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Social Worker Secures Homes For Families While Fighting COVID-19

Treshone Collor, Director of Social Services for The Salvation Army of Greater New Orleans, recently secured permanent housing for 12 families—having a total of 39 children between them—while she was fighting her own battle with the coronavirus.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Salvation Army New Orleans Area Command has been doing its part to make sure all residents and staff are safe and secure. Staff members continue their day-to-day operations, making sure vulnerable populations receive meals and finding homes for families. Working in a state with the most rapid spread of the virus has been challenging, but The Salvation Army’s dedicated staff continue doing their part to serve the New Orleans community.

Collor found out she was COVID-19 positive on April 9th, while already working from home in self-isolation due to the Louisiana Stay at Home order.

“I took my multivitamins, took medicine, continued doing anything that I regularly do, but went to get tested to be sure. I wasn’t showing symptoms when I tested but started developing flu symptoms as time went on. I had a fever, back pains, migraines, and restless sleep. It was challenging and scary,” Collor shared.

Collor has a son with sickle cell anemia. “I’ve been in mommy mode to keep his immune system up. Making sure he didn’t contract the virus was my biggest concern,” she added.

Despite dealing with her health, Collor was still concerned about the 12 families who needed a permanent home.

“My goal was to get those residents out of the shelter. I knew they were there and had limited access to things because of social distancing. We had 39 children at the shelter, so I knew it could become a trying situation. I had to keep moving,” Collor stated.

Collor succeeded in getting all of the families out of the shelter and into permanent housing. She also housed eight additional families who lived in other shelters throughout New Orleans who received services from the Army.

It’s easy to spiral into fear, but Collor stays motivated by reassuring herself that success will continue despite this pandemic. “People keep telling me I was born to work in social services, and I tell them I’ll take note of that,” said Collor.

“I am amazed at the dedication Treshone Collor has shown during the COVID-19 outbreak. She was forced to self-quarantine early after the Stay at Home order took place here in New Orleans. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done,” said New Orleans Area Commander, Major Ernest Hull, about Collor’s dedication to serving others.

“My faith and positive mindset helped me to keep going. Providing services for those who need help was a drive for me to continue even though I was dealing with a personal illness. I still wanted to help. I still wanted to be dedicated to the individuals here. There were many days when I couldn’t do anything but stay in bed and rest. Those were trying days. This whole process has been trying and very memorable. I think I’ll carry on this conversation for many years to come,” Collor added.

 

The Salvation Army’s Response to Alabama’s Stay at Home Order

On Friday, April 3, 2020, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced an official Stay at Home order for the state of Alabama to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The order took effect on Saturday, April 4, and is in place until April 30. This mandate affects The Salvation Army throughout Alabama in many ways, most notably in shelter operations. The Salvation Army operates ten shelters throughout the state and all of them are now housing residents 24/7. Shelters that usually serve only breakfast and dinner are now serving three meals a day. This change to round-the-clock sheltering increases staffing needs as well as the need for more food and cleaning supplies. All Salvation Army shelters throughout the state are increasing daily cleaning and disinfecting measures throughout their facilities in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus and keep all shelter residents and staff safe and healthy. Alabama’s Stay at Home order is also resulting in the temporary closure of all Salvation Army thrift stores in the state, however, all Salvation Army locations are still providing social services.

Birmingham

The Salvation Army’s Birmingham Area Command has seen a tremendous increase in demand for emergency services including food and utility assistance requests since the onset of the pandemic. The Birmingham shelter has 111 men, women, and children currently in their care. They have identified apartments in the facility to use as quarantine or isolation if needed. The Birmingham Area Command currently has a week’s worth of food on hand for current residents and for their food pantry distribution. The need for food supplies has increased greatly as residents are now eating all three meals at the shelter. Additionally, snacks and drinks are provided throughout the day. Shelter residents are eating in shifts to allow for safe social distancing during meals. Hand washing/sanitizing is now required upon entry into the facility, at mealtimes, and before snacks.

