice. To help guide kids who don’t feel comfortable discussing their problems,” she says. A high school psychology course led to an interest in serving others’ emotional well-being. Following that interest will lead to attending LSU after graduating from high school, seeking a degree in Psychology so that she can help other children like those she has been working with at The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club. “I want to give those kids a voice. Those who are scared to come out about problems that they are going through,” says Cara

The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club offers an opportunity for young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. For some kids it is a place of learning and personal development. For others the Boys and Girls Club can open a window into opportunities that they may not have considered. For Cara O’Kray it has become a place where she found a new perspective on her future.

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.”

Giving Veterans a Hand up in Shreveport

Perouz Farokhkish is proud of his service in the United States Army. Growing up Christian in Lake Charles, Louisiana to a Middle Eastern father and American mother, he saw no signs of prejudice or hatred. When he returned home after two tours supporting the war in Iraq, he couldn’t help but notice something was different.

“The best I can describe it is like a Vietnam veteran, it was very difficult,” said Farokhkish. “For me, I was a man just like anyone else.”

Following the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11, Farokhkish says his Middle Eastern decent made him stand out. He isolated himself, not leaving home very much. Looking back now he says he didn’t trust people especially the Veterans Administration Hospitals he needed to get help. For fifteen years, Farokhkish kept to himself, kept his thoughts and feelings locked inside.

“When you get out, there was nothing there to help you re-balance, so you get out and all you know is to run, and if you can’t run, if something trips you, you are a complete and total failure.”

Then a referral to The Salvation Army in Shreveport changed his life. Perouz says the compassion showed by the staff in the Veteran’s shelter and by the officers helped him open up.

“I always needed to talk but didn’t know who would allow me to let it out,” said Farokhkish. “Being able to talk to other veterans was greatly helpful. For me to be able to help the elderly veterans to navigate simple things like a cell phone, it was therapeutic to think even here I could give back.”

Perouz stayed in the veterans’ shelter for five months. He now is enrolled at Louisiana State University-Shreveport studying Psychology. He is grateful to those who helped him at The Salvation Army and volunteers to this day.

“Finding other veterans who experienced similar situations was really comforting,” said Farokhkish. “And gave me a lot of solace to know that you can come out of that. It doesn’t have to stay that way forever.”

The Salvation Army of Shreveport has worked hand in hand with the Overton Brooks VA Hospital by providing transitional and emergency housing for homeless Veterans both male and female.

The veterans shelter offers 29 beds, 24 for men and five for women.

In 2016, The Salvation Army provided nearly 8,000 nights of lodging for veterans and over 20,000 meals serving 250 veterans overall.

To get more information on how The Salvation Army is helping veterans in Shreveport, please click here.

Kisiah’s Story: “Could you possibly help me, and if not I understand.”

It’s a problem many of the people who enter The Salvation Army face, a tough decision with no good answer. In Kisiah Livingston’s case, she had to work to pay the rent, but couldn’t afford the cost of daycare for her three-year-old. With no one to help, she stopped working to care for her child. She would soon face the likelihood of eviction.

“I came to The Salvation Army,” said Livingston. “They could tell by my demeanor I was just needing some type of help.”

Kisiah says she didn’t know what to expect, but was at the end of her rope.

“I was like, look it’s either a yay or a nay. I was just being honest with myself and the people who could possibly help me. I’m like, ‘could you possibly help me and if not I understand’,” said Livingston.

I wasn’t too long before Kisiah’s prayers were answered.

“They made a phone call and told me yes. I just busted out crying cause I could not believe how much they would just go beyond to help a person like me,” said Livingston. “I will be forever grateful for The Salvation Army.”

The Salvation Army provided Kisiah with rent assistance for six months. She is expecting her second child this summer. Without The Salvation Army’s help, Kisiah’s only other option would have been to stay in the women’s shelter. The Shreveport Salvation Army is also working with Kisiah to find her child care so she can keep her job this time.

Because of the understanding and love shown to her by The Salvation Army in Shreveport, Kisiah now shares her story with “others” who might need assistance as well.

“I point them in the right direction, which is The Salvation Army.”

NW LA Salvation Army gathers “angels” to say thank you

1 - 51Whether it’s manning the kettles during the Christmas season or manning a Salvation Army canteen to help flood survivors, it truly takes an army to serve those in need across Northwest Louisiana. Because of all their hard work, a “thank you” luncheon on Monday was more than just a meal, but a gathering of angels.

Majors Ed and Carla Binnix, who lead The Salvation Army of Northwest Louisiana, along with Advisory Board and Women’s Auxiliary members called together community leaders and first responders to share lunch and tell them how much they are needed and appreciated.

“You are an incredible blessing,” said Major Carla Binnix.

Major Carla leads hundreds of volunteers who make sure nearly three thousand children and families receive gifts and food during the holidays through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. But, she also has appreciation for all those who donated and purchased gifts and toys.

