Introduction Stories-received services
Let me introduce you to some of our client stories:
Hung by magnets on the front of my refrigerator is a little postcard that contains a small but HUGE pretense, by which I try to live each day. It says,
“ One hundred years from now
It won’t matter
What kind of car I drove
What kind of house I lived in
How much money I had in the bank
Nor what my clothes looked like
The world may be a little better
Because, I was important
In the life of a child. “
Jeff appeared, along with his wife and two step-children, seeking utility assistance. While I did not recognize him, he remembered me, stating as much when he said, “You don’t remember me do you? I was in here years ago and you helped me with a bill.”
Actually, I did remember his face but not what I had done for him. But once he reminded me of his story a little bit, it all came back to me. Jeff was in a troubled marriage, his children’s lives in shambles, having been very negatively impacted by their emotionally manipulative Mother. Despite his best efforts as a loving husband and father, it was all falling apart around him. He was very distraught. On top of that his electric was about to be shut off. Yep, I remembered Jeff, for his OUTER spirit was quite crushed and yet I could easily see with-IN him a beautiful and indelible will be survive, strive and succeed despite life’s harsh blows.
Now, all these years later, he is here again seeking assistance, but in wholly different circumstances. His marriage did fall apart, and his children still choose to remain estranged from their Dad. However, his days and heart are filled now with the love and joy from his current wife and her two sons. Jeff could not say enough regarding his deep gratitude for the support and assistance he received here all those years ago; he seemed jubilant to introduce us to his wife, sharing with her, in our presence, his feelings for The Salvation Army. Further, he made a heart-felt point of telling his (step)-sons about the importance of people who help out in a time of crisis. Jeff espouses the practice of walking in an attitude of gratitude. What a wonderful exampling of fully living one’s life, rather than just metering time’s passage.
The biological father of the boys showered them with condemnation, degradation, and cold regard. But here today, clearly evident is the warm relationship Jeff has with the two boys. Without prior knowledge, there would have been no way I could have told that they were not his biological children. It seems that Jeff is a true blessing in THEIR lives as much as he related that WE had been in his years ago.
While here with us, Jeff, his wife and the boys received an invitation to join us for our ‘Lunch Bunch”, which they accepted. In addition, they overheard of a need that we were currently facing, and took it upon themselves to bless us with a donation of material and of their time. One of the boys took it upon himself to assist total strangers in carrying our their groceries from our pantry support. And yet, if she said it once, she said it a hundred times; Jeff’s wife kept telling us that we could not grasp how much they both appreciates us, and how blessed they feel to see their eldest son being so empowered to help others while here. (In fact, he just beamed at hearing us praise him for helping the other Salvation Army guests.)
Okay, so the visit today was originally about a utility bill. Yet it grew to be so much more; a grateful man being able to express his thoughts, a wife and mom seeing for herself that agencies and people do care, young boys received self-worth, empowerment and praise for helping strangers, and a healing new family unit finds a new set of friends. I overheard the boys on their way out the door telling Jeff and their Mom, “ We’re coming back here, right? We like it here. It ‘s important to help people – and here, even WE can help.”
I truly think they’ll be back, don’t you. And indeed the world may be a little better
because, we were important
in the life of a child. “
She had always trusted in her husband’s ability to care for their family and manage their needs. He had always been a wonderful provider and she never questioned him in that role. These folks were always there to be counted upon to contribute to worthy causes; church, food drives, mission programs and the likes. Together “Bob and Lucy” raised eight children, all of whom they sent through Christian schools, for this was a high priority to this faith filled couple. While all the children are now grown and gone, they all have moved on to professional employment making their parents very proud.
Recently, making ends meet, being the capable provider of the house, had become increasingly more difficult for Bob. The couple endured the loss of several automotive service businesses due to the declined economic conditions. Bob went to work for others instead of being the boss. This was a significant change for him, yet he did so in order that he could meet the needs of his family. When these jobs dried up and unemployment ran out Bob was out of options. Still this resilient couple continued to manage,… anyway they could. They sold a lot of their belongings to keep afloat. When Lucy’s car was repossessed, it became a hardship for the couple to be down to one car. Still they managed. As the utility bills began to show past due notices, Bob kept assuring Lucy that he had a plan, that it was being taken care of. She believed him without questioning. And then, the bottom dropped out.
