NY Youth Embark on a ‘Journey for Change’

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CNN followed 2009’s Journey for Change ambassadors on their trip to South Africa.

This summer the world got a whole lot bigger for 30 inner-city youth from several New York City Salvation Army Community Centers.

The teens and pre-teens spent 2 weeks in South Africa serving in impoverished shanty towns, working with orphaned children, visiting HIV/AIDS clinics and more – a once in a life-time experience, but also a sobering one as they confronted difficult, real-life global issues.

The opportunity was made possible by Journey for Change, an organization started by Malaak Rock (wife of comedian Chris Rock) aimed at educating and empowering at-risk youth to rise above the negative temptations in their communities and stand out as leaders.

For anyone trading the comfort of home for third world conditions, it would be impossible not to have your priorities and perspectives shaken up. These kids seem to be no exception. Their frequent blog entries during their trip document their personal insights into appreciating the South African people and culture, wrestling with the communities’ struggles, and reevaluating their own lives in the US. Check out their original blogs here.

But two weeks in Africa is only the beginning. Having just arrived back in NY this month, the students are now starting a yearlong role as “Global Ambassadors” to promote local and international advocacy, service and education initiatives.

As these Salvation Army youths settle back into their own neighborhoods, they will still have to face negative influences from extremely high school drop-out rates to drugs and gangs. But everything they have seen, done and learned during their time in Africa and yearlong Ambassador program will serve as a lynch pin to helping them make positive, long term decisions and hopefully inspire others to do so as well.

Learn more about how Journey for Change is raising up student leaders HERE, or visit Malaak’s Angel Rock Project website at www.angelrockproject.com.

As a bonus, we’ve added a short video below of Malaak discussing how Chris Rock’s many childhood experiences Salvation Army Community Center in Brooklyn caused her to realize that The Salvation Army was an organization she wanted to partner with – and send her own kids to!

Learn more about how The Salvation Army is serving the Greater New York area by visiting their local website at www.salvationarmyny.org.

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Remembering 9/11

Friday, September 10, 2010

Every American remembers what they were doing when they heard we were attacked on September 11, 2001. I was getting up to leave my English class when a hysterical professor rushed into the room to tell us the news.

When tragedy struck, The Salvation Army was the first relief agency to arrive at Ground Zero. We served more than 3 million meals thanks to $90 million in donations and 1 million hours of service from 39,000 Salvation Army officers, staff and volunteers.

You can read here about the experience of one of those volunteers who served meals for relief workers at Ground Zero. (Thank you to The Salvation Army’s Northern Division for sharing this story.)

Now nine years later Americans continue to be unified by a desire to honor survivors, victims, families and heroes of that fateful day. (In Olathe, Kansas more than 500 people will commemorate them Saturday with their annual “Patriot Run” that’s taken place since 2003, and proceeds will go to support the local Salvation Army. What’s even more inspiring is that thousands of miles away 3,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan will be joining them in spirit by running 9.11 kilometers.)

Many other Americans will devote themselves to a charitable cause to honor the spirit of service that arose in response to 9/11. If you’re looking to find a way to give back, consider contacting your local Salvation Army to see how you can help them support your community.

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NFL’s 2010 Season Kickoff and A Coach You Should Know

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tonight is the official NFL opening kickoff of the 2010 season. The New Orleans Saints will be going head to head with the Minnesota Vikings! Will you be watching?

There’s one man in particular who I wonder if he will be tuning in – Harold Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Name doesn’t ring a bell? I’d be surprised if you did recognize it. But ask Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem, and he’ll know who you’re talking about.

Before Meachem was a Super Bowl champion, a rising star at the University of Tennessee or even raising eyebrows at Booker T. Washington High School, he started his football career as a “Mabee Babie.” That is, during his elementary school years Meachem played football at The Salvation Army’s North Mabee Boys & Girls Club in Tulsa. Harold Williams was his coach.

A lot of time and events have passed since Meachem ran the Mabee field as a 4th grade football hopeful, but he still calls his old coach every now and then wanting to know how the Mabee Mustangs are doing. A pro football player keeping tabs on his elementary-years team? I know, it sounds strange, but then again, you wouldn’t be so surprised if you knew Coach Williams.

Williams left a paid position at a private high school to volunteer at The Salvation Army’s North Mabee Center where he’s been coaching for 22 years now. It was a significant change going from a privileged, private high school to a community center in what was known as one of Tulsa’s “tougher” neighborhoods, but Williams’ relationship to his team has always more resembled that of a loving parent than merely a coach.