“Your gift is more than a toy, it is a picture of grace and mercy for a child you’ll never meet,” said Major Carla Binnix

In March, heavy rains led to floods destroying home after home leaving thousands with no power and in need of shelter, food and cleaning supplies. Led by the Binnixes, The Salvation Army worked hand in hand with first responders to serve flood survivors as well as police, fire and paramedics. Again, with the help of the corporate community, whether it was food, water or supplies, by the grace of God, all needs were met.

“You are helping people who never thought they’d be entering the doors of The Salvation Army,” said Advisory Board Chairwoman, Sonja Bailes.

Bailes reminded the 200 in attendance, God is seen in their work and through you He will make a difference.

“The Salvation Army was founded on the motto of Soup, Soap and Salvation,” said Bailes. “That remains the core emphasis today.”

Major Carla Binnix also unveiled a new piece of art that will recognize the top corporate partner each year following Christmas. The angel’s wings signifies the sponsor who completes the most Angel Tree requests with two toys and one clothing item. The sponsor who does will receive the wings for display at their business for the entire year.

The need across the nation is year round. If you would like to help The Salvation Army of Northwest Louisiana or any of our other 30 corps in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi you can find the location nearest you and donate here: www.salvationarmyalm.org

The Salvation Army Serves Up Hope for Flood Victims in Northwest Louisiana

March 17, 2016
Pattie Odom, Public Information Officer
318-424-3200 Ext 28
Pattie.Odom@uss.salvationarmy.org


salvation army flood louisianaShreveport, LA. (March 17, 2016) — As flood waters recede and many residents in Northwest Louisiana are being allowed back into their homes, The Salvation Army will be in the neighborhoods serving meals to recovery workers, first responders and residents. The Shreveport Salvation Army Canteen has been joined by a canteen from Biloxi, MS as we continue disaster service in Caddo and Bossier Parishes. It is estimated that almost 3700 homes in Caddo and Bossier Parishes have been damaged as a result of the flooding on bayous, creeks, lakes and rivers. Webster and Bienville Parishes continue to have homes and people who can only be reached by boats.

The Salvation Army has served over 5,000 meals to shelters, first responders, recovery workers and flood victims since the floods began, distributed 320 cleanup kits, 800 cases of water and 150 food boxes. Volunteers have stepped forward to help arrange hot meals, make sandwiches, prepare and deliver meals. “The Salvation Army will continue to distribute goods at the 200 E. Stoner location and through volunteers who are out in the community,” says Major Ed Binnix, Corps Commander. “We received a truck load of food boxes and clean up kits which we will be distributing in the neighborhoods and at the Forward Assistance Centers when they open.

As recovery continues, The Salvation Army canteens will be out in the neighborhoods with hydration, sandwiches, snacks and cleanup kits for victims who are in need. We will continue to feed recovery workers and first responders working in the affected neighborhoods.

Any donations are appreciated. Donations can be made online at www.SalvationArmyShreveport, on The Shreveport-Bossier Salvation Army Facebook page or on any mobile device by texting 51555 and messaging STORM. All online and mobile donations are received locally.
Disaster services from The Salvation Army are free. All people are served equally, without discrimination. Salvation Army disaster relief services are funded entirely through the generosity of donors. You can help The Salvation Army help your neighbors. Whether it’s disasters of the heart or natural disasters, The Salvation Army provides year-round services to meet human needs.

About The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 130 years in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar The Salvation Army spends is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to www.salvationarmyalm.org/shreveport.

Northwest Louisiana and The Salvation Army in Recovery Mode

March 16, 2016
Pattie Odom, Public Information Officer
318-424-3200 Ext 28
Pattie.Odom@uss.salvationarmy.org


flood recoveryShreveport, LA. (March 16, 2016)  — As recovery from flooding in Northwest Louisiana continues, The Salvation Army canteens will be out in the neighborhoods with hydration, sandwiches, snacks, meals and cleanup kits for citizens in need.   “Many non-profit groups have stepped in to aid in “mudout” efforts, The Salvation Army will provide food for these workers as we travel through neighborhoods,” says Major Ed Binnix, Corps Commander. “We continue to coordinate our efforts with these groups as well as parish emergency officials.”

The Salvation Army will continue to deliver hot meals to the evacuee shelter at The Bossier City Civic Center as long as it is needed.

Caddo and Bossier Parishes have been declared disaster areas by FEMA.

Any donations are appreciated.  Donations can be made online at www.SalvationArmyShreveport, on The Shreveport-Bossier Salvation Army Facebook page or on any mobile device by texting 51555 and messaging STORM.   All online and mobile donations are received locally.

Disaster services from The Salvation Army are free. All people are served equally, without discrimination.  Salvation Army disaster relief services are funded entirely through the generosity of donors. You can help The Salvation Army help your neighbors. Whether it’s disasters of the heart or natural disasters, The Salvation Army provides year-round services to meet human needs.

 

About The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 130 years in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar The Salvation Army spends is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to www.salvationarmyalm.org/shreveport.