Their power was shut off. Residing in the country, this meant no power to the well, which meant no water. It meant no electric service, no heat and no cooling, and no lights. For thirteen days! Lucy was dismayed and devastated. Bob said he was taking care of it, that he had a plan! She thought payments were being made, but none had been made to the Electric Company. Lucy was crushed, embarrassed, and frustrated, without a sense of what to do next. But her faith carried her; she began looking for assistance agencies to help them. Lucy contacted DHS, and began to complete their Assistance Application book. She also called The Salvation Army and learned what was necessary at the time of the appointment she scheduled with us.
Meanwhile, even when they were unable to see the evidence of it, God was already moving in their circumstances. While the couple was out driving around, impulse made them stop into a large, local car dealership to see about any automotive service positions they might have. It was two o’clock. Lucy waited in the car as Bob went in. Two hours later when he came out, she learned the dealer had a position for a Service Writer available, but Bob, dressed in shorts, wearing a beard and looking more like he was on vacation, hardly looked the part. The dealer asked him to return two Hours later LOOKING like a service writer, at which time they would then interview him for the job. It was now 4 o’clock.
How to get ready?!?! He had no electricity with which to shave,….so they went over to a family members retirement home and used their electric shaver. Now what about proper attire for an interview? Bob hadn’t had dress clothes in so long, and what he did have, no longer fit. On a prayer, they went into a local resale store, where, of course, they miraculously found, a nice pair of dress black shoes, a proper pair of black dress pants, and a blend new white shirt!! A quick dash how to gather ASE certifications, awards and the likes, and they were off to return to the interview. In the end, Bob got the job.
While this job was a true blessing, they were still faced with having no power. At this point, the ice had long ago melted, Lucy was getting water from a neighbors’ house, and still trying to cook meals on a gas stove. Now, they were having to throw away all the spoiled foods from the freezer.
Lucy appeared for her Salvation Army Utility Appointment, visibly shaken and uncomfortable. As she met with the Social Worker, she described their plight. Never once did she try to blame anyone else for their situation. She humbly asked for ‘whatever little help would be greatly appreciated”. With such a large past due amount, and a related large deposit now required reestablishing service. Her need was great. Confronted with the largest amount of financial need ever seen, the Social Worker prayerfully proceeded to the Captain’s office upstairs. However, through consultation with the Officer, the Social Worker moved to cover the full amount of assistance required to restore the power immediately. This woman was overwhelmed with disbelief, joy and gratitude. Both the Social Worker and Lucy wept.
Then they prayed together.
To further alleviate their financial burdens, we encouraged Lucy to receive grocery assistance this day, also. She was extremely reluctant, telling us ‘This should be given to others, saved for families with children.” Lucy even wondered if we had enough food. She shared with us that just recently SHE placed food out at her mail box to support the annual postal food drive. This woman, whose power was not even at the time, placed donated food out in order to help others!! Wow!! We had to nearly insist she let us help with groceries. Finally, she agreed.
As this woman left us, we felt we had done a number of good things; restored her electric service, replaced some of the food she lost in thawed freezers, lifted she and her family up in prayer, and quite probably, aided in restoring her comfort level with her spouse who was then in day four of his new job. He was returning to being “the provider” role. Lucy added that he seemed to be back to her ‘old Bob, ‘the way he was before, when he worked.
Two days later, imagine our true surprise when she returned to our location and delivered to us what she called her ‘tithe’. She was still awed that they were the recipients of such help and support. WE were awed by her grace, her true appreciation and her rich spirit. WE were blessed by HER.
