Pakistan in Recovery – A Firsthand View from A Salvation Army Officer

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yesterday we posted an updated bulletin regarding The Salvation Army’s ongoing relief work in Pakistan in response to the area’s devastating floods.

Today we are sharing the firsthand account of Major Dennis Gensler of The Salvation Army Pakistan Territory regarding his efforts in the recovering communities. Some of his narrative expands on the events described in yesterday’s bulletin, and much of the narrative provides additional detail exclusive to Major Gensler’s own experience. We hope it will provide you with a more personal view of The Salvation Army’s relief efforts and the plight of flood survivors.

“We left Territorial Headquarters Saturday 14 August at 4:30 am for the four hour trip to Islamabad to pick up other members of the Disaster team before going the remaining two hours to Charsadda. We were in two vehicles as the plan was to leave the four-wheel drive truck with the Islamabad team for their future visits to the flood areas.

We were grateful for the good organization that Captain Asif in Peshawar had arranged. Each family that was to be helped had a paper with their name and identification number on it and they were numbered from 1 to 100. After showing their identification card and giving their thumb print they were given a canvas bag with cooking utensils, pots, buckets, plates, cups, and kettles. They also received a foam mattress, a quilt and a large pillow. Everyone was very grateful for these very useful items. We did this in three places for a total of 300 families being assisted and it all ran very smoothly. We were able to have prayer at each location. We were joined by a few of the Bishops of other denominations and even a Muslim leader came and shared a few words at one of them. We also had the MPA (Member of Provincial Assembly) for the Peshawar area Prince Javed participate in one of the distributions. We are expecting to help at least 3,000 families in this area alone.

After a long day of passing out relief goods we went into Peshawar to spend the night at a guest house. Peshawar was not at all what I expected. It’s really a very large and modern place.

On Sunday morning we did some additional assessments at some of the areas affected by the flood waters. We visited some families whose small mud homes were missing walls and parts of the roof. One home had a large hole in a small bedroom where a woman was in mud up to her neck and had to be pulled out by a few men. They were already working on rebuilding some of the mud walls and in some cases they will use some bricks. It’s not that much stronger, since they don’t use cement with the bricks – only mud. One little boy in this area was holding a 9 mm pistol which he seemed to keep at his side, somewhat hidden. I wasn’t sure if it was real or a toy, but being an American in Peshawar I felt my heart race a bit. I called him and some other boys near to me for a picture. It’s hard to imagine the affect that all of this is going to have on the children. My heart was aching for each of them.

The really disturbing place that we visited was a village called Azhakhel, which as it turns out was an Afghan Refugee Camp. As I looked at the map it appears this place is right at the bend in the river. Another village just to the west is called Pabbi and they were hit just as hard. As far as we could see in either direction was total destruction. Villagers told us that there were around 15,000 families in these places, but we couldn’t verify that.

The work of recovery and rebuilding here in Pakistan will take years. They were already so far behind, but this will just send them back even further. I wish I could rely on the generous gifts from around the world to give what is necessary, but considering how Pakistan has become alienated from so many I don’t see that happening. I wish more people could see the Pakistan that I have come to see in the last six months. I’m certain they would give more.”

If you would like to support The Salvation Army’s relief efforts in Pakistan, you can donate by clicking here.

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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

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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2010 Online Annual Report Now Available

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Salvation Army has released its 2010 online annual report, available at

The theme of this year’s report is “Shine” – The Salvation Army strives to be a shining light of hope in communities nationwide. As we continue to navigate through difficult economic times, we’re encouraged by the stories we hear each day from across the country. Some of these stories are shared in this report — from an after school program in St. Paul, MN; to a GED course in Tucson, AZ; a family shelter in Akron, OH and a Boys & Girls Club in Tulsa, OK.

The people you see in these videos, from teenagers to an 80+ year-old woman, are telling their real, personal accounts of how The Salvation Army has helped them turn their lives around. Their stories are truly inspiring and stand as a reminder of why we do what we do every single day.

As one of the oldest and largest social service charities in the United States, The Salvation Army provided help to nearly 30 million Americans last year alone. During our previous fiscal year, The Salvation Army:

* Served 64 million meals to people in need
* Helped nearly 1 million Americans following disasters
* Sent 180,000 unprivileged kids to summer camp
* Counseled 370,000 individuals with drug and alcohol rehabilitation

Thank you for your support that has helped make our service possible. Learn more through our annual report about The Salvation Army’s diverse programs and services utilized by those in need last year.

And please help us spread the word – Tweet, Facebook and email the report to friends, family, neighbors – anyone who might want to learn that The Salvation Army is about a lot more than thrift stores and kettles! Check us out and find more information on:

* Facebook (
* Twitter (
* National Website (

Thanks again for your continued support of The Salvation Army!

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NSAW Fact of the Day: Red Kettle Origin and Modern Traditions

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Did You Know…?

