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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EnviRenew – Helping New Orleans Progress from ‘Recovery’ to ‘Resiliency’

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hurricane Katrina displaced almost all of the New Orleans population when it slammed the Gulf Coast five years ago. Studies show that only about half of the population had returned a year later, increasing to two-thirds by fall of 2007.

While living in southeast Texas, I was surprised by how many people I met during the year following Hurricane Katrina who were hurricane evacuees still waiting to return home. They said they either had no where left to go or the conditions just weren’t liveable. Some said they decided to not go back at all. These conversations made me realize that restoring New Orleans was more than just cleaning up debris and reconstructing buildings. The heart and soul of the ‘Big Easy’ was its residents, but its residents were finding it very difficult to be able to return and thrive back home.

The Salvation Army of New Orleans recognized this problem and launched EnviRenew, a strategy to renew communities through continued Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Envirenew began in 2006 and continues to find innovative ways to strengthen New Orleans.

[EnviRenew Home]
Pictured is an affordable, energy efficient home built through EnviRenew. These units are helping revive New Orleans communities, and they’re also designed to withstand strong weather.

The initiative really is amazing. They’ve awarded $10 million in grants to help rebuild 5 New Orleans neighborhoods. They’re constructing affordable, green homes for those in need, improving quality of life and breaking down the high cost barriers that prevent most of these people from being able to return and rebuild. They’re also attracting teachers and first responders to the neighborhoods to make them even stronger. The whole approach is making a positive difference and has even gained expert support.

The interior of an EnviRenew home.

Even 5 years after Hurricane Katrina, The Salvation Army remains committed to help New Orleans progress from a “recovering” city to a “resilient” city. This week you can even have an opportunity to be a part of this!

This Thursday, August 26, The Salvation Army will host a co-sponsored event with FedEx called “The Resiliency Summit.” New Orleans leaders along with national and local experts will celebrate the progress made over the past 5 years and discuss what it will take to create a vibrant and sustainable future for New Orleans communities. This event is free and open to the public, but you have to sign up beforehand! Register here.

Stay tuned to our blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages for updates on this exciting event. For more information on Envirenew, visit their website at www.envirenew.org.

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Celebrate National Thrift Shop Day

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today is National Thrift Store Day! What are you going to do to celebrate?

How about donating to or visiting a Salvation Army Family Thrift Store?

If you’ve been meaning to get rid of those extra clothes, books, and clutter taking up space in your house, today’s the perfect day to do it.

Or maybe you need to do some back to school shopping for your child’s clothes or dorm room essentials.

Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores provide a convenient way to recycle new or gently used items and our discounted prices are wallet-friendly, both great benefits for you and your family.

But your support of our Thrift Stores also significantly helps people in need!

Sales from our stores fund Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centers where men and women can find treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, as well as learn life and employment skills that prepare them to re-enter society and the job market.

All great reasons to celebrate. Happy National Thrift Store Day!

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Atlanta’s Overwhelming Need Spurs ‘Call to Action’

Monday, August 16, 2010

Last week in Atlanta was a desperate scene as a crowd of 30,000 people gathered for the chance to receive a public housing assistance application. The throng spent hours enduring sweltering temperatures even though the city’s available public aid falls far short of the exceeding need. The situation is representative of the overall dire economic struggle faced by the city’s sizeable low-income population.

Around the same time the event made national headlines, The Salvation Army of Atlanta posted a video of a homeless mother who has found shelter and resources through their center. The assistance will keep her family off the streets and empower her to more quickly get back on her feet. The mother’s account shines as a positive contrast to the pessimistic news stories, showing hope available through The Salvation Army for those who have fallen into economic crisis.

The city’s need, though, has resulted in a significant increase in demand for services from The Salvation Army Atlanta and has put a strain on their operational resources. Staff has logged countless hours of overtime. They are fielding some 40,000 calls each day from metro Atlanta residents seeking relief and their phone systems are overwhelmed.

So that The Salvation Army does not have to turn away one person in need, they have launched a “Call to Action” campaign to raise $300,000 in additional funds by September 30, 2010 to help meet the needs of hurting callers.

Supporters can donate by:

– Clicking Here for a Secure Online Donation

– Phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY

– Mail:

c/o Call To Action

The Salvation Army

P.O. Box 49247

Atlanta, GA 30359

For more information on how you can help, visit The Salvation Army Atlanta’s website at www.salvationarmyatlanta.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and their blog.

Thank you for your help and consideration!

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The Giving Pledge

Friday, August 13, 2010

The headlines under the newspaper’s business section seem to leave us lacking in optimism as of late.

Participation in the nation’s food stamp program hit a record high of 40.8 million in May, continuing a pattern of record highs for 18 straight months.

U.S. unemployment for July remained unchanged at 9.5%.

With the job market still struggling, the U.S. Congress passed another unemployment benefits extension for Americans without work who are trying to support themselves and their families.

Increased need has resulted in unprecedented demand for social services at many non-profits and charities, including The Salvation Army.

Bill and Melinda Gates, top, and Warren Buffett, bottom, have encouraged billionaires to donate half or more of their fortunes to charity through an initiative called ‘The Giving Pledge.’

As mentioned in our National 2010 Annual Report, some local Salvation Army units have reported a demand for services more than 400% above normal. In Hickory, North Carolina, we’ve served 75,000 more people than this time last year. And one of our food pantries in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania serves up to 50 families per week, up from last year’s 15 families per week.

The good news is it seems that with increased need there’s also been a heightened call in general for philanthropic generosity.

Recently Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett announced an initiative called ‘The Giving Pledge,’ an effort to encourage American billionaires to give half of their wealth to charities or non-profits during their lifetime or after their death. It’s an interesting idea that they hope will “draw more people into philanthropy” and “continue for generations” to come. A list of pledge signers, including George Lucas, Ted Turner and T. Boone Pickens, is available at http://givingpledge.org.

What do you think of this idea? What causes would you like to see supported by these pledge signers?

It would be wonderful if this initiative did result in more resources reaching those most in need, but thankfully you don’t have to be a billionaire to make a difference.

In fact, I would argue that Salvation Army supporters are some of the most generous people out there. This year The Salvation Army’s Christmas Red Kettle donations soared to a record $139 million. That’s $9 million more than our 2008 record, another year in which the economy and logic suggested that donations would be down. And no, these donations did not come from billionaires. Most of it came in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters from regular people with big hearts.

Though many Salvation Army offices were not (and are not) exempt from the strain of limited resources amidst escalating demand, The Salvation Army was able to provide help to nearly 30 million Americans last year thanks to our benevolent donors.

So while headlines may tempt us to feel dispirited, thankfully, as our supporters show us, there’s more to the story.

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