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Doing The Most Good With Melanie Cook

We can all do the most good in our everyday lives, whether it be helping an older neighbor with their yard work, recycling, or paying for coffee for the next person in line. There’s always a way to show God’s grace through your day-to-day deeds, but for some, doing the most good is their calling.

“It wasn’t my idea. It was His. The Lord has led me here,” is Melanie Cook’s response to dedicating so much of her time and energy to helping those in need.

Cook is a fulltime volunteer at The Salvation Army in Florence, Alabama, where she organizes the food pantry, cooks, and serves meals to residents. She’s also responsible for bringing in her fellow members of Highland Baptist Church to join in volunteer efforts at The Salvation Army.

The Lord Spoke To Me

Cook says the Lord spoke to her about being more involved in charity work through her Bible readings. She wasn’t sure how to get started and began working with a local ministry that prepared weekly meals for the homeless. She met a couple in that ministry who introduced her to The Salvation Army. Cook saw how in need the shelter was and recruited other members from her church to assist. Word spread, and volunteering at The Salvation Army is now a church-wide service at Highland Baptist Church.

When asked to share her experience working with Cook, Christine Onocki, The Salvation Army Florence Corps Volunteer Coordinator, said, “My words are not adequate to express the gratitude in my heart for Melanie’s volunteer participation with us. She has such a beautiful spirit. She recognizes a need and jumps into action, organizing groups to fill the need or fill in the gaps. We are blessed to have her and her fellow church members. The phrase “With a heart for God and a hand to man” would describe this wonderful woman. We are very thankful.”

Fulfilling A Calling

Among all the other good they do, Cook’s ministry took it upon themselves to assist when the shelter was in desperate need of new bedding. The shelter received a large donation of bedspreads from one of the local hotels. Though the offer was generous and appreciated, most of the comforters were queen and king-sized, much too large for the twin-sized beds that most shelters provide. Shelters wash their bedding frequently, and the large size of the donated bedding would cause wear and tear on the machines, so Cook and three other women from her church decided to use their sewing skills to cut and hem the material, making two covers out of one. This act was much appreciated and helped make the bedding supplies at the shelter more efficient and easier to handle for both staff and residents.

In addition to loving what she does, Cook enjoys interacting with the people she serves. To Cook, volunteering isn’t just about the service provided. It’s also about making personal connections and showing people who may not currently have a source of companionship that there are people who care about them. She has found that volunteering sometimes works as a personal kind of witnessing ministry. People share their feelings and thoughts with her, which allows her to share their stories and assist others with making much needed societal changes.

“I don’t know if volunteers from my church have the same calling, but knowing the Lord gave me this duty leaves me with a strong sense of satisfaction each day,” Cook declared. “It’s a blessing to be able to talk to people and let them know that I’m just like them. We have different problems, but we all have problems. I can share with them how the Lord has worked in my life and encourage them that He can do the same for them. I remind them that this is just a temporary situation and that He’s there for them,” Cook added.

Volunteering Will Change Your Perspective

People have approached Cook on the street, asking for food and money. She informs them that they never have to go hungry because The Salvation Army serves meals every day. She also wants people in shelters to know that she doesn’t feel like they are different from her. She wants to offer encouragement about God and overcoming hardships, so she often sits and prays with people concerning finding a job, a place to live, and reuniting with their families.

“Homelessness has separated so many families. We don’t always get a happy ending with those, but sometimes we do. I try to share those happy endings with my Sunday school class. You know, ‘So-and-so moved out of The Salvation Army and into their apartment this week.’ or “So-and-so whose child was taken away by DHR is getting their baby back.’ The Salvation Army has played such a massive part in people’s lives,” Cook said.

Cook would like to see more people get involved. She often encounters lonely people at the shelter who feel that their lives have little meaning. She believes that if more people would share their time by volunteering at The Salvation Army, their perspectives on life will change, and they’ll realize they are more abundant and more blessed than they think.