A hard working man, James had always tried hard to make it on his own, despite his disability. James wears dual hearing aids for his hearing deficit. While these greatly enhance his capacity to hear, he still also lips reads to relate to the general public. He has the expected thick speech common to hearing impaired individuals making it challenging for other to converse with James at times. Despite all this, he has maintained employment in the healthcare industry, working a maintenance position. Declining work hours place James in a position he had never found himself before; having to seek assistance with his rent. James knew not where to look for help, having never been in such a predicament before. His landlord, being aware that we offer such, suggested he come here for help, ( testimony to the fruits of developing good relationships with the local landlords!).James met with the Social Service Director, through whom he was eventually able to secure rental assistance. He also learned that we and other agencies offer grocery assistance, which helped with his budgetary concerns. (Because he does work, he is prohibited Food Stamp assistance because they say he makes too much.) But what happened that day is so much larger than the rental and grocery assistance; for what James REALLY discovered that day was a new family, a sense of community and a “welcoming” despite his disability. The day James came for his appointment was one of the days we serve “Lunch Bunch”, a community feeding program. At the conclusion of the assistance appointment, we encouraged James to stay for lunch. He did, and while here he discovered one of our volunteers is also hearing impaired, and several others know and use sign language. His world opened up. The smile on his face was enormous! It was so obvious he felt welcomed and included in the fellowship here. James kept remarking, “I had no ideas there were places like this to help a person. I have just always tried to do it on my own. What a blessing!” James’ rent was long ago paid yet he continues to come to The Salvation Army three days weekly for not only a hearty meal but also a full serving of fellowship. His work hours have not yet been fully restored but he has learned that there are others ways he can get by in the mean time. And, he used to feel somewhat isolated because of his disability, but now feels he has found a new set of friends here at The Salvation Army, where he is fully accepted. To quote James, “What a blessing!”
Please Meet Cathy
Cathy had worked hard all her life, earning what living she could in order to provide for her family. She proudly raised her daughter on her own. The absent father of the household had long since left, and had always managed to skirt paying any child support. Though she had to live frugally, Cathy’s efforts paid off – her only child grew into a beautiful human being. Cathy’s pride was just; her only child a daughter grew up to become a health care para-professional, giving of herself to others daily.Though never overly paid, Cathy enjoyed her work. She viewed her work as more of a ‘gift’ to others, using her wonderfully expressive journalistic abilities to write the obituaries for an area newspaper. While some folks thought her employment was depressing or macabre, she lifted her tasks up as honored service to others. For Cathy, to be able to capture for the bereaved family in their time of grief and loss, the true essence of their lost love one was truly a gift from the heart. She always took great care when writing the stories of those recently passed. Cathy could never have predicted what would come next.In the early grips of this year’s fierce winter temperature plunge, Cathy’s world fell apart. Temperatures were dropping, roads were icy, and tragedies were unfolding. When Cathy received word of an auto accident involving her daughter, her heart sank. When she arrived at the hospital,……..and learned she arrived too late, her world went black. Arrangements had to be made, people needed to be called …and an obituary needed to be written. Now this is something Cathy never foresaw she would be doing for her daughter. Worst yet, Cathy found that pulling together even a modest service and arrangements proved to be costly.After everything was over, when Cathy thought she just couldn’t take anymore, she received in the mail a “Demand For Possession” form from her landlord, stating she was behind in her rent and must pay up or leave. Unable to pay due to the funeral expenses, Cathy learned that The Salvation Army offers assistance with these circumstances. During the rent assistance appointment, Cathy wept openly and uncontrollably as she shared with us her story. “She was my heart”, she said, speaking of her daughter. Once it became clear that we would be able to alleviate her burden for rent money, her tears turned from utter emotional fatigue to those of pure relief and deep gratitude. Someone once wrote that “Home is where the heart is”. If this is true then much good was done this day, for with our help Cathy was able to remain where she feels closest to her daughter’s memory. She lost her daughter – we couldn’t help with that. But we COULD help by keeping her from losing her home. Not a bad day’s work.
