Category Archives: Service

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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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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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

A sign of the times in Michigan

It’s a simple thing. People in crisis, waiting in frigid temperatures for help from somebody, watch a Salvation Army mobile kitchen roll up with hot coffee and cookies.  Usually, the setting is a house fire, a tornado or a flood. This time, it’s men and women waiting in a four-hour line on a January morning to register for unemployment  assistance.

In Michigan, the pain of unemployment is no less a crisis than a natural disaster. The numbers tell the story. In December, the US unemployment rate was 7.2 % but the rate in Michigan was a full 3 points higher at 10.2%. One in every ten people in Michigan are now unemployed.

Starting at 6:30 AM, Salvation Army workers and volunteers park in front of the Grand Rapids unemployment office to offer a little kindness to the hundreds waiting for their appointment.  Of course, The Salvation Army has programs to help feed, shelter and care for people experiencing financial disaster. But for now, a hot cup of coffee and a snack show folks that we care too.  Again, sometimes it’s the simple things.

Click on this link to read the full story at Michigan Online.

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Amazing Grace

The words to that hymn have deep meaning for people all over the world. And, for the men and women who were lost in addictions to drug and alcohol but now are found in sobriety, it means even more.

"Amazing Grace" TV spot

"Amazing Grace" TV spot

Our newest ad, coming to a television near you, is called “Amazing Grace.” It showcases the lives you save through the items donated to our Thrift Stores.

You see, everything you give to our Thrift Stores is sold to raise financial support that gives men and women who need it access to no-cost drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

This beautiful ad not only celebrates the grace that saves men and women every day, but it honors the part you play in it too.  Once you watch, I think you’ll see what I mean. Thank you.

Featured right now on The Salvation Army’s YouTube Channel – “Amazing Grace.”

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Filed under Drug / alcohol rehabilitation, Service

Never get tired of hearing this story

I ought to carry a counter in my pocket, something like this. If I had one of those for the last ten years I’ve been working for The Salvation Army, I could have clicked it off every time I hear a variation of this story:

doughnutgirl“My family always supports The Salvation Army because my grandpa said that during the war, you guys were offering the soldiers free coffee and doughnuts. Another service organization was there too, but they were charging 5 cents. Grandpa never forgot that and told us to take care of The Salvation because they helped take care of him.”

On average, I hear a version of that story once a month. The first time I heard it I was about to take my first job with The Salvation Army.  When I told my neighbor across the street, she got a tear in her eye and told me that we’d paid for her husband to come back to the States to attend his mother’s funeral during WWII.

Just yesterday, I got a message from a new follower on Twitter (follow us at @TSARedKettle) who said that his grandpa always loved The Salvation Army because we gave him soap and other provisions during the war, when another group expected him to pay for it.  He never forgot and now two generations later, his family hasn’t forgotten either.

Each time I hear the story, the folks telling me relate it in a way that shows me that they have no idea how many other people have shared a similar story with me already.

I’m sure The Salvation Army had no idea what their simple acts of kindness during wartime would produce over the generations. For those of us privileged to work for them now, we get the benefit of hearing it from kids and grandkids who are grateful that someone was there to offer a small token of caring at a time when our servicemen and women needed it most.

For a little bit of history on The Salvation Army Doughnut Girl, click here.

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