Many times when talking to me about his team, Williams equated the boys to family. “It was like I had 40 sons. When dads were missing, I had no problem stepping in,” he said. “[My team] always said, ‘Coach loves us.’ I’d say, ‘I hope you know me and like my face because I’m going to know you the rest of your life. I love you because you are.’ ”

Over the decades he’s poured much of himself into the boys who have passed in and out of the football program. Even when the predominantly black team was pelted with racial slurs from their competitors, Williams has taught his Mabee Mustangs the importance of good sportsmanship and following the rules. He’s scrounged up pads and bought out of his own pocket mouth guards for his entire team when they couldn’t afford the most basic football equipment. He’s thrown them pizza parties and planned field trips to local museums, again on his own dime. He’s taught them skills that have made them one of the most noticed and successful football programs in the area today and helped many go on to be notable college and professional players. (Including the Dallas Cowboys’ Felix Jones, Philadelphia Eagles’ Tony Brooks and his brother Reggie Brooks of the Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos’ Marcus Nash, NY Giants’ R.W. McQuarters and the list goes on…)

The lessons and example taught by Coach Williams are lifelong and life changing. His sacrifice has inspired many kids to reject the destructive temptations of the streets and spurred them on to reach their true potential, witnessed by many unknowing NFL and college football spectators.

So it’s not hard to see why Robert Meacham gives Williams a ring once in awhile or why other “Mabee Babies” drop by the Center to watch and assist with practices.

If you do catch the NFL kickoff tonight, enjoy the game and celebrate the official start of the season! But regardless of which team you’re rooting for, take a moment to appreciate the sacrifice of Salvation Army volunteer Harold Williams. Tonight’s game and many others would be a different story if it weren’t for his investment in young athletes.

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Suiting Up for the Hunt

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Searching for a new job is stressful and difficult, to say the least.

Measuring yourself against a daunting list of job qualifications seems to always leave you feeling a little short. Then there’s a scramble to get your references in order, and do you even dare think about all the other applicants who are competing for your same position?

And if you’ve been out of a job for an extended period of time, the whole process is even more discouraging. Unfortunately, there are many people who are all too familiar with this – just look at the country’s consistently high unemployment rate.

But on top of all of these factors, there’s another surprisingly simple element of the job hunt that most people don’t realize can play a significant role in their pursuit. What is it?

Clothes.

It’s true. Arriving at a job in professional attire can seal the deal on your self-confidence, or being dressed inappropriately can completely undermine it. Dressing the part can also give prospective employers a positive first impression of you even before one word is exchanged.

For many people, choosing something to wear is the least of their worries, but for others who don’t own a suit or nice shirt, it can be one of the biggest hurdles standing in between them and employment. Financial constraints could mean that buying new clothes is just not an option.

In response to this need, The Men’s Wearhouse is teaming up with 200 charities and non-profits (including some local Salvation Army’s) across the country to host the third annual National Suit Drive. Donors who drop off gently used business attire to Men’s Wearhouse stores during the month of September will receive 25% off their next purchase and the clothes will be donated to the local partnering charities.

To learn more about The National Suit Drive, visit www.nationalsuitdrive.com.

Salvation Army units in Florida and Virginia are participating in this event. If you don’t live in these areas or there’s not a Men’s Wearhouse store near you, don’t worry. You can donate your business attire directly to our Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores located around the country! Visit www.satruck.org for more information.

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The Fruits of Their Labor

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What did you do on Labor Day?

Maybe you spent the waning days of summer by the pool or over a sizzling grill. Or maybe you skipped town for a brief getaway. Or maybe you had a lot of big ideas but never seemed to get beyond changing out of your pajamas.

If you’re like me, your aspirations for the Labor Day holiday probably didn’t include much laboring.

But 60 volunteers in Charlotte, North Carolina had a different idea. They spent their day off cleaning, painting, and transforming a Sunday school building into an emergency overflow shelter for homeless women. The site is being opened by The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope, whose main facility is experiencing overcrowding and must sometimes turn women away.

The Salvation Army expects the overflow shelter will be ready to open next week after one more volunteer-work day.

We appreciate these volunteers and the Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian Church (who donated use of the facility) for making it possible for The Salvation Army to better to serve the city’s homeless. Thanks to their efforts, at least 50 more women will have a safe place to rest their heads at night.