Please Meet Gerry
Gerry was barely able to read or write and had long depended upon a good neighbor and friend, to help him manage his bills and general life affairs. He existed financially on a very modest income for disability. Though living marginally, Gerry had successfully lived alone and done reasonably well with minimal help from others for many years. His only constant companion was his beloved cat, Garfield.Recently, however, his circumstances changed and he found himself alone, frightened and in crisis. Gerry’s neighbor friend moved away, leaving him without a ‘go-to’ person to help him. To compound his situation, he was presently undergoing treatments for leukemia, a frightening thing to go through if you have a support network; TERRIFYING if you are alone. Here it is now, November, when Gerry comes home from one of his leukemia treatments to find his mobile home cold, and a notice of disconnect on his door from the local natural gas vendor. Panicked he phoned the utility vendor and sadly learned that they had sent him warnings of disconnect due to his having past due arrearages,…he, however had been unable to read them and did not realize his disconnect was imminent. Now it had come to fruition.From the list of support agencies provided to Gerry by the utility vendor, he chose to call The Salvation Army. A scared and tearful Gerry asked hesitantly if we helped with shut offs. When he heard a “yes, we do” on the other end of the phone, he shuddered tear-soaked “Thank you, God”. Despite being booked solidly for appointments that day, Gerry was told to come in and we would work him in. Of course, we were able to help Gerry with is shut off, established with the gas company a time to come out and restart his service and we also assisted him with groceries. When we learned when the service would be on, it was evident that he would still be cold for a few hours. The coat Gerry was wearing was not adequate for the temperatures this day, so we also outfitted Gerry with a gently used but very warm winter coat and gloves.As we were finishing up with Gerry, we called out to him, “Oh! Gerry, wait,…one more thing!!” As he turned back toward us, he was handed a warm, snuggly lap-sized blanket. Puzzled he gazed at the blanket now I his hands and asked “What is this for?” With a smile, we answered, “To keep Garfield extra warm until your power is restored. ” The smile that broke across Gerry’s face in that moment was enough to warm all of us for the rest of the day.
Please Meet Darren
Picture if you will, the absolutely cutest four year old boy in the world; one who peers at the world through eyes so blue that they look a mile deep, and has red hair, bright enough to make the sun blush. Darren is a friend of ours here at The Salvation Army. He first came into our presence when accompanying his grandmother who was seeking grocery assistance. It was plainly obvious that the love bond between Darren and his Grandmother was a very strong one. Grandmother, who herself had come upon hard times, was also trying to help out her daughter, Darren’s mother, by providing baby sitting while Darren’s mother was at work. Grandmother came seeking groceries and while here learned of our community feeding program called ‘Lunch Bunch”. We were all so pleased one day to see Grandmother and Darren come for lunch!!! Darren burst through the door with a cherubic smile, seeking out those of whom he had previously met during the grocery visit. Once seated at the table after grace was given, Grandmother shared that after playing in the park that morning, she asked Darren where he wanted to go now. He quickly responded with “to that place were they helped us. Let’s go for lunch!!” She complied with his request and they are now frequent guests around the table for our lunches. Grandmother explained to us that Darren kept telling her he liked coming here, that the people were fun, that he learned about God and he liked the lunches. Darren has won the hearts of everyone here, Grandmother has found a circle of support and a family she never knew she had and we have learned that angels can come in the form of little blue eyed, red haired boys.
Please Meet Mabel
For most of us, starting our day out with a stout cup of “Joe” is a standard practice. Why,….. we don’t even hardly think about it; we just stumble toward the automatic coffee maker, which we pre-set the night before, so as to have the our cup of liquid gold ready when we are. Yep, we take it for granted. In many of our worlds, coffee is a staple, a necessity, a daily practice that we think as much about as we do breathing regularly. Recently, however, I was caused to think differently because of some new guests in our Salvation Army offices. A family came in seeking pantry assistance. They were new to us and had never before found themselves in a position of needing to seek assistance. Immediately upon entering our space, one of the women was taken back by the rich and warm aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee. She raised her nose and closed her eyes, her nostrils flared as she strained to take in as much of the aroma as possible. She exclaimed, “Man , that coffee smells good.” She was quick to accept the invitation to enjoy a cup, stating “I take mine black, please.” She clutched the cup tenderly with both hands as if it were a precious chalice, containing life-saving water. Never before had I ever witnessed anyone drink a cup of coffee with more reverence and appreciation. This family was merging households, cutting corners, eliminating everything that was not absolutely essential and STILL they were having financial challenges. Job losses and expired unemployment benefits plagued their home. Coffee, along with many other items, had become a non-essential. As we proceeded through the intake interview for pantry assistance, the woman timidly asked, “Do you ever give away coffee?” As we were explaining that the pantry is solely donation driven and supported, our volunteer pantry worker was overhearing the conversation and swiftly went to work scurrying through the shelves. When the grocery bags were brought out from our supply area by the volunteer, perched atop one of the bags was a jar of Folger’s Instant Crystals. As she gathered her family’s grocery bags up in her arms, her delirious joy was truly audible when she spied the coffee jar. With breathy exclamation the woman said, ” Oh, something to make our days resemble normal again. THANK YOU!!!”After the family departed, the three of us present for this visit stood looking at each other, lacking words to capture what we had just experienced. With a simple jar of instant coffee we had lifted a woman’s spirits, salved a struggling household and maybe, just maybe, given a jar of hope.
