Salvation Army an invaluable resource

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Two-thousand fifteen was the year I really got to know the Salvation Army.

Previously I knew the organization was a Christian-based nonprofit that supposedly did good things for the communities where it existed.

Having never been a beneficiary of the Army’s services, I have largely ignored the organization and its good works over they years, save putting some change in the red kettles whenever I passed by the bell-ringing volunteers.

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Since moving to Vicksburg in January, I’ve been able to get to know the Salvation Army: the people, the programs and the patrons.

This summer, a budget shortfall almost led to the Army’s premature closing in 2015.

Available funds were only expected to last until shortly after summer, which would have led to the Salvation Army closing its doors, cancelling its programming and turning away those in need until the Red Kettle Campaign kicked off this November.

Being a journalist is about more than reporting the news, it’s about solving problems within communities. In response to the Salvation Army’s dire situation, I began a series of articles highlighting the organization’s need, coupled with stories of the impact the Salvation Army has on the community.

I was able to meet several of the 6,700 people who were served by the local Salvation Army last year.

I met people who were fed some of the 50,000 meals provided, from those who stop by to visit the food pantry and the Mission 66 Diner, which serves hot lunches every weekday.

I also got to meet a number of children who take part in the youth programs such as after-school programs, tutoring, organized recreation, summer camps and character-building groups.

Perhaps one of the most inspirational stories I was able to tell was retired Brig. Gen. Robert Crear, who received his first bicycle from what is now the Angel Tree program.

This inspired me to adopt and Angel Tree child of my own this year, a four-year-old boy who mainly needed clothes for school — heartbreaking.

If ever you’re feeling that you don’t have much, remember that there are those who can’t afford some of life’s most basic things. This has really helped me to put things into perspective.

I may not be a direct recipient of one of the Salvation Army’s programs, but in truth, I have received so much from this organization: experiences, life lessons and friendships I will never forget.

My year with the Salvation Army culminated Friday, when I stood in front of Walmart ringing a bell, telling people “Merry Christmas,” and smiling even bigger every time someone made a donation for what I believe to be one of our community’s biggest resources.