Tesa heard that The Salvation Army needed help passing out meals in her community. With no hesitation, she jumped in the car with a neighbor and headed out to volunteer. Tesa is only 10 years old and is in the 5th grade.
It’s been a rough couple of years for Tesa and her family. During Hurricane Zeta, in October 2020, their home was hit by a tornado and her bedroom was destroyed. “Due to the Covid pandemic and construction delays, it was really difficult to schedule repairs to our house,” said Theresa Delatte, Tesa’s mom. “She finally got to move back into her bedroom in July this year only now to be hit by Hurricane Ida. The storm damaged our new metal roof, and the rain poured into Tesa’s room. Her ceiling fell in, and her belongings are ruined.”
Even with all that is going on in her life, and the heartache of losing her room for a second time, Tesa was out working in the neighborhood right after the storm passed. “She’s been busy helping clean up by picking up shingles, trash, tree branches and doing all she can to help anyone in need,” said Theresa. “We’re so proud of her.”
The mobile feeding unit from Muskogee, OK, was set up at the Walgreens in Cut Off, LA. “Tesa and Theresa volunteered with us for two days, serving hot food to her neighbors and community, many of whom remain without power,” said Wayde Normandin, Volunteer & Disaster Resource Manager from Tulsa, and EDS team member this week. “Tesa is an incredible young lady. She worked non-stop in the heat and was excited to pass out meals to the cars as they came through the drive-through line. She can be a part of our crew anytime!”
The family worked to put tarps up on their roof on Monday with more rain in the forecast but have plans to get back out to volunteer with The Salvation Army on Tuesday. “Tesa made the comment last night, when she gets older, she wants to be someone like y’all that helps people in bad times. Even if she just makes one person’s day better it will be worth it,” said Theresa. “Gotta love the big heart my little girl has!”
Thrift Store employees from Morgan City and Thibodaux, themselves impacted by Hurricane Ida, are serving neighboring communities while their stores are temporarily closed. The employees have joined a mobile kitchen crew providing hot meals, water, and emotional and spiritual care in Houma since Thursday.
Joan, Kateri, and Marva worked alongside the disaster team from Granbury on Sunday and helped serve more than 500 meals, despite an afternoon rainstorm. “I enjoy working at the Thrift Store and seeing the satisfaction on a customer’s face when I’m able to help them. I also love Christmas at The Salvation Army. I’m the queen of bell ringing!” said Marva. “But serving food from the mobile kitchen was a completely new experience for me. People were so happy to receive a meal. It felt really good to be part of helping everyone.”
Marva and her daughter Kateri decided not to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Ida making landfall. “We woke up on Sunday morning and quickly changed our minds,” said Kateri. “The weather was already bad, and the wind was getting stronger, so we made the last-minute decision to leave. I drove as fast I could to Sunset, LA. It was the day of the storm and luckily most people had already left so there wasn’t’ much traffic.”
Joan lives in a trailer in Thibodaux and stayed through the storm, taking cover at a friend’s house a few blocks away. “I was pretty lucky. My house is fine but we’ve been out of power since Sunday,” said Joan. “This is my first time helping The Salvation Army with disaster work. I’m kind of speechless, it’s all so overwhelming. We get people coming to the store all the time asking for help, but this is something completely different. To see peoples’ faces when they get a hot meal is reward enough for what we’re doing.”
The ladies have worked in The Salvation Army stores for a combined 14 years. “I didn’t know the Army helped people to this extent and how big our disaster work is,” said Kateri.” It makes me proud to work for the organization and feel good that I’m part of something bigger than just our store.”
It is unclear when the Thrift Stores will re-open, although power has been restored to the Morgan City store. “We’re already receiving donations again, but I know that’s going to have to wait,” said Marva. “Even though disaster work is not our normal job, we’re just happy to be helping. Right now, we’re all part of Doing The Most Good, and then some!”
On Monday, mobile units will be serving in Hammond, Houma (2 units), Bourg, Gray, Lockport, Dulac, Albany, LaPlace, Bayou DuLarge, Bayou Blue, Cut Off, Larose, Napoleonville, Galliano, and Chauvin, and two Polaris ATV units will be roaming in the Gonzales area. Service addresses can be found at https://disaster.salvationarmyusa.org/aboutus/?IdaFacts
The mobile units from the Gonzales IMT have served 87,061 meals, 51,572 drinks, and 17,761 snacks. The Salvation Army has served 144,456 meals, 99,962 drinks, and 35,387 snacks, making 6,169 emotional and spiritual care contacts across the state in response to Hurricane Ida.
The Salvation Army of Anniston has collaborated with Anniston City Schools, The Boys and Girls Club, local community centers, and local churches to feed children throughout the community while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Breakfast and lunch were provided throughout the Anniston community Wednesday, March 18th through Friday, March 20th, and services will resume after spring break, starting Monday, March 30th through Friday, April 3rd, from 10 am -12 pm.
“It’s been beneficial having The Salvation Army out in the community, providing food and snacks for my babies. Lieutenant Jennifer Graham visited my home. We sat and talked,” stated Monique Russell, Anniston mother of six.
The Salvation Army will meet at Anniston Middle School at 7:30 am each day to pack grab-n-go style breakfast and lunch to take into the community and distribute to kids. Volunteers are needed to assist with packing meals beginning March 30th.
