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Necessity is the mother of invention

We’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about what happens to families who lose their homes to foreclosure. While there are certainly some families who’ve been foreclosed upon in our residency programs, the more typical scenario is that we give them food, rent help, utility payments or other essentials so they can start over somewhere new.

Homeless families in Salinas, California are finding help in an unlikely place: the El Dorado Motel. It all started when Siddiqi Hansoti, the motel operator, welcomed Gus Hernandez and his family a few months ago after Hernandez lost his job in the loan industry and then his home.

El Dorado Motel

El Dorado Motel

Hansoti extended Hernandez credit for a room even though he was homeless. Not long after, Gus became the motel’s assistant manager. Now, about half the rooms at the El Dorado house homeless families at deeply discounted rates.

Sadly, because of a decline in tourism a lot of small motel operators in the area turn a blind eye to prostitution and drugs because they need the revenue to pay their bills. Hansoti has a totally different approach that helps families and allows him to cover his costs.

The Salvation Army and other local churches have begun providing needed services at the El Dorado. Salvation Army Captain Philip Smith says they’re planning to provide an after-school program and some help for the parents to find employment. Smith is sitting down with the families this week to find out from them what more he can do to ease their transition back into a place of their own.

I’d say that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Hansoti and Hernandez have come up with a creative solution to a handful of social problems and everyone involved is the better for it.

Please click here to read the newspaper account of this story online in The Californian.

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Giving during turbulent financial times

I got up today determined to make good on my promise to give a little something to my favorite charities. Of course, The Salvation Army tops the list (you’re not surprised, are you?) but I don’t want to leave out the public radio station I listen to every day, my favorite animal organization, and the international aid group that lets me buy goats and chickens for families in Africa.

Seems like I’m not the only one trying to give more during these uncertain economic conditions.  MSNBC posted a story yesterday which reported that charitable giving outpaced inflation in 2008.  Not only that, the numbers say, so far, that charities are resisting the recession.

clairegaudianibookThat may not last, but we may surprise ourselves. Claire Gaudiani, author of the book “The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism.” says that Americans give twice as much as the next most charitable country.

Giving to make life better for others is a pretty darn nice thing for the US to be best in the world at. No one does charitable giving like we do; or, like you do. Thank you for making sacrifices so that The Salvation Army can feed, shelter and care for folks who’ve hit bottom.  Really.


Filed under Charitable Giving, Economy

Brush, Colorado: Population 5,117, and one Salvation Army Outpost

Most of The Salvation Army news we hear is about large scale efforts like our mobilization for Hurricane Katrina, or world class programs such as the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers that are going up in communities around the United States.

It’s not often we get a chance to talk about what an all-volunteer Salvation Army in a tiny Colorado community did to keep one woman in fragile health alive.

Main Street, Brush Colorado

Main Street, Brush Colorado

Funded by the United Way and local foundations, the all-volunteer Salvation Army staff in Brush operate what we call an Outpost in Salvation Army parlance.  It’s not a program or a church, but a local service center in a community that’s not quite large enough to support a full-scale operation.  They help with rent payments, utility bills, medical bills,  and sometimes food, lodging and gasoline for people passing through town.

The Brush Salvation Army Outpost is great blessing to at least one young woman. New in Colorado and afflicted with grand mal epilepsy, she arrived to find out that her disability drug insurance plan didn’t cross state lines with her.  The cost of the deductible for her seizure medicines was well beyond her reach.

But thankfully, not beyond the reach of The Salvation Army.  When the volunteers, many of whom work at Brush City Hall, heard about her situation, they quickly offered to pick up the tab. Now, she’s got plenty of time to save up the cost of the deductible for next year, and stay seizure-free in the meantime.

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You can thank us (or, blame us!)

Historian John T. Edge, in his book Donuts: An American Passion says on the first two pages that Salvation Army lassies served up donuts to the boys in uniform during WWI, thus beginning America’s love affair with the delicious treat!

Delicious Donuts!

Delicious Donuts!

Apparently, the donut traces it’s roots to Europe, but gained a foothold on this continent after WWI when soldiers returned home longing for the treat they were served by the Salvation Army donut girl; a symbol of motherhood and home.

I’ve often said, that if I could get by with it, I’d eat donuts (and bacon) for every meal.  They’re surely one of my favorite things to eat, in moderation, of course.  Honestly, I didn’t know – until today – that I have my beloved Salvation Army to thank for bringing the humble donut to America.

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When I’m 93…

Charlie Wilson, KATU Television's Everyday Hero

Charlie Wilson, KATU Television's Everyday Hero

..I want to be just like Charlie Wilson. Why wait? I think I’ll start now.

Oregon’s KATU television just started a feature segment on their newscast about “everyday heroes.”  Constance Grecco, The Salvation Army’s Community Relations Director in Portland nominated a unique man with an incredible story. Watch the clip and see.

At 93 years old, Charlie Wilson shows no signs of slowing down.  Calling himself “an angel’s apprentice,” Charlie refers to his deceased wife who encouraged him through their years together to do as much as he can for others.

In the words of a fellow volunteer, Charlie does more to help people in a day than most people do in a lifetime.  Here’s to you Charlie, for a life well-lived. God bless you. May there be more and more tender souls like you.

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There’s something happening on Facebook right now

People are tagging one another with a list of “25 Random Things” about themselves and asking their friends to post their own lists on Facebook.   I couldn’t think of anything interesting about myself, so I came up with “25 Not-so-random Things” for The Salvation Army instead. The list is a collection of historic, unusual or larger-than-life factoids that may teach you something new!

1- Founded by William and Catherine Booth in 1865, The Salvation Army is an international church and provider of services to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in 116 countries around the globe.

2- The Salvation Army was one of the first major churches to ordain women. Founder William Booth’s wife Catherine was an ordained minister with the organization and a famous preacher in her own right.

3- The phrase “on the wagon” was coined by men and women receiving the services of The Salvation Army. Former National Commander Evangeline Booth – founder William Booth’s daughter – drove a hay wagon through the streets of New York to encourage alcoholics on board for a ride back to The Salvation Army. Hence, alcoholics in recovery were said to be “on the wagon.”

4- WWI and WWII soldiers have fond memories of The Salvation Army offering them complimentary donuts and coffee during wartime while another service organization was charging them 5 cents.

Click here to see 5 through 25 on my Facebook page.

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Filed under History, Missing Persons Bureau, Salvation Army Red Kettle, Service