Single Dad’s Story
Sebastian is a middle aged professional real estate agent. Having worked successfully in this field for many years has not been enough to stave off the cruel tide of economic woes being felt country wide. The critical down turn in sales has made it impossible for Sebastian to make enough to sustain his own expenses.
Beyond this, the family’s debts have ballooned as an effect of his spouse having suffered multiple heart attacks and other critical health issues. Neither Sebastian nor his spouse is yet age-eligible for Social Security benefits, which would at least help with the escalating health expenses.
His options are growing narrower at every turn. Sebastian’s sense of despair grows as his debts increase and the financial deficit related to the family’s health continue to mount. Sebastian is frustrated trying to get help with his circumstances, and yet he has no option but to push on. He has been turned down for help from so many agencies because he “falls through the cracks of eligibility”, leaving him with only a looming sense of powerlessness over his life and his ability to provide for his family.
Sebastian came to The Salvation Army and found that the “red tape” to acquiring services and help could be quickly cut. He also found a caring office, willing listeners who weren’t afraid to pray with him, and a service agency able to step up and impact his circumstances positively. Even though his needs remain broader than one agency can singly solve, he was able to leave with a full provision of groceries, his utility shut off notice quelled, and more importantly, a sense of hope and compassion in what otherwise would have remained for him a bleak outlook.
Please Meet Mark
Mark Smith is an average hard-working single male. He works in a regional grocery store chain. As a middle manager his life was clear cut, until he abruptly learned that from a previous relationship years ago, he has a 4 ½ year old daughter. Mark also learned that the mother of the child is encarcerated long term, resulting in the child being now in the foster care system. Mark’s world changed when he was able to find his daughter and bring her home, to his home, where they started their new life together. Now facing increased monthly costs(toys, cloths for the child, additional food costs, daycare costs, court costs and legal fees). Mark found himself unable to meet his increased gas bill. That need brought Mark in for services/assistance with utilities. This joyous new father found help through The Salvation Army, has his current financial burden relieved and was then better able to focus on being a father to his new joy.
Please meet Janet
She is a married women that came in and said she needed everything. She went on to explain that her husband who had been a butcher at the same place for 21 years just learned the new owners cut out health insurance coverage. He learned this as he was sent from the walk-in clinic to the hospital ICU, with severe pneumonia. He was so bad they almost lost him. As a result of his illness and lost wages, they are behind in the mortgage, need a partial tank fill on their propane, and the electric had a shut-off notice pending. As Janet sat at the social desk we determined that paying the electric was first and most prudent. So we took care of her utility bill and also sent her home with groceries to help out the situation.
Please meet William
He is a 47 year old man, who lives alone, is on disability due to a myriad of medical conditions and recently called our Salvation Army offices in a panic due to a shut off notice from SEMCO. William acquired our phone number from SEMCO, as an agency that could assist him with his social service needs/getting bill assistance. When he called here, this poor gentleman was in tears, very distressed, nearly in a panic. The day was a Thursday. His shut off notice was for five days away. I offered to meet with him the following day, Friday. When he came in he shared that he does not read or write. He used to have a neighbor friend that would read notices for him and help him, but she recently moved away. He kept saying, “I just don’t know what to do!” His lack of social contacts has kept him isolated and intimidated. His medical conditions include lymphomas, surgeries for cancer, and currently he is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for leukemia. The day William came in for services it was quite cold. He was not garbed in a warm coat, but accepted the one I offered. During the course of the social service interview, he was asked if he was in need of groceries. He failed to answer, but dropped his head and began to weep. When he was assured that he would have a week worth of groceries upon leaving today, he could not say “Oh thank you” enough. As we progressed through the interview and he learned his bill could be paid, he continued to weep. Given that the day he was seen here, he accepted an invitation to stay for our Community Meal and enjoy some fun, food and fellowship with others. This gentleman left our Salvation Army feeling accepted, comforted and relieved.
