When the community of Anniston, AL sees their Salvation Army, they may only see the surface. They can see the Red Kettle in front of a local business, but they may not know where that kettle goes and how far its contents must stretch. They can see the Angel Tree, but they may not know how many more of those Angels they could serve. On the surface are bells ringing though the holidays, but for every bell there are many more who serve and who are served.
The Salvation Army is not a kettle or a bell. Those are windows into the work done by Anniston Corps Officers, Lts. Damon and Jennifer Graham. A person walking past the kettle does not see the food pantry, stocked with donations from the community and distributed by volunteers like John Holcomb. That passer-by may see an old building, but they do not see Lashun Mcgrew, meeting with clients to help them find resources to pay bills or feed young bellies. The Salvation Army is a church whose ministry is to do the most good where it is most needed.
The building is old. A former Coca Cola distribution center, it has served as the Corps office of The Salvation Army in Anniston since the 1950s. But inside, Lt. Jennifer Graham is working on rebuilding the foundations of that building and its place in the community. Not the building itself, but the organization, and their continuing mission to bring hope to those in need. They have traditionally had a shelter for those without a home, but Lt. Graham would like to see more. “I believe that the community does need an emergency shelter and a shelter for women and children and a transitional living shelter. But all those need the case management piece where we’re able to help clients not stay here long term, but to help them to be successful on their own.”
Case management is a means to help individuals rebuild their own foundation. Lashun Mcgrew is the Social Service Coordinator at the Anniston Corps office, and she is one part of that long-term goal. “There is a lack of affordable housing in the area. There are a lot of people on minimal income,” says Mcgrew. “They are using a lot of their income trying to keep a roof over their head.” Helping people find their way to self-sufficiency is part of the mission, but for some of the people that Mcgrew works with, the challenge begins with the having a place to call home.
One of those who has been served is John Holcomb. Originally from Georgia, he moved to the area in 2000 as a contractor for a gas company, but over time that work came to an end and he found himself in difficult circumstances. He had lost contact with his family and was in need of a hand up. “They helped me out when I needed it,” says John. “I wish there were more places like this.” Thankfully, John has taken that hand up and found opportunities for change. He has reconnected with his son in South Carolina, and uses his time at the shelter to volunteer in the food pantry. “I like helping people,” John says.
Rebuilding foundations is part of the mission. And that mission goes on with the support of the community. “In order for our doors to stay open, of course we need the support of the community,” says Lt. Jennifer Graham. “We can offer some assistance, and we can connect clients with other organizations that can help with rent and other services.” And that is just the beginning of the plans that Lt. Graham has for the Anniston Salvation Army Corps. She says that she plans a return of their youth ministry as part of The Salvation Army’s traditional character-building mission. Another foundation of the community itself, being rebuilt with the support of those who want to be a part of that revitalization.