Fundraising for Fish: Shelter Works to Save Health-Promoting Friends

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The following was contributed by Guest Blogger Kathy Lovin, Public Affairs and Communications Manager – Salvation Army’s Western Territory

In study after study, researchers find that people who watch fish in an aquarium can experience surprising health benefits, such as a decrease in blood pressure, muscle tension and pulse rate!

For instance, one study found that tanks full of brightly-colored fish in the dining room of the memory care unit at a convalescent center increased Alzheimer’s patients’ nutritional intake. That’s why the staff of The Salvation Army’s Bell Shelter in Southern California is trying to raise money to save their 300 gallon saltwater fish tank.

The Bell Shelter is home to about 300 to 350 residents at a time. It’s the largest homeless shelter West of the Mississippi and is located in a converted 40,000 square-foot hangar formerly used as a U.S. Army Air Base. It costs about $200 to $250 per month to feed the fish and clean and maintain the Bell Shelter’s tank. And that’s only if everything’s functioning properly. When a pump or a light needs to be replaced, the cost goes up.

But Paul Wager says the expense is worth it. He should know; he’s the Bell Shelter’s on-staff psychotherapist who helps the residents get their mental health needs met. Of the homeless population, Paul says between 30 – 50% have legitimate mental health issues.

The tank is in the main hall of the shelter in a high traffic area. There are benches along the opposite wall so folks can sit and gaze at the fish to their heart’s content. There are about two dozen fish in all, including clownfish, damselfish, dottybacks, basslets, and anthias.
Paul says the tank has a calming effect on the residents. Watching the tank allows them to relax and take a mental vacation from the challenges in their lives. The fish are such a part of their daily routine that many name their favorites and stand in front the tank to wait for them to swim by every day.

On Friday, September 16 Bell Shelter held a barbecue fundraiser to “Save Nemo and His Friends.” Staff and volunteers bought tickets for lunch and an opportunity drawing that will hopefully bring in much-needed funds so they can keep the tank. They want to give the fish a permanent home while they help the residents ease the transition into a stable, long-term home of their own too.

Click here for a link to fascinating a research paper on the health benefits of companion animals – including fish!

Click here to learn more about the Bell Shelter.

Check out Kathy’s Blog at www.SalvationArmyExpectChange.org!

Looking Beyond the Numbers

Monday, September 19, 2011

We blogged last week about the increased number of Americans living in poverty which has reached a record 46.2 million people – or one in six Americans. According to the same reporting agency, the top five poorest states are Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Louisiana. Failed government policies from years past and a continued decline in GDP have taken a drastic toll on the jobs market and the American way of life. The poverty rate is the “highest of any major industrialized nation”.

This past week, reporters from The Associated Press scavenged the poorest areas of the country in search for a few of the stories behind this record-breaking number. The accounts include very real depictions of the prevalent poverty struggle in America. Most frustratingly, those without jobs often live in the communities with the fewest resources for finding another. Adding to this vicious cycle are the struggles of feeding a growing family or caring for ill loved ones who are unable to contribute. Families find themselves destitute once government assistance ends or help from the community isn’t an option anymore.

Read the stories here.

Among the accounts is that of Monique Brown, a single mom with four children who, up until two weeks ago, was homeless. When the recession hit in 2008, Monique lost both of her jobs in Florida and decided to move her family to Alabama in order to live near her brother. The Salvation Army of Birmingham provided shelter to Monique and her family for several weeks, eventually helping her find a public housing unit. They paid for her furniture, appliances and rent deposits. She now has a home where she can adequately care for her two-year-old son and continue her search for work. With help from The Salvation Army and other donations, her children have beds again.

The Salvation Army provides housing and homeless services nationwide. Along with providing food and lodging for the homeless, The Salvation Army addresses the health and educational needs of residents and seeks to address the issues causing the need. For more information on The Salvation Army Housing and Homeless Services, please visit our website at www.SalvationArmyUSA.org.

Communities Rally in Support of Wildfire Victims

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Salvation Army opened a new Central Texas Wildfire Relief Center in Austin on Friday. The center, located at 12317 Technology Blvd. Suite 300, serves as a distribution point for donated items to wildfire survivors. Families and individuals who lost their homes can select donated items: clothing, shoes, toiletries, water and household items. Additionally, The Salvation Army is providing gift cards to those in need.

Seventy-eight volunteers responded to our appeal for help last week and sorted through the overwhelming number of items received from donations. The KXAN’s “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” campaign brought in several truck loads of items. Many thanks to the dedicated volunteers and staff who helped organize and distribute the donations!

Although the fires in Bastrop County have been mostly contained, the distribution center will remain open this week, Monday-Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Salvation Army mobile feeding units are still active in Bastrop County, providing food and drinks to those in need. Since arriving in Bastrop County, Salvation Army feeding units have served more than 23,500 drinks, 6,000 snacks and 1,600 meals.

For more information on The Salvation Army distribution, please call (512) 476-1111.

If you’d like to donate monetarily, you can do so online at www.SalvationArmyUSA.org or by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

Checks can be sent to:

The Salvation Army
PO BOX 36607
Dallas, TX 75235

Call to Prayer for Peace: September 18

Friday, September 16, 2011

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

The Salvation Army’s fifth annual Call to Prayer for Peace is this Sunday, September 18. It is on this day each year that we reflect on the above verse and pray for peace around the world. You could briefly petition for world peace or this could be an opportunity to ask for personal inner peace.

The programs of The Salvation Army seek to provide peace, faith and comfort to individuals around the world. For instance, did you know The Salvation Army helps rehabilitate prisoners? Officers provide paroled prisoners with spiritual guidance and job training- the essentials for resuming a normal life post-offense.

Also, many people don’t know that The Salvation Army has a anti-human trafficking program motivated by the belief in human dignity and respect. The program seeks to end human trafficking and to restore the lives of survivors. These are just a couple of examples. Check out our website to learn about the multiple programs put into place to help give people a new-found peace, appreciation for life and love for God.

It’s in our nature to worry – constantly. We experience incessant turmoil and anxiety, feeling as though we must rely on ourselves for answers and sense of calm. But God has a different solution- pray without ceasing! Cast your cares on the Lord and thank him for his blessings. You will feel an abundance of peace in doing so.

Consider taking a few moments on Sunday to pray the following:

“Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth.

Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.

Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace.

Let peace fill our heart, world, our universe.”