She is a Katrina survivor who relocated to our area with her three children two years ago. Although her family still resided in Louisiana she was looking for a new place and a fresh start. As a para-professional in the long term care industry she quickly found meaningful work, a charming home to rent and all seemed to be going well for her, until …
Stephanie initially contacted The Salvation Army when she was abruptly terminated and lost her income. Her employer had a point system which trapped her when she was quit ill and unable to go to work for several days. Despite the circumstance, she was terminated. She now found herself unable to pay the rent, unable to purchase Christmas gifts for her young children and in general, very frightened. She wasn’t even sure what she would do for groceries for her children.
Having been the recipient of services for nearly two weeks during the time of Katrina when she lost literally everything, she knew to call The Salvation Army right away. When she did she was warmly received and scheduled quickly with a time to come in. Her need for assistance with back rent was satisfied handily following her initial appointment. But her story doesn’t stop there.
Stephanie signed up for Christmas assistance through our Corps so her children would have gifts. But before our distribution day came she became the victim of domestic violence. Frightened, all she could think of was getting her children safe, so she loaded the kids in her car and fled back to her parent’s home. She called us from there to apologize for having to with drawl from our holiday program. Despite the closeness of Christmas, not wanting her children to miss out on Christmas, several calls were made from us here to The Salvation Army Corps in that area. After some coordination, we were able to arrange for that Corps to take her on and they blessed her children with many, many gifts. Overcome by tears of joy she phoned us here right after picking up the gifts.
Eventually, Stephanie decided to return to her charming home in Niles. She determined she was not going to walk away from all that she had worked so hard for. Since returning she has begun to rebuild her life here, is seeking gainful employment again.
She can now easily speak about the services of The Salvation Army on two ends of the country. Because of the support she has been given she wants to eventually volunteer on our Emergency Services Team.
Meet James and his significant other, Brenda. They first came to The Salvation Army seeking grocery assistance in the early autumn. While conducting a social service intake interview, it became quickly apparent that their needs were far greater, yet all they were seeking was food. They were served and given a week worth of groceries, but also additional information and resources. As we came to learn, James and Brenda were a homeless couple. They had lost their lodgings due to loss of employment. They were initially staying with her sister, until their funds ran out and the sister then promptly kicked them out. After this, they stayed here and there randomly. This couple was without a support network of any kind. They were encouraged ad accepted our invitation to come to our Community Meal, served Monday, Wednesday and Friday. After attending here repeatedly for meals, James and Brenda began to find a network of support through the other who also partook in the meals offered. They found that they were not alone, that others cared about their well being and that help was available. James and Brenda were also given warm coats for the impending winter and given a donated bicycle for transportation as they had none. But their story does not end there. Through the network they developed while coming for the Community Meal, they were offered temporary housing from another family who also attends our Community Meal. Food, fellowship, garments, shelter, housing and hope: THIS is what it’s all about.
Meet Carol and Fred They have been married for over 35 years. They have raised their children and have worked in this area their whole life. They have always gotten by, but as their ages increased, so did Fred’s health concerns and medical costs. Day to day expenses grew harder to manage. For the first time in their lives they were struggling to put food on the table. That need is what first caused Carol and Fred to call our Salvation Army for grocery support. During their first social service interview it was shared with them that we have a three day a week Community Meal. They became frequent guests at our noon table and came to enjoy the camaraderie around the table. This couple also benefited from our Christmas basket program. As time passed and the relationship between this couple and The Salvation Army grew, Fred donated clothing articles for distribution to those in need; wanting to give back in gratitude for the support they have received. Quite recently Fred was relieved of his physical struggles and passed away on his wife’s birthday. Though this might have been perceived by many as a painful coincidence, their daughter pointed out to Carol that in a way that very day was also now Fred’s birthday, as he was now in a new life, pain free and with God. What a beautiful expression! Since Fred’s passing Carol has brought his clothing items in for donation and has again sought grocery assistance while awaiting the resolution of her husband’s survivor benefits. She has received support from “the Lunch Bunch” as we refer to our noon guests in the form of a condolence card signed by all and also being raised in prayers. Carol has promised to return to our noon table once things settle down for her a bit. And we’ll be waiting for her
Please Meet Billy
Billy lost his wife just a little over two months ago leaving him to be the sole provider to their four children. The children are between the ages of two and a half and ten. His wife had been the one to stay home with the children while he worked during the day in the building trades field.