The Annual Red Kettle Christmas Campaign began in 1891 when a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco set up a crab pot at Oakland Ferry Landing to collect money for the poor at Christmas. The campaign has since become one of the longest-running and most recognizable fundraising efforts in the world. Kettles are now used in such distant lands as Korea, Japan, Chile and throughout Europe.

Since 1997, The Salvation Army has launched the Annual Red Kettle Christmas Campaign with a special halftime show performance at the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game. Previous performers have included Daughtry, Jonas Brothers, Kelly Clarkson, Toby Keith and Jessica Simpson. During this time period, The Salvation Army has raised more than $1.5 billion from the red kettles to support service efforts in communities nationwide.

Hit rock band Daughtry performed for The Salvation Army’s 2009 Red Kettle Kick-Off half time show during the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game.

In honor of National Salvation Army Week, everyday we are posting one interesting fact on our blog and an event on our website demonstrating how Salvation Army’s across the country are celebrating. Click here for more information on the history of National Salvation Army Week.

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Seattle Woman Finds Help, Hope, and a Mission Through Aid from Salvation Army

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Celeste Smith was well acquainted with the Seattle social scene and an insider among the city’s exclusive social clubs. She sits on boards, has served as president (multiple times) of prestigious clubs, and lives in a nice home on the affluent eastside of the city. Celeste recounted to me that as she passed Salvation Army Bell Ringers outside store fronts at Christmas time, she would regularly donate to the iconic Red Kettles. However, she said she never stopped to think about what her donations meant for the person on “the other side.”

Celeste Smith says she donated to The Salvation Army, but she never expected to be in need of The Salvation Army’s help.

Until, that is, she became that other person. After being diagnosed with aggressive stage 2A breast cancer, Celeste underwent heavy treatments, leaving her exhausted and unable to continue her job as a realtor.

“I had a lumpectomy in April, radiation July-August, and chemotherapy and Herceptin treatments which concluded in October 2009. During this time and since I have had no income except a Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) check of $339.00 a month, food stamps and the generosity of friends.”

Celeste filed bankruptcy, her house went into foreclosure, and she had to sell her belongings or borrow money from people in order to make ends meet. She soon felt hopeless.

“I was so despondent. There was no place to draw from,” she said. “It’s not just about being depressed, it’s about feeling hopeless. To me, that’s a different thing. I couldn’t find one thing to take any kind of hope in. It was a moving thing for me. When I got to that point, I realized this was huge.”

Celeste sought out help and was referred to The Salvation Army (TSA) to begin to get a grasp on her finances. She visited February 17. During her appointment, Celeste’s Salvation Army caseworker talked to her about utility assistance through the emergency financial assistance umbrella program. That same day, TSA pledged $269 towards her overdue utility balances, which covered her outstanding electric bill, and all but $60 of her gas bill. The funds were paid to the companies, which postponed Celeste’s pending utility shut off, and TSA made an appointment for her with another organization called Hopelink to cover the cost of her remaining gas bill. She left that day with her utility service intact and a short term plan for her finances.

Once without hope, Celeste has now found encouragement in the assistance she received through TSA, and she says she feels like she’s moving forward.

“I just have to take it day by day. Even though now I don’t know where I’m going, I’m fairly positive because I’m better than I was. I have gone through this for a reason, for my own life learning. Maybe the social world of private club life isn’t where I need to be. I have to be positive because I feel like now I have a little bit of a mission. I want to help other people.”

Celeste’s doctor says she is in remission and her prognosis is good. Celeste hopes to start a foundation that will help single, low income women like her who have been diagnosed with cancer. She says when she becomes more financially solvent she would like to continue supporting TSA.

“The process of requesting help from all agencies is laborious and difficult to navigate making a difficult process even more exhausting. If it was not for non-profits like The Salvation Army to pay utility bills and water I am not sure where I would be. In the dark I suppose.”

For more information about The Salvation Army’s ongoing efforts, visit our national website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Beauticians Use Skills to Serve Community; In Need of More Volunteers

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You probably know The Salvation Army is behind the seemingly ubiquitous Christmas Red Kettles and holiday bell ringers, and more than likely you’ve passed by or even visited one of our Family Thrift Stores. But did you know that in addition to these initiatives, The Salvation Army has many more national programs serving those in need, as well as unique programs specific to local communities? One such example is a Salvation Army beauty shop in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Yes, I said beauty shop. Surprised? So was I!

In 1995 a Battle Creek community member came to the local Salvation Army with the suggestion of assisting job seekers and those entering the job market by helping make them presentable for the process. Thus, The Salvation Army Beauty Shop was born, offering free haircuts and shampoos to clients such as homeless, low income, and job seeking individuals who otherwise may not be able to afford these services.

The program has for several years run on the efforts of three amazing volunteers: retired beauticians Shirley Hoeksema and Barb Herr who have offered their salon skills for the past 14 years, and Judy Wessmer who joined the team in 2007. Together, these three women have devoted more than 5,000 hours of their time to the community through their work at the salon.