Cook emphasizes the importance of sharing your time with others by adding, “Volunteering and witnessing these miracles has given me a boldness to share my faith. God is so good to us, and there’s a lot that we can do to change the world. One person at a time. Volunteer.”

Contact your local Salvation Army to learn how you can contribute.

Do Good Day

“Good afternoon, thank you so much for calling The Salvation Army’s ‘Do Good Day’ phone bank!” That was the greeting callers heard as they phoned into The Salvation Army of Jackson, Mississippi’s inaugural “Do Good Day” event. It was a “Mediathon,” where for 18 hours, with phone lines open as early as 4:30 am, the community called, texted, and hand-delivered cash to help support The Salvation Army’s life changing services for those in need.

Donations began early, as every broadcast media outlet in the city came out to partner with and support the work of The Salvation Army. As live reports flooded the airwaves in the morning, drivers on their way into work could hear the message, “It’s Do Good Day!” on local radio across the dial. Billboards lit up the early morning streets and stayed running all throughout the day, reminding the community that June 27, 2019 was a very good day to do the most good for their community.

The event was a first in the Jackson community. The first with such a broad reach, and the first with so much cooperation and support from local businesses and local media. Do Good Day was the story of the day across the Jackson metro area. “It’s a broad range, multi-media event to raise awareness and money for the missions of The Salvation Army. We say missions because there is a lot we are doing,” said Jackson Development Director and event organizer, Jennifer Bennett.

And those missions are many. The Salvation Army mission is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.” Those needs can include something as immediate as emergency services, as simple as a meal, or as enriching as art education for the next generation. The message of Do Good Day was that the community can help to support these services as volunteers and as donors.

It was a message heard throughout the Jackson area as media outlets, in partnership with The Salvation Army helped raise awareness all day. More than a simple news story, it was an event seen and felt all throughout the community. It was a day where people could see the work of The Salvation Army as more than Red Kettles at Christmas. It was a day when the mission of The Salvation Army became the mission of the people of Jackson. And it was a day where those people raised over $50,000 in donations.

The all-day media event that helped raise that money also raised awareness of how The Salvation Army is making a difference in Jackson. Donations help feed and house people in need. They also make a difference in the lives of children and families. Donors to The Salvation Army do good every day.

Serving Lee County Volunteers

Smiths Station, AL (March 7, 2019)— The Salvation Army continues to be a light of help and hope for those affected by the recent devastating Southeast Alabama tornadoes. On Wednesday, March 6, that help took the form of setting up a canteen (mobile feeding unit) at the Lee County Emergency Management Agency’s Volunteer Reception Center that has been established at Smiths Station Baptist Church. Those wishing to volunteer with the county can drop into the center, receive training and an assignment, and head out to do their volunteer work. The Salvation Army is on hand to provide meals, beverages and snacks to those volunteers, and in many cases, to the people the volunteers are heading out to serve.

“I’m just very grateful the tornado hit half a mile from my home in two different directions. It went over my house. I’m very grateful to the Lord that I didn’t get hurt, and I just want to help those that are,” said Yvette Greene, a county volunteer who loaded up her car with meals from The Salvation Army canteen to share with those already in the field. Another volunteer, Tricia Harm, mother of seven, brought four of her children who are old enough to volunteer to the center on Wednesday, to serve those hurting in their community. Tricia and her teenage children came to The Salvation Army canteen for lunch before heading out to their volunteer assignment. “We are volunteering to help clean up, because it’s our town. We’re a military family, but it’s our town. The kids wanted to help and this is what we can do, so this is what we’ll do,” said Tricia.

The Salvation Army is proud to provide for tornado survivors and those who are volunteering to serve their hurting neighbors. To date, The Salvation Army has provided 1,495 meals, 619 drinks, 1,143 snacks, and emotional and spiritual care to 71 individuals. To donate to tornado relief efforts, go to helpsalvationarmy.org.