Not only did Billy lose his wife, he also lost his source of income. Due to the downturn in the economy, he was laid off. In a way it was a blessing that he was able to be home with the children through the early days, right after his wife passed away. Billy was able to be there for them as they journeyed through the first dark days of their mourning their mother’s passing. But soon it became a burden to be home, as he had no income with which to keep their household stable. The bills began to pile up and soon there was a shut off notice swinging over his head, threatening the disruption of the electric service into the home. Having never been in a position to need to seek assistance, he knew not where to turn. The utility company gave him a list of assistance agencies to call for help. This is where his story with The Salvation Army begins.
As this still distraught father sits in the Social Worker’s office his head is low and his voice quiet as he explains his needs. What was hardest for him it seemed was to even know where to start. We broke down his needs into simple terms and then started to talk about what to do about each. First, we took care of his shut off notice and stabilized the utility service. Secondly, we talked about emotional supports for him as the head of the house, to be emotionally solvent for his children. Referral sources were listed for his consideration. Thirdly, he was provided a list of other agencies and resources to use as he moves through the changing dynamics of his life. Lastly, he accepted an invitation to be lifted up in prayer. At the conclusion of his time at The Salvation Army, he turned and said, “Of all the things you did for me today, the prayer means the most. Thanks you.”
Please meet Cory
Tears stain his face as he explains that he is in need of rent assistance to keep his family together. Cory tells that things have changed so fast lately for he and his family that he has fallen behind in his rent. As he explains, his story unfurls amidst streaming tears. He relates that he and his ex-wife split several years ago, she had primary custody of the children as ordered by the courts, with him seeing them on weekends. Apparently her care of the children was placed in jeopardy by her choice of life styles, drug use etc. Child Protective Services removed the children and gave them to Cory — Mom went to jail.
Suddenly Cory is a full time Dad, quickly shopping to meet the needs of the children, purchasing additional groceries, etc. He tells me that he just started going back to church a few weeks ago after not attending for years. He is also taking his children with him. We proceed through the interview and successfully resolve his needs for rent assistance. Cory is overwhelmed by the fact that we have helped him.
As do many who come through our doors for help, he says,
“I have never had to ask for help before.” Cory goes on to say that as he was in church last week, he was praying over his circumstances and asked God to guide him as to what to do. “Now, here I am at The Salvation Army. You have relieved so much anxiety for me. Tell me, how can I ever repay you or thank you enough?” Our answer to him was simply this: “Go back to church, keep going and give Him all the praise and glory for answering your petition for guidance. He heard you! That’s it, thank God, just thank God. That’s thanks enough for us.”
Please Meet Amy
She lost her job of 10 years. She wasn’t aware of the things that the Salvation Army offered to families in need. She received a telephone call from her niece in Georgia telling me to call my local Salvation Army and to register for the Christmas Program. I called the Salvation Army and received an appointment to bring in all of the necessary documentation. This process was so simple, but the amazing thing was the beautiful spirit that all of the volunteers had.
Not only did the Salvation Army Bless my daughter and son, they adopted our entire famify for’ Christmas. They called us a couple of times and asked what our favorite colors were and what the children wanted for Christmas. WOW!!!!!!!!!! We were so overjoyed that we did not know what to do. My daughter is a freshman in college and my son is in the 6th grade. They had one of the best Christmases that a child could have.
When I went to pick up our Blessings. Things got even better. The volunteers were absolutely great. They made everyone in the room feel so welc.ome and they did their jobs like they truly enjoyed them. No one should’ve felt ungracious.
I returned to the Salvation Army on March 24, 2009 for assistance with my winter heating bill. When they were all set up, I heard this very hearty “good morning”. I turned around and it was Jan, the social service director. Just the greeting set the tone for anyone that was in the room. It was so full of “I’m ready to go” .
