How Your Kettle Donations Help Families Like “Jack’s”

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The following was contributed by Major Mark Brown, Area Commander for The Salvation Army Coastal Alabama Area Command and featured as part of’s “Neediest Families” Campaign. Visit to read more. 

Surely I had been given the wrong address. Cracked windows, broken blinds and a feeling of abandonment had overtaken the small dwelling. Then the curtain moved. As I got out of my car, the front door scraped open and an elderly man (let’s call him Jack), leaning heavily on his walking cane, beckoned me inside.

I was visiting one of Coastal Alabama’s Neediest Families, a privilege that is mine as commander for area Salvation Army services. I say privilege because I get to meet people at some of the toughest times in their lives and then, through the ministry of The Salvation Army and the generosity of our donors, provide food, clothes, furniture and financial assistance that can make the difference between hopelessness and seeing light at the end of what is often a long, dark tunnel.

I found out later that Jack, a former education department employee, doesn’t invite people inside his home often. I could see why. The only furniture in the house apart from some old beds was a small round coffee table, one adult garden chair and three children’s garden chairs. Jack sat, I stood. Also, Jack was a lot younger than I originally thought. He was taking care of his three young children, three of the brightest, most polite and well-mannered children I have ever met.

Jack’s story is not uncommon. The causes may differ, but the outcomes are similar: A challenging marriage, a low-paying job, fewer hours at work, then disaster. In Jack’s case, his house and all his belongings were destroyed in a fire five years ago. Shortly afterward, he had to quit his job following leg surgery which left him unable to walk or stand except for short periods. Jack receives some money for his disability and he uses this to pay bills and buy food, clothes and the essentials for his children. Replacing the sofa, dining table, chairs and other furnishings destroyed in the fire is simply unaffordable, and so the family eats either sitting on the floor or on their beds. Homework is typically done on the bed.

This past week, just in time for Christmas, we took Jack and his three children a sofa, dining table and chairs. This is why I mentioned earlier what a privilege it is for me to visit with some of our area’s neediest families who are grateful, beyond words, for these unexpected gifts from caring, unknown neighbors in our Coastal Alabama community.

Advice I can recall being given regularly by my mother and grandmother was that there is always someone worse off than me. As a child, I didn’t really understand or benefit from these words of wisdom. As an adult, I see them lived out in our shelters and those seeking welfare assistance from The Salvation Army every day.

You can read their stories at

  • The mother with terminal cancer whose husband left the family just a few weeks after the diagnosis was confirmed.
  • The young family struggling to get on their feet again following job loss and illness.
  • The mother of four with a debilitating disease that makes walking a difficulty, yet every day she cooks using a neighbor’s stove and brings the hot food across the busy road to her family.
  • The single father of two teenage boys working two jobs to make ends meet, who then must be hospitalized.
  • Or the recently widowed grandmother of an autistic child she is caring for who suddenly needs open-heart surgery following a heart attack just weeks after she spent her savings on her husband’s funeral.

For many reading this, these circumstances will be all too familiar in your own lives or those of family members. Others of us have been spared the distress, worry and uncertainty these circumstances create. We are the fortunate ones.

I’ve been a Salvation Army officer for 35 years. It is a God-given privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus working with people going through these toughest times.

As I work with men, women and children experiencing crisis situations, I am always encouraged by the words in Matthew 25 where Jesus tells us that whenever we feed the hungry, provide clothing or shelter to a stranger, whenever we take care of someone who is sick or support the prisoner – we do all of this as if for Jesus himself.

To support The Salvation Army’s services for individuals like Jack, visit

9 Comments on “How Your Kettle Donations Help Families Like “Jack’s”

  1. Me and my two kids are struggling on how webr gojng ti have a half decent christmas. We need help. My phone numberbid 724-493-6285

  2. My family and 4 children won’t have b much ova Xmas, since unable to work n my husband is the only bread winner especiallysince I was diagnosed with chronic pelvic pain and cardiomyopathy, so it’s been stressful for our familyplz help us or.direvtnudnyo

  3. Hello my name is Ravon Malone,
    I will like to help a family or two with a wonderful Christmas this year. I can be reached at 317-801-2552, if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you.

  4. I live in Florida, far from my sister who lives in Collinsville. She has no job (though she is trying very hard to find one). She does not have a car. She is not in good health. She and my nephew live in an apartment on Johnson st. My nephew’s girlfriend just moved out so they are struggling greatly. Please, is there any way you can help them with a groceries or a little bit at CHRISTmas? Me, my brother and our other sister have and will send what we can to help, but please, please if you know of anyone that could help with job placement, a car and/or groceries, please contact her at cell # 636-253-0365. Her names is Sheila K. Prueitt. My nephew’s name is Kenneth Faraone. Sheila is 53. Very tiny. Wears size small in clothes. Kenneth is around 30. He does work, but the girlfriend had the only car, so he stands to lose his job. He is a big guy, I think prob wears 3x in clothes. Their address is 304 East Johnson Street, apt #2, Collinsville, IL 62234. I know you usually just help families, but, please, consider helping them in any way possible. Thank you so very much, from my heart. GOD BLESS. Becky Harrell, 7028 Deer Lodge Circle #104, Jacksonville, FL 32256 cell 469-867-6249.


  6. Im looking for ways to give my time and talents ….does anyone have a number I can call so I can get more info on helping. Thanks for the help. Free free to send any info to my email address

  7. My name is Patty and I am struggling to support and take care of my grandson, whom I have had from 2days old to now 11yrs. We struggle daily but I was wondering if there was a mother with a small child that needed a roof over her head and a chance to get on her feet. I don’t have money but if I can help in that way it would be a privilege in my book. I could watch the child for her to look for a job while she’s here getting on her feet.

  8. I helped work as a bell ringer, in Orange County, Ca, and had a lot of fun. I would incourage many others to do this next year. I heard many cool stories. Salvation aRMY FED 4million people Christmas Day. A Cuban refuge 30 yrs. ago was anly helped by sal. army, Apilot shot down behind enemy lines WW2, found freedom/safety, Sal. Army. WW1&2 Sal army people del. cofee/donuts on front lines free on battle field. P.S. I’m 10 yrs sober w/guess who? thanks:Jerry

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