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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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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Holistic ministry helped Delora go from crack to college

ABCNews.com featured a beautiful story this week about a woman named Delora who spent twenty years of her life addicted to drugs, in jail, homeless, and in and out of rehab five times.

The last time Delora decided to get clean of drugs, she meant it. And, she credits the holistic ministry she found at The Salvation Army’s First Choice program in Fort Worth, Texas with much of her success.  She needed a place to live:  she got one. She needed the support of firm, caring counselor: she got that too.  And she learned important life skills at First Choice that she’d never mastered in her previous life. Things like meal preparation, budgeting, stress management, etc.

Delora EvansHer story is proof positive that simply moving homeless people into “affordable housing” isn’t the answer. Years spent living on the street, battling addictions, and brushes with the law doesn’t prepare people to live on their own productively. The only way to help people whose lives have become chaotic like Delora’s is to give them plenty of time in a supportive environment to learn new ways of coping with life.

Delora has done that and so much more. After receiving her associate degree from junior college in 2004, Delora graduated from University of North Texas on December 13 – magna cum laude – with a degree in rehabilitation studies.

The mother of four works as a drug counselor at Hutchins State Jail and will begin pursuing her master’s degree later this month and her her long-range goal of becoming a prison chaplain.

Reading stories like Delora’s are one of the great benefits of working for The Salvation Army. No, they don’t all turn out like Delora’s but by God’s grace, so many of them do.

Congratulations Delora! (read more about her story at ABCNews.com)

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A pink raincoat says “love” to Victoria

The Stockton Record posted a story this week about an annual coat drive The Salvation Army has been doing there for 15 years. The best part of the story was the accompanying photo of four-year-old Victoria smiling as she picks a pink raincoat in her size from the rack.

Local station News 10 is The Salvation Army’s partner for the drive which collected 36,000 coats this year. That’s a whole lot of coats!

What a great story, but sadly, coat drives may be a thing of the past. New legislation is about to take effect which would require all retailers to test clothing, toys, etc., intended for kids 12 and younger for unhealthy levels of lead. The new regulations are aimed at keeping kids safe, but the requirement may put smaller retailers and re-sale shops out of business if they’re forced to test merchandise or have to pay an expensive fine if a banned item reaches the sales floor.  During an already struggling economy, the law seems badly timed.

The Salvation Army has no official position on the new law, but I’m certainly hoping legislators will take another look and find a better alternative.

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Joining the YouTube generation!

Would you be surprised if I told you that The Salvation Army USA has it’s own YouTube Channel? Well, wipe that shocked expression off your face, because we do.  And, it’s oh, so cool too!

Featured there right now is an ad two guys made for our annual kettle campaign called, “The Kettle: Maybe There’s a Reason the World Leaves Us with Change.” Jeff Greenspan and Noah Clark had a great idea, so they made the ad and donated it to us.

Sure, we’ve moved past the Christmas holiday season, but the ad is so clever and well made that it’s worth another look. And, while you’re there, check out some of the other videos we’ve posted for you.

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Salvation Army lingo, part 1.

This morning the phone rang really early. When I get early phone calls on a weekend  it usually means bad news. Well, this morning was no different. My dear friend called to say that her dad finally succumbed to the infection he’d been fighting in the hospital all week and died peacefully early this morning.

Mr. J was a warm, kind man: an absolute delight. His wife, kids and grand-kids are going to miss him terribly. As sad as it is, there’s one consolation.

In The Salvation Army, when someone dies, we say they’ve been “Promoted to Glory” (or, PTG – every organization has their own lingo and a few acronyms too). Mr. J was certainly Promoted to Glory this morning. After a life mixed with joy and pain, he was finally elevated to the position he’s been dreaming about his whole life: spending the rest of eternity praising his Creator and Friend.

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