Once we went into her office, we chatted a bit and she said «I’m going to bless you”. Not only did the Salvation Army pay the past due on the heating bill they paid the entire bill. WOW!!!!!!!!! The clincher was however, when I got ready to leave. Jan handed me a piece of candy from her candy jar. She said ”these have scriptures on them”. I said ”that’s good, I keep things like that”. Once I saw the scripture I told her that “I know I’ve read that this week.” Not only had I read it once that week, I had read it several times. It is Mark 11:22 -And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. All I could do was cry and thank God for his goodness and of course tell my children, my mother, my sister or anyone else that would listen.
How odd it was to get a call from the local utility company inquiring about providing service to a needy person. But that’s exactly how it happened. One of the Billing experts @ our local utility provider called me to inquire about how to get help for an acquaintance, for whom she was concerned. We have worked diligently to develop a great relationship with these providers and apparently it is working!! The gentleman in need was experiencing great financial hardships due to going through a divorce as well as now being a single Dad now.
The utility provider successfully talked the gentleman into coming in. He was crest-fallen and dejected for having to be here. As we talked through his circumstances, I learned he and his wife were divorcing after many years of marriage, a marriage which produced one child between them. I was curious about the other two children he was listing in the household. “Bill” explained that strangely enough, these were children from his wife’s former relationship, but that he had raised them since they were a few months old and one year old. “Bill” explained that as far as his heart was concerned they were his children. When the wife left the home, the children did not want to go with their mother but protested to stay with ‘Bill” for he was their Dad.
Court proceedings are nearly closed now and apparently soon “Bill” will become (officially), a single Dad of three children. The mother of the other two children signed off her parental rights to “Bill”. While “Bill” struggles to make ends meet on his commission job as a sales person for a water softener company, he is frightened about being able to provide for all three of the children. It is clear that he abhors having to seek help, having had a very demeaning experience just the week prior over at the Dept. of Human Services. Every assurance was given to him that these are the circumstances for which we are here, we step in to help when peoples lives are in crisis. “Bill” was reminded that this present state he finds himself in did not have to define who is, but rather he was encouraged to remember that this is just a rough spot in the road over which he is currently driving. Our purpose is to help him get over the rough spots and back to his life, his new life, as it will be as a single Dad of three.
Before “Bill” left we prayed about his circumstances, he released tears and hopefully, left feeling responded to, with at least part of his burden lifted.
Please Meet Lisa, Bobby, the two girls and “Buddy”
Lisa has struggled to keep the family finances straight for over a year. This has been no easy task, as her significant other, Bobby, has been out of work, fighting a denial for Unemployment Benefits and she herself has only been able to pick up intermittent care giver jobs. These little part time jobs cease every time her patient regained their strength and abilities, or they died. Either way, she is sporadically out of work.
When Bobby’s unemployment issues were finally resolved he was told to expect $357. Instead, he received a mere $57. Their landlord, unwilling to cope any longer with their circumstances, insisted that they move out. Facing life in a shelter for she and her family, Lisa came into The Salvation Army where she has found kind support in the past for a variety of needs. Through a series of phone calls made by the Social Worker and through collaborative agency efforts, Lisa was able to move her family into an efficiency hotel for several months at a considerable savings. While these arrangements were wonderful, it still left one family member out in the cold. You see, “Buddy”, the family’s four year old golden Retriever, was not welcome in the hotel. The two girls’ hearts were crushed to think about leaving or losing their beloved best friend Buddy. Lisa could hardly bear to hear their pleas, “After all”, the girls stated, “we have lost and given up so much else already, Momma. Why Buddy, too?”
Being an animal lover myself, I found myself, the Social Worker, now looking for housing for Buddy, too. Again through a series of phone calls and exploratory conversations with people at church I discovered a Golden Retriever rescue parent, who was willing to accept Buddy into her home for several months until Lisa and her family can get reestablished in a dog friendly residence. Caring for Buddy just seemed like an extension of caring for the people. While providing shelter services for dogs is not in my job description, it was necessary for the comfort, mental well-being and well-spring of hopefulness for this family.
I have never met Buddy, but maybe someday his family will come by The Salvation Army with him, so I can ruffle up his neck and rub his ears and introduce myself.