Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
With your help, our mission continues as it always has, to meet human need wherever it exists. So whenever you see one of our famous red kettles or Angel Trees, we hope it serves as a reminder that Hope . . . and The Salvation Army . . . March On. You never know the life-changing effect your gift can make in someone’s life—like the Angel Tree gift of a guitar that helped shape young Jimmy Wayne’s future. He shares his story below.
It was 1987 when The Salvation Army gave me my first guitar through the Angel Tree program. I was familiar with The Salvation Army because my single mom depended on their services throughout my childhood. Suffering from what would be later known as bipolar disorder, my sister and I had a turbulent childhood filled with evictions, violence, and foster care, but never many Christmas presents. So when my social worker asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I wasn’t used to getting anything. I told her I wanted a guitar. I’m not sure what made me ask for a guitar, and I didn’t think I was really going to get one. I mean, it was such a huge ask for where I was in my life. Here I was, a homeless kid who might as well have been asking for a Lamborghini.
She signed me up for The Salvation Army Angel Tree program and then, incredibly, showed up with a big box one day. That little guitar gave me a place to escape and changed my life.
In 2001 I earned my first record deal on DreamWorks Records Nashville. The first song I wrote was “Paper Angels,” to commemorate the Angel Tree Program. I wanted to give back to the organization and the people who gave to me first. It was the first week most added country Christmas song since 1982, breaking the record set by Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.”
In 2011 I published my first book titled Paper Angels — again, to commemorate the Angel Tree program. In 2014 I was the co-executive producer with Odyssey Network and filmed Paper Angels. It was released on UpTV and can be seen on any streaming service.
I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given, but more importantly, music gave me a platform to advocate for at-risk youth who age out of the foster care system at 18 years old, with no skills and unprepared for life, and who end up on the streets.
None of this would have happened had it not been for that guitar from The Salvation Army Angel Tree Program. Even the smallest gifts are treasures to kids who have little to nothing. And, for kids who have no families, it symbolizes that they aren’t forgotten and that someone cares about them.
So I’m indebted to The Salvation Army and making sure that I do my part in raising awareness for a program that helped me out when I had nothing.