“It has been a life-changing experience in preparing for what we are now calling a pandemic. Even in these moments, we all need to slow down and take care of one another. Taking care of children is one of the many priorities of The Salvation Army, so we are happy to be involved with the Anniston community,” stated Lieutenant Jennifer Graham, The Salvation Army of Anniston Corps Officer.
Any child K-12 may receive a free pre-packaged breakfast and lunch. No proof of residence is required, so any child from anywhere may participate. An adult or older sibling may pick up breakfast and lunch, but one child must be present.
On any given day, you’re likely to find Jerry Brown working in the vegetable garden that lies right in the middle of The Salvation Army of Lafayette, Louisiana. He’s all but guaranteed to have a massive grin across his face. Jerry is the Social Services Case Manager at the Lafayette Corps, and his passion for helping people combined with his passion for gardening has helped to produce a beautiful community garden. The food grown in this garden will supplement the food for their shelter kitchen—which feeds not only the residents of the shelter but also many hungry people from the community, often entire families. He has taken on the community garden as sort of a special project, acting as lead gardener while always welcoming help from volunteers. “The concept has always been a community garden—one that’s been put in by the community, maintained by the community. It’s on our physical property here, but everyone pitches in . . . I provide some oversight, direction, and it exists on volunteers is what it amounts to,” said Jerry. “Much like what God does, you need some fertile ground to plant that seed, so the roots sink in deep.”
The garden is surrounded by a cinder block border containing marigolds and other flowers which serve as a natural defense against aphids and other harmful insects. The garden contains tomatoes, different types of peppers, romaine lettuce, beans, cucumbers, eggplants, different spices, cantaloupes and watermelons. Jerry adds, “We have plans for a few other things—radishes, carrots, and whatever else we can find.” The plants in the garden have mostly been donated. All Seasons Nursery, a local garden center, held a Salvation Army Day where they matched donations and sales in the form of a gift card to The Salvation Army. There have also been several donations from people around the community just checking in and providing what was needed. Jerry said, “It’s amazing. Anytime we need something it’s always provided, always.”
In addition to the food provided by the garden, Jerry also places a high value on the fellowship that comes from working on it and watching it grow. He recalls, “A number of us were actually planting the seedlings, and we just started talking about, there’s a time to plant and a time to reap, and we kind of expanded on that into our own little Bible study…” That seed of remembering a bible verse grew into a larger discussion about their faith and the foundation of their faith—how people grow when God has planted them in good soil and how that leads to bearing fruit in their lives. “It’s just, it’s a blessing. It’s amazing,” Jerry adds, “the community involvement just keeps getting better and better.”
When asked what effect he thought the community garden will have on the shelter residents, besides the obvious benefit of having fresh fruits and vegetables to eat, Jerry emphasized the calm and welcoming nature that it adds to the shelter environment—being just one aspect of a greater effort to bring more comfort and stability to the men staying there. Jerry said, “The shelter has been transitioning over the past year. For instance, we started serving breakfast for the men. Just that little bit helps them hold their head a little higher and put their shoulders back and they say, ‘Ok, I can face today.’ I mean, being on the streets, it’s not easy. Just that little bit right there, that little bit of fellowship and prayer in the mornings, that helps. They come here, it’s a place of refuge where they can let that breath out, and go ‘whew, I don’t have to look over my back anymore.’ We have love and compassion here. These are people that care. Look around the environment right here, it’s not a harsh environment, it’s a welcoming—that’s what we are.”
by Jon Kalahar
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.”
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.
The Ketchams make a great team when it comes to disaster response. The father, son duo are one of the most experienced crews working in Baton Rouge this week following historic flooding throughout many parts of Southern Louisiana.
“I know how he wants things…I can anticipate what he wants,” said Ike Ketcham.
Dan drives and Ike navigates. They have worked as a team since Hurricane Gustav.
The pair moved to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit looking for work in construction. What they found was a way to help those in desperate need.
“We’ve had people try to pay us for the meals we give them off the canteen,” said Dan Ketcham. “I tell them I will only accept a handshake. You can see their surprise first, then the gratitude.”
Despite how “fluid” things seem to go on their canteen, their relationship hasn’t always been so smooth. Not too long ago, Dan was asked to read the bible scripture during church services at the New Orleans Salvation Army. He read from Luke 15…the story of the prodigal son.
“It took me a long time to read that cause my son was lost. I got choked up,” said Ketcham.
Ike saw what that scripture did to his father. Dan says he can’t explain what happened after that but Ike did a one eighty.
At one time, caught up in drugs and alcohol, Ike says The Salvation Army changed his life.
“The Salvation Army gave me the opportunity to change my life,” said Ike Ketcham. “I feel like I’m the luckiest person ever.”
Now, the Ketchams run their “ministry” out of a canteen each time they are called upon.
“I see how people are grateful, and the community is changed. It blows my mind every time we go out,” said Ike.
“The Salvation Army is a family, they welcomed me with open arms, and that’s what I do from the canteen,” says Dan.
To help those in these flooded areas across Southeast Louisiana, you can donate by going to http://give.salvationarmyusa.org/gulf_coast_floods.
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.
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