A New Life Because of The Salvation Army

The following was contributed by Becky Kreienkamp of The Salvation Army’s Midland Division – St. Louis. Click here to visit their website or check out their Facebook and Twitter pages!

Despite her mother passing away, losing her home and living with strangers in a homeless shelter, Ruth Ann Bonnell is endearing and positive above all else. Ruth moved into the Alton Salvation Army Homeless Shelter on April 7, 2011.

“I came in on a Friday night, and I was so scared I just cried all night,” admits Ruth Ann. But if Ruth Ann has one strength, it’s the ability to pick herself up and look toward better days.

She took advantage of the shelter’s life skills and job skills classes in which she learned how to eat healthy and how to find a job. Ruth Ann made it clear The Salvation Army not only taught her how to find a job, but also how to pursue one. She explained the process.

“Fill out the online application. Fill out the paper application. Go into the establishment and find an HR Representative and say, ‘Hi, my name is so-and-so, and I want to work here.’”

This exactly is how Ruth Ann obtained her job at Schnucks.

“I nagged them, that’s how I got my job,” she claims. “Be persistent. Stay the course. Be annoying!”

Ruth Ann has loved her job at Schnucks ever since she was hired. She has been trained in almost every department, starting out at the food bar, then to fruit cutting, produce, liquor, cashier training and she now is working in the deli. Ruth Ann’s diverse training goes to show her dedication and hard work since leaving the shelter.

“Is it a perfect job? No. But it’s a job! I like the people I work with. I like what I do,” says Ruth Ann, which proves she can spin any situation to appear positive.

She is especially proud to claim she recently celebrated her one-year anniversary of working at Schnucks on June 7. She declares she wants to continue working at Schnucks, “because the longer you work here, the better it gets!” she says with an upbeat voice.

Ruth Ann not only chooses to view her situation in a positive light, but also uses it as a learning experience. Her time in the homeless shelter made her realize how much she, as well as the rest of America, takes for granted.

“Everything we think is important in this world is really not,” says Ruth Ann. “How many wooden spoons do you need in your life?”

Anyone who has ever witnessed poverty would say Ruth Ann is correct. Homelessness takes away more than a home, but diminishes every day pleasures as well. Living in the shelter also taught Ruth Ann to appreciate simple satisfactions such as privacy and a space to call your own.

“If you sleep in a room with four people you don’t know, it’s a waking experience,” says Ruth Ann. “It builds tolerance. You learn their quirks.”

After being back in the real world, Ruth Ann has a new admiration for every aspect of her life.

“It totally reevaluated my life,” she explains. “For the past six to eight months I had a stove. I could bake a chicken! It’s the little things. You got a blanket, you got pillows, you got food in the fridge. It’s all good!”

If there was only one thing Ruth Ann could tell the public regarding homelessness, she would remind the world to not criticize homeless people. In this trying economy, everyone is at risk for poverty. Homeless people are not always brought down by drugs and addiction, which is the general stereotype.

Ruth Ann explains it simply. “A lot of Americans out there are one or two paychecks away from being homeless. You are hanging on by a thread. You can’t judge them.”

Ruth Ann might have received these hypercritical stares or disapproving remarks, which is a shame since her personality and optimistic demeanor do not fit the stereotype to which she is being subjected.

“I was a normal person,” says Ruth Ann. “I made a couple bad decisions that affected my whole entire life. It just happens.”

She hopes the public views her the way she views herself, as a hard working woman who is recreating a solid life for herself.

“I’m a very positive person. It will all get better,” she says affirmatively.

One thing is for certain: our society needs more personalities like Ruth Ann Bonnell’s.