Experts say the US’ economic recession ended in June 2009, but if you ask the general population, many will probably tell you they’re skeptical and are still feeling the pain.
The Salvation Army has just released a new report today that also seems to show the recession is having a lasting impact on Americans.
We talked to more than 30 Salvation Army food service programs across the country to put together “Feeding the Need 2011,” a survey conducted between October 2010 and December 2010 that represents the experiences of Salvation Army officers and employees who work directly with clients in need.
Based on the national feedback we’ve seen from our food service programs, there are many Americans still struggling and in need of help, despite experts’ assessment that the recession is over.
Here’s a few key findings from our “Feed the Need 2011” survey:
* 94% of Salvation Army food service programs reported an increase in requests for food assistance in 2010.
* Nearly 60% of Salvation Army programs saw donations remain flat or decline from all funding sources, including government, public and private sources.
* Of food programs surveyed, 55% reported that their shelves were half-full or less.
* 23% of programs reported that volunteering rates increased in 2010, a sign that many Americans are beginning to donate time and talent instead of money.
Learn more by downloading the complete “Feeding the Need 2011” survey here.
Donors and volunteers can learn more about supporting The Salvation Army by visiting www.SalvationArmyUSA.org or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
Remember Mike Jones, the hometown hero who saved the lives of several Florida school board members taken hostage in their own meeting? The dramatic video of Jones thwarting the gunman was all over the internet and TV.
Most people recognize Jones from the recent news coverage of the event, but the more you get to know him, the more you realize he wasn’t just a hero in the moment. He’s been helping change people’s lives for years.
Jones currently serves as Bay District Safety and Security Director, and he’s also served 35 years in law enforcement as a police officer and detective. On top of that, he’s a local Salvation Army Advisory Board member.
While he was still in law enforcement, Jones worked several cases which led him to The Salvation Army. He helped many female domestic violence victims and abused children find shelter and assistance at our facilities.
Though at that time he generally knew of The Salvation Army’s work, he wasn’t fully aware of the many programs and services we offer. But now that Jones is a local board member going on his 4th year of service, he gets to see The Salvation Army from the inside out. His main role is to provide guidance and vote on issues related to finances, procedural policy, or other significant proposals.
“When you’re not a board member, you may not know everything [The Salvation Army is] doing,” Jones says. “But when I got in there and learned what they’re doing, it strengthened my faith even more…I could go on and on about how our community benefits from their work.”
Mike Jones with several refurbished bikes for his Salvage Santa program.
While he gives back through his service at The Salvation Army, Jones also heads another significant initiative called Salvage Santa, a program focused on refurbishing toys to donate to children in need. He started it more than 27 years ago as a hobby when he saw many great toys going to waste. Now he’s known all over the area for the work he and his wife do fixing up bikes, dolls, and games, and community members regularly drop by with donations. It’s gained so much attention that Jones was interviewed on Oprah in 1995! Check it out here under the video section. Jones is now serving 800 – 1,000 kids a year through Salvage Santa.
But for all these admirable things that Jones is known for, being forced to face off in a deadly gunfight is not the way most people would prefer to become known as a hero. I asked him how such a life-changing situation has affected him, especially his outlook on this new year.
“All the credit and glory goes to the good Lord. I’ve been through a lot of training in 35 years of law enforcement, and all of that kicked in, but Somebody guided me,” he said, describing how he was supposed to be on vacation that day, the seeming-coincidences that led to him be at the building at the right time, and narrowly avoiding the gunman’s shots in the meeting room. “I’m fortunate to be here today so I give all the thanks to God and what he does.”
During our phone conversation, Jones praised many of his colleagues on The Salvation Army Board and described them as “pillars of the community. ” While he probably wouldn’t say it about himself, it seems clear that those words easily describe Jones as well – not for a single heroic act highlighted on the evening news, but for the heroism he’s displayed through decades of service to others. The Salvation Army is extremely grateful to have him as a part of our organization.
In Port-au-Prince today, The Salvation Army and Haitian citizens are gathering for a very special remembrance ceremony to mark the one-year anniversary of an earthquake the world will not soon forget.
The Salvation Army continues to work with the nation throughout the rebuilding process. To learn more about the ongoing efforts in the island nation, we caught up with Major Ron Busroe, Director of Haiti’s Recovery and Development Office. He and his wife first served in Haiti from 2001-2007. In response to the earthquake, they’ve been appointed to serve three more years.
Read on for a broad overview of The Salvation Army’s work and issues shaping those efforts.
For our latest statistics and program highlights, view our Haiti One Year Anniversary Fact Sheet at www.salvationarmyusa.org.
The Salvation Army’s efforts in Haiti have progressed from the emergency response phase to the recovery and development phase. The Haiti Development and Recovery Office was established as of September 1 to oversee and guide these long-term recovery efforts, such as renovating schools and buildings as well as providing for the emotional and spiritual care of survivors.
In addition, the contract that established us as the “lead-agency” overseeing the temporary camp in the Delmas 2 neighborhood expired October 31. While The Salvation Army no longer manages the camp, our personnel remain involved and regularly meet with the camp committee. Much of our effort within this population goes toward cholera prevention.
The Salvation Army Haiti intends to move into a new Divisional Headquarters this month as their facility was destroyed in the earthquake. They also plan to rebuild their clinic this year, and perhaps even a warehouse, as storage space is a rare commodity in Haiti.
Housing and Permanent Shelter
It was estimated that around 20,000 displaced Haitians were living in the Delmas 2 neighborhood’s tent city near The Salvation Army’s main compound following the earthquake. Major Busroe estimates the number has dissipated now to somewhere just below 13,000 as people move out to the country. However, it’s been much more difficult for people wanting to start over within the city.