Columbus Tornado Relief All About Community

Columbus, MS (February 28, 2019)— Immediately after an EF-3 tornado struck the small town of Columbus—known as “The Friendly City”—  on Saturday, February 23, 2019, The Salvation Army has been serving and partnering with community groups and businesses to bring as much help as possible to those in need. The Community Benefit Committee, a local volunteer group made up of community leaders in Columbus, approached The Salvation Army early on about working together and a fruitful relationship was born. “The Salvation Army’s values are so close to ours, so who better to work with,” said Rhonda Sanders, Columbus police officer and one of the chief coordinators of The Community Benefit Committee.

Columbus Salvation Army Corps Officer, Lt. Christian Smith, says the partnership has been a blessed experience all around. “We recognize the needs for the community will be ongoing and are grateful for all partnerships and the donations which have been provided thus far. It is heartwarming to see how everyone has come together to serve those who have been affected. It’s pretty much like providing a big group hug,” said Lt. Smith.

To date, The Salvation Army has distributed the following tornado relief items to the Columbus community: 2,480 meals, 2,020 drinks, 820 snacks, 400 comfort/hygiene kits, 160 tarps, 100 blankets, and 200 pillows. To donate to The Salvation Army’s relief efforts, go to helpsalvationarmy.org .

Canteen workers pull double duty for Baton Rouge flood and Hurricane Matthew, proud to serve

You never know where disaster will strike next. Over the last several months, the southern United States has seen more than its fair share of disaster. In August, historic rainfall in south Louisiana caused flooding like no one had ever seen. Two months later, Hurricane Matthew bared down on Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas with heavy rain and winds flooding homes and knocking down power lines.

In the aftermath of each storm, it was The Salvation Army and its officers, employees and volunteers who brought hope to those in need in the weeks following.

The Army’s response and ability to help would be drastically reduced without the men and women who spend countless hours serving meals, drinks and snacks from our canteens In the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division, we are blessed to have hundreds who give of their time and energy to go above the call of duty as canteen workers.

Four canteen workers stand out these last few months Gary Williams, Birmingham Command, Jerry Casey and Leo Saurez, Mississippi Gulf Coast Command, and Joe McDaniel, Tuscaloosa Corps because they served during the Louisiana floods and after Hurricane Matthew blew through.

Gary Williams grew up in Levittown, PA. He retired from U.S. Steel and is now a driver for The Salvation Army in Birmingham and is responsible for transporting clients, picking up donations and food, and manages the fleet of vehicles in Birmingham, including the canteen.

Gary completed two deployments this year, one in Baton Rouge and the other for Hurricane Matthew. He was initially deployed to Jacksonville, Florida and was relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina after the storm hit.

“I enjoy being a canteen worker because I enjoy helping people out when they really need it,” said Williams. “

Gary says we was glad to have his son, Keith along as a volunteer during the Hurricane Matthew response, but their trip to Florida and then North Carolina was anything but easy.

“On our way traveling from Florida to North Carolina, we had a very difficult time because so many roads were flooded and power lines were down. It was long trip to North Carolina,” said Williams.

Mississippi Gulf Coast’s dream team of canteen workers, Jerry Casey and Leo Saurez say their willingness to work on a canteen comes from just loving to serve others.

Jerry, a Long Island native, laughs at the thought of another disaster so close to these two.

“We are young, healthy and have a desire to help people so it wasn’t a problem. We hope there isn’t another disaster in the next week,” said Casey. “If there is, we will certainly be willing to help!”

Born in the Phillipines, Leo counts among his favorite memories of both the Louisiana flood and Hurricane Matthew being able to help the children they encountered.
“When kids come to the food trucks and I see their smiles,” said Saurez.

 

And, it’s reactions like that that make these canteen workers feel blessed to work for The Salvation Army.

“They say, ‘GOD bless you, we can’t believe you came to serve us.’ As if they felt they weren’t deserving to be served,” said Casey.