The Birmingham Salvation Army reports that food assistance demand has increased by more than 300% since the onset of the pandemic. A drive-through food pantry is provided to the public twice weekly, and they are serving lunch to members of the community through a mobile canteen feeding truck on their Center of Hope campus.

To keep residents entertained, several activities a week are planned for the families in the shelter and residents are encouraged to spend time outdoors as long as they stay on campus and maintain social distancing.  As of Monday, April 6, the Birmingham Salvation Army is assisting students in the shelter with their e-learning requirements through the on-site computer lab.  Workforce development opportunities are also being offered to residents, with classes on job interviews, life skills, time management, and more.

“Our hope is to show our families the love of Jesus and that’s what we are trying to do every day,” said Major Paula Powell, Area Commander. “Showing our families we care about them and we love them makes all the difference.”

Florence

The Salvation Army of the Shoals in Florence, Alabama, is currently housing 19 residents. Cleaning has increased throughout the shelter due to its extended hours. There are no residents with COVID-19, but if a resident shows signs of the virus, they will be isolated in a separate living space and referred to the nearest hospital for proper screening.

On Friday, April 10, the Florence Corps will hold its third food giveaway since the onset of the pandemic. They have also partnered with local senior living facilities to deliver frozen chicken, prepared meals, and household goods, including toilet paper. The Army is also delivering meals to the YMCA, which is taking care of children of first responders, and distributing meals throughout the community to assist with feeding children who aren’t at the YMCA. Those meals are provided by the Florence School District.

“We have had to close down our family stores, which are a source of funding for all of our social service programs. This has put a strain on our budget, but we are continuing to serve the physical and monetary needs of our community who are affected by this pandemic. We need financial contributions to continue operating to the extent that our community needs,” stated Florence Corps Officer Captain Wendy Deuel.

Coastal Alabama

The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama is currently housing 91 residents throughout their 3 shelters, all of which are now operating 24/7. Cleaning has increased throughout the shelters due to the extended hours. There aren’t any residents with COVID-19, but if a resident shows signs of the virus they will be isolated in a separate living space and taken to the nearest hospital for proper screening.

COVID-19 has drastically increased The Salvation Army’s community feedings and other services in Mobile. The Army is now serving lunch three times a week in downtown Mobile—stepping up to fill the gap left after other area service organizations had to close during the pandemic. An average of 170 meals per day are being served at this location, with projections that this number will increase in the days ahead. The Mobile Police and Fire Departments have asked The Salvation Army to supply meals to public safety officials that are quarantined with suspicion of COVID-19 symptoms.

Church activities at the Worship Center and the Dauphin Way Lodge have been postponed. Group rehabilitation meetings have been divided into smaller groups and take place outside in the courtyard. Visitors are restricted from entering the building, and community meals are distributed outside. The food pantry has had to adjust the hours and methods of distributing food to mitigate unnecessary exposure to clients and staff.

“We will make it through this together not by doing what is comfortable, but by doing what is necessary,” stated Coastal Alabama Area Commander, Major Thomas Richmond.

Tuscaloosa

The Salvation Army of Tuscaloosa’s shelter, which has separate wings to accommodate men, women, families, and veterans, is currently near capacity. Round-the-clock sheltering means that The Salvation Army is now providing lunch, an additional meal, for its residents due to the mandate hours.

“We are extending our shelter to 24/7 operation because it is the only home our residents currently have, and we’re committed to keeping them safe and well provided for. We are also providing all of our normal essential services— including meals, food boxes, Rapid Rehousing, and Homeless Prevention—we’re just altering our methods of service delivery to practice safe social distancing,” stated Tuscaloosa Corps Officer, Major Bill Shafer.

 


The above is just a sampling, but all Salvation Army shelters throughout Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi are now operating 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Every one of these shelters is in immediate need of extra food and cleaning supplies to meet the increased demand, but their biggest need is financial. The Salvation Army needs a great outpouring of public support to continue to serve the increased need throughout our communities. To support The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 response efforts, please give now.

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.