“Following the earthquake we’re seeing limited construction in city of Port-au-Prince. There’s some small construction, but few houses are being built. The rubble’s not removed so they can’t build, ” he explained, adding that the government’s weakened state and hurdles to verifying land ownership also inhibit progress. Reports indicate that after a year, less than 5% of the city’s rubble has been removed.
So Haitians’ only choices are to move and face the struggles of rural life (lack of access to clean water, medical services, business opportunities, education, and more) or continue to stay in their makeshift shelters.
Major Busroe says the Haitian government is encouraging NGO’s to build up resources within the rural communities in an effort to encourage people to relocate and help decongest the city. It’s a plan Major Busroe says The Salvation Army supports, though much of their service has already been focused on reaching the underserved outside the city even before the earthquake.
While cholera is still a serious threat to the people of Haiti, the mortality rate is on the decline. In general, those under The Salvation Army’s care have fared relatively well against the outbreak, although 4 female students from one of our schools perished when the epidemic first struck.
The Salvation Army is aggressively working to educate against, prevent, and treat further infection. In addition to providing water filtration systems in key areas, Major Busroe reported they’re distributing soap, disinfectant, oral rehydration packets, and antibiotics within the temporary camp and to medical facilities. In addition, The Salvation Army hospital in Fond-de-Negres set up a cholera treatment center at the request of the government, which has been filled with patients. The hospital is looking to set up an alternate site.
Schools and Services
The Salvation Army runs 49 schools in Haiti with approx. 11,000 students enrolled. All but one of those schools, College Verena in Port-au-Prince, continue to operate following the earthquake. College Verena has been combined with another school and reconstruction efforts are expected to continue within the next year.
23 temporary classrooms have already been built and will officially open today as a part of the one-year remembrance ceremony. More than 1500 children will be able to attend classes there, broken up into a morning session for primary students and afternoon session for secondary students.
With the help of Numana, The Salvation Army hopes to one day serve meals in most of their rural schools. “We feel if we can provide a meal everyday at schools, that’s the best way of getting kids into school and getting people to leave the city to come to country,” said Major Busroe.
In addition to bolstering schools and school programs, The Salvation Army Haiti is looking into providing other long term services for the community in general, such as adolescent care, integrated family support, and vocational training, with the help of The Salvation Army in Canada, Switzerland, and other International Divisions.
For our latest statistics and program highlights, view our Haiti One Year Anniversary Fact Sheet at www.salvationarmyusa.org.
Last week I had the immense pleasure of speaking with Lamont, a 36 year old Salvation Army client residing in our men’s shelter in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The energy in Lamont’s voice is contagious. Though he’s fallen on hard times, his perspective on life is more hopeful than most people’s I know, and I couldn’t help but feel inspired after meeting him over the phone just minutes earlier.
After spending some years in prison, Lamont says he wanted to live a changed life when he got out, and he knew The Salvation Army could help him do it. Before serving time, he had volunteered everyday in one of our kitchens as a way to stay off the streets, so he knew firsthand about the help we offer.
Upon his release, Lamont went to The Salvation Army with a plan. He told the local staff about his goal of going to cosmetology school full time to earn his license and eventually find a job that would allow him to support himself. They gave him a bed at the men’s shelter, and now Lamont says it’s put him in a better position to cut off his negative relationships from his past and meet new people.
He’s also focusing on school 100% as a student at the American Institute of Beauty and using his barber skills to benefit the shelter’s many other residents.
“I’d go on the streets giving people free haircuts,” Lamont says. “Then my name started circulating that I was the guy to come to when you need a haircut. I’m always playing around, cutting, blow-drying with these guys. They say, “I got a job interview tomorrow. Can you help me?” So I shave ‘em, trim ‘em, do their nose hairs, whatever. If you make people feel better on the outside, they become more employable, so I do hair.”
As much as he helped his male bunkmates, Lamont wanted to do more for the women at The Salvation Army’s family shelter. Then one day, when he saw his school getting ready to toss out some old nail polish bottles, he asked to take two back to the family shelter. The school told him they’d contact The Salvation Army directly to make sure it was ok, and Lamont never expected what happened next.
Rather than giving the two bottles, the school donated loads of new nail polish to The Salvation Army, plus items for complete manicure and pedicure sets, hair products, and makeup for the women, as well as socks, body wash, toothpaste, and many other hygienic items for the men.
“It was beautiful! It was incomparable! I’m giving praises to God. I was just a vessel he used,” Lamont gushed remembering it. “It makes me feel good. I really accomplished something. I did something. I’m still smiling about it right now!”
Lamont’s dream is to have his own salon one day that is full of his personality. It’s a plan he says he came up with more than ten years ago and is still trying to execute to this day. For him, doing hair is a job in which his clients won’t hold his past against him as long he can make them look and feel good. He loves the way a simple haircut or style can transform a person’s attitude and make them shine.
Lamont has several months of hard work ahead before he gets his license. Classes began in August and he’s on schedule to graduate in May 2011. He’s out the door every morning before 6:30am to take a 2.5 hour bus ride, and he doesn’t get back to The Salvation Army shelter until after dinner time. But his joy and determination are undeniable.
“I want to utilize my own hands, brain, and the senses God gave me to get myself out of my situation. I’m gonna share the good things that God has put in my heart. I thank God He has given me the knowledge, ability, and power to plant the seeds. That’s all I am. A sower of good seeds.”
In regards to The Salvation Army, Lamont told me, “It’s a blessing to be a part of this organization. I think that someway, somehow, with the will of God, together we can always make a difference. I would love to try to be a part of this organization for the rest of my life.”
We’d like that too. Good luck, Lamont, with school, you career, and beyond. We’re rooting for you!