You can check out a video news story on these Labor Day laborers HERE.

To learn more about The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte, visit their website HERE

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He’s in the Big Leagues Now

Friday, September 3, 2010

Baseball news feeds were abuzz this week as Freddie Freeman made his Major League debut after getting a call up from the Atlanta Braves. The newbie was even in the starting lineup. The 20 year-old first baseman has been described as a “phenom” and is a contender for Minor League Player of the Year.

But did you know Freddie also grew up in The Salvation Army? His family has been a part of it for 6 generations! Check out this video interview, courtesy of WAPT in Jackson, MS, of Atlanta Brave Freddie Freeman discussing his faith, baseball, and The Salvation Army.

Also, we’re happy to report that Freddie won his game Wednesday night against the NY Mets. The final score was 4-1.

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Athletes Emphasize Charitable Giving

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Washington Post reports that Washington, DC sports teams and athletes are increasingly focusing on charitable giving.

Staff writer Susan Kinzie says, “For reasons idealistic, self-serving or practical, athletes and teams are putting a greater emphasis on donating money, volunteering and helping local communities — with more commitment to providing real impact rather than just photo ops.”

As a DC resident, it’s nice to hear that my teams are giving back. Between the baseball, hockey, basketball and football teams, DC athletes are helping revitalize local neighborhoods, investing in cancer prevention, fighting hunger, supporting children’s education programs and addressing a load of other issues. With the unique voice and wide supporter base that comes with the territory, athletes have a great platform to get the message out on deserving causes and make lasting, positive impacts on communities and individuals.

I’ll admit though, sometimes I’m skeptical when I hear about big names pushing a cause. I wonder, do they really care about or have a genuine commitment to this issue they’re attaching themselves to? For me, sincerity is important.

What’s your take on athletes being active in philanthropy? Do you have a favorite athlete who’s an outspoken advocate for a charity or a cause? Does a sports/charity partnership make you more likely to support the members involved?

Felix Jones spends time coaching kids at The Salvation Army’s North Mabee Center in Tulsa, OK.
Felix Jones spends time coaching kids at The Salvation Army’s North Mabee Center in Tulsa, OK.

Since becoming a Salvation Army employee, I’m happy to say my skepticism has tempered after seeing athletes and teams from around the country give and serve generously through our organization in ways that have invaluably inspired and assisted those in need. Their collaboration with us has ranged from extended partnerships to isolated volunteer efforts. Some athletes have never been involved with the Army before, while others have actually been clients in our programs.

Maybe you root for some of the teams and players who have worked with us:

* Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys – He tutors students in ACT prep at The Salvation Army’s North Mabee Boys & Girls Club in Tulsa, OK and has served as a role model in other programs. He’s also pledged $25,000 to the North Mabee Center. Why? He played football at North Mabee as a kid and personally knows what a great impact it has on the local community.

* Robert Meacham, New Orleans Saints – Young aspiring football players received personal tips on playing the game from this Super Bowl Champion during a summer sports camp at The Salvation Army’s North Mabee Center in Tulsa. Yep, Meacham also grew up playing ball at the center with Jones.

* Julius Erving, NBA Hall of Famer – The b-ball legend is an advocate for exercise and sportsmanship for youth in Atlanta, where he hit the basketball courts as a kid at The Salvation Army. One way he gives back is through his annual “Dr. J” Biddy Ball tournament hosted this year at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, with the help of other players including Cory Blackwell, Vincent Askew and Duane Causwell.

* Omaha Nighthawks (UFL) – These players not only helped establish two mentoring programs through a $25,000 donation to the Omaha Salvation Army Kroc Center, the Nighthawks also serve as mentors themselves! And they’re holding their training camp at the Kroc Center where kids and the community will have the opportunity to see their role models in action.

* Indianapolis Colts – From hosting Christmas toy drives to a $25,000 donation equally shared by The Salvation Army and 4 other non-profits, the Colts are community-focused. On top of that, their Senior VP Tom Zupancic just joined our Advisory Board!

* Philadelphia Eagles – When disaster struck Haiti, the team wanted to help. Eagles guard and Haiti native Max Jean-Gilles, Eagles linebacker Akeem Jordan and Eagles employees volunteered to help The Salvation Army and Numana pack nutritious meals for earthquake survivors.