Words can’t express how thankful we are for their selfless commitment! They have no doubt made an invaluable impact in the lives of many and show how integral volunteers are to the betterment of our communities.

But, the Battle Creek Salvation Army Beauty Shop needs more help to serve their many clients as some difficulties have put significant strains on these ladies.

Find out more about the situation and how you can help by reading an article written by Marcie Gothard of The Battle Creek Salvation Army: Battle Creek Enquirer: Salvation Army Seeking Volunteers with Hair Salon Experience.

To become involved, contact Marcie Gothard at 269-963-3640 ext. 17 or at

You can also find more information at The Battle Creek Salvation Army’s website at

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Honor Society Partners with Salvation Army During National Tour

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You may know the band Honor Society from their hit singles “Where Are You Now” and “Over You,” and the music video they did with The Salvation Army for the song “White Christmas.” (The guys are great Red Kettle Bell Ringers, by the way!)

Michael, Jason, Andrew, and Alex are partnering with The Salvation Army again as they tour across the United States during April and May. The band will volunteer time during some of their tour stops to support local Salvation Army programs and host canned food drives, so stay updated through our blog, Facebook, and Twitter as we provide more information about events near you!

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Red Kettles 2.0

Friday, March 19, 2010

This week we released The Salvation Army’s record-breaking Red Kettle Campaign results, made possible by your generous donations! (Thank you!)

The Washington Times featured a story about this today entitled, “Green Yule for virtual Salvation Army – Cyber kettle shows its mettle,” focusing on the new and unique “virtual” Red Kettle presence, including an iPhone application and the online game Coin Catch. This online presence helps us reach a larger audience and provides more opportunities for people to give back to the community.

The Salvation Army Coin Catch game, inspired by an anonymous donor in Detroit, is entertaining, free to play, and generates donations for The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division where state residents are struggling with the highest unemployment rates in the nation. For people who want to support a good cause but don’t have the extra funds, this program is perfect!

The goal is to catch as many falling coins as possible in a red kettle while avoiding “bad things” like mousetraps and spiders. For every coin you catch, the anonymous donor gives one penny to The Salvation Army. As you catch more money, the game will quickly pause to tell you what a positive impact your funds will have on someone in Detroit (for example, $.33 cents will buy someone a meal, and $.66 provides a baby of bottle formula for a day).

If you haven’t tried our Coin Catch Game yet, visit to test your skill and help someone in need in the process. Thank you again for your support of The Salvation Army and helping make this a record-breaking year!

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2009 Red Kettle Fundraiser Fact Sheet

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2009 Red Kettle Income Fact Sheet – Numbers

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Salvation Army Red Kettles Set New Record!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The numbers are in, and U.S. donors contributed a record-breaking $139 million in nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars to The Salvation Army’s iconic Christmas Red Kettle Campaign this year! The results are encouraging because the generous public not only helped us reach it despite a difficult economy, but the funds are especially needed as demand for social services has skyrocketed.

“Our local Corps units are reporting demand for social services that is more than 400 percent above normal in some cases,” said Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, National Commander of The Salvation Army. “We needed help this year and Americans, as well as corporate partners responded in a big way.”

These are a few ways our corporate partners helped make a big impact for a great cause:

* Walmart and Sam’s Club:

Red Kettles located at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores accounted for as much as 29 percent of the total given. The Walmart Foundation also made a direct donation of $1.25 million.

* Kroger:

Kroger stores hosted Salvation Army Red Kettles at nearly 2,000 stores. Those donations raised approx. $11.3 million, or 8% of the campaign’s physical Red Kettle total.

* Target:

Target donated more than $1.25 million in cash and in-kind donations. They also collaborated with Hasbro, Inc. to give 5% of the purchase price of Hasbro toys bought at Target to The Salvation Army.

* JCPenney:

JCPenney and The Salvation Army launched the first-ever Online Angel Giving Tree Program. People could “adopt” Salvation Army “Angels” and deliver gifts via the Internet. Tens of thousands of children and seniors in need were adopted.

* The Weather Channel:

The Weather Channel promoted a compilation CD featuring a Salvation Army-themed single entitled, “Please Don’t Forget,” performed by Grammy Award winner Aaron Neville.

The Salvation Army also used some tech saavy methods to raise money, from a new Apple iPhone application, to Facebook and Twitter, and the Online Red Kettle. An additional $1.9 million was donated through the online Red Kettle. Other online donations totaled $9.6 million, a 5.6% increase over the $9.2 million raised in 2008.

From its humble beginnings as a fundraiser started by a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco in 1891, the Red Kettle Campaign has grown into one of the most recognizable and important charitable outreach efforts in the United States.

Thank you, America, for your generous support and making it possible for our continued service to those in need! For more information, read our press release here.

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