“When we see people after a disaster they are so grateful that we are there to help. While serving in Baton Rouge, I met a woman that broke down and started crying and said she wouldn’t know what to do without The Salvation Army. I was able to be there at that moment, give her hug and let her know that there is help out there,” said Williams.

Thank You Gary, Jerry, Leo and Joe for all you do for those in need during times of disaster.

Doing the Most Good: As workers prepare for flooding, Vicksburg and Jackson Corps provide food

The Salvation Army of Vicksburg and Jackson helped feed 50 Warren County workers Thrusday who are filling sandbags around the Old Depot Museum on Levee Street in Vicksburg. Volunteers served lunch as the workers prepare the area for the rising Mississippi River. Workers have been working for days to protect the museum which sits right on the banks of the river. The Mississippi River is expected to crest at Greenville, MS on January 13 and at Vicksburg on January 15.  Our Emergency Disaster Services Director, Terry Lightheart is working with local emergency management organizations to make sure The Salvation Army can respond to areas most in need.

“This is why we are here, to provide food to first responders. In a flood situation, it is these workers filling up the sandbags to hopefully protect this property,” said Lightheart. “Right now, The Salvation Army is on stand by from Greenville and Vicksburg, to Natchez, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, if these local and state agencies need us, we’ll be there.”

Anniston Corps working for God’s Glory, Doing The Most Good

Being a parent of five children, I often hear the statement, “that’s not fair.” Usually, those three words come from a child who feels his or her parents purposely jobbed them out of getting the most awesome piece of candy ever created or the toy of all toys made by Santa himself.  They’re really dramatic about it too.

In another example, a friend’s parents bought them a scooter and it just wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t get a scooter also or so they’d say. Our reaction is the same…yes, Braden, Will, Olivia, Thomas, Lillian (I’m sure the order here has the youngest two yelling, “How come I can’t be first? That’s not fair!”) life is not fair and you don’t always get what you want.

I can imagine our heavenly father’s response to us would be the same. After all, God promises to take care of us, not necessarily that all will be fair throughout our lives.

These examples entered my mind as I left the Anniston Corps of The Salvation Army.  I visited with Captains Bert and Christy Lind for a couple days to figure out how we could garner more attention for the work they and a handful of dedicated employees and volunteers are doing.

You see, if there was ever a reason to cry “not fair”, it’s in Anniston right now. The Corps is housed in an old Coca Cola bottling plant, and when I say old, I mean 1926 old. The problems at the moment include a roof repair that will cost thousands and some old pipes that don’t like the cold weather.

This isn’t to say the facilities are inadequate. Walking around the grounds you can see just how much space the Anniston Corps has to work with…and work is not something the Linds or their workers shy away from.

Walking into the building for the first time, I was greeted by an employee helping a family wheel out groceries that will help them through the weeks ahead. The colder temperatures called for a warming station to be opened so the area homeless could get out of the dangerous weather. A volunteer mans the warming station to help those who come inside. (I counted at least fifteen who’d come in out of the cold when I was there). On that same day, volunteers gathered to go pass out food bags to the needy in town, and that doesn’t even speak of the busy Family Store on campus.

I’m definitely not writing this to make you feel sorry for these faithful officers, soldiers and employees, but rather the opposite. You see, these folks will spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what their building looks like and no matter what it becomes in the future. In fact, the Captains aren’t ones to talk about their accomplishments.

I’m not sure about this because I never ask Captain Lind, but if I had to guess, my guess is he subscribes to the motto: “Let go, and let God.” So, the Linds will keep working, they’ll keep serving, and they will keep sharing the Word of God. One thing you won’t get from them though is a lot of complaining. They know who’s in control.

To me, that’s what makes The Salvation Army a great place to work and that’s why you should help out with your time, donations, and prayers. To make a donation or volunteer, contact The Salvation Army of Anniston at 256-236-5643