* Dallas Cowboys – For 13, going on 14, years the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game halftime show marks the official launch of our Red Kettle Christmas Campaign. The annual campaign has raised more than $1 billion since the partnership began in 1997 and has helped the Army to serve 30 million people each year nationwide. Plus, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his wife, Gene, opened the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Center for Children – a Salvation Army child care center for low-income families in Irving, TX. Mr. Jones is now an Emeritus member of The Salvation Army’s National Advisory Board and his daughter and wife are active board members.

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A Taste of New Orleans

Monday, August 30, 2010

This morning I was reading a few articles about President Obama’s commemoration of the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The first family traveled to New Orleans where the President addressed Xavier University yesterday.

As the articles discussed the President’s official business in ‘The Big Easy,’ I found it interesting that most of them made it a point to mention the President’s lunch. His speech, visit to a local housing development, and even meetings with hurricane survivors did not overshadow his sumptuous shrimp po’boy.

Why was the seafood sub such a big deal?

A few thoughts:

1.The strength of small businesses gives a fair read on the pulse of the economy, and a mom & pop restaurant sure looks hopeful and healthy when you have the President as a patron. Plus, it’s exciting for locals!

2. Food is comfort, especially during hard times.

3. Identity is often linked to food. What better way to affirm a recovering community than to chow down on a traditional meal that represents what New Orleans is about?

In fact, The Times-Picayune recently ran an article about how Hurricane Katrina affected the New Orleans food culture.

Item #3 on the list: Locals’ Appreciation for Food Deepened.

The article quotes a director of a New Orleans non-profit as saying, “In a very intense, concentrated space of time, people found out what really mattered to them. Food became the most important rituals of our lives.”

Item #8 on the list: New Orleanians began cooking all over the country.

This point was most interesting to me since NPR just ran a segment that featured a displaced New Orleanian. Patrick Wooten and his family were air lifted to shelter when their neighborhood of Algiers flooded during the hurricane. They’ve permanently relocated to Plymouth, MA where Patrick now works as a chef at The Salvation Army. Though the setting is a lot different than New Orleans, Patrick keeps in touch with his Cajun roots by serving up home cooking at The Salvation Army kitchen. What a great way to remember and share his Creole culture!

Lucky for us, Patrick shared with NPR his Dirty Rice recipe that he made on Sunday to remember the 5th anniversary of Katrina. I’m including it below for anyone who’d like a New Orleans culinary lesson:

Recipe: Patrick Wooten’s Dirty Rice (Serves six)

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound Andouille sausage
1/2 pound ham steak, cubed
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
Uncle Ben’s white rice

Instructions:

o Brown the meat until beef is no longer pink.
o Add Worcestershire sauce.
o Remove meat from pan and saute vegetables in the leftover oil.
o Add cooked rice and more Worcestershire sauce to taste.
o While it cooks down, “sit and wait like a pit bull.”

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When the Winds Died Down

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

As we approach the 5th year anniversary of Katrina, the nation is reflecting this week on tragedy that befell the Gulf Coast so many years ago and how the area has pressed on since. As an integral part of the community, The Salvation Army was there before the storm, and we were there after working to provide support and help rebuild.

The Salvation Army’s Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi Division posted an album on their Facebook page that looks back at their efforts to help those in need during the immediate aftermath. From serving food to providing medical support, The Salvation Army was a shining light during a very dark time.

But as we think back on the past five years, we also continue to look forward.

As a part of continuing recovery efforts, The Salvation Army is investing in projects, communities and individual lives in order to help the area become even stronger than before.

“When the Winds Died Down” gives a personal look at how members of the Gulf Coast community found support and hope from The Salvation Army. We’ll continue to post a new video each day this week that delves further into each individual’s personal story and how The Salvation Army helped them rebuild.

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Movie Star Takes Five with Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You’ve probably seen actor Bill Pullman in popular films such as Wyatt Earp, Independence Day, Spaceballs, Brokedown Palace or one of the many others in which he’s starred.

But most recently he’s been seen at The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Oklahoma City.

While in town filming his next movie “Bringing Up Bobby,” Pullman happened to meet the club’s program director and was excited to receive an invitation to visit the boys and girls. Soon after, Pullman was standing in a Salvation Army gymnasium being peppered with questions about his acting career and other stars he knows.

It was an awesome time for the kids, but it seems like Pullman was just as eager to meet them!

Check out the video shot by local media outlet NewsOK to see a Pullman interact with The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club and talk about his latest acting venture.

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