For a Haircut and Inspiring Story, Lamont’s Your Guy

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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!

Turning Leftovers into Abundance

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ryan Cox is a 14 year old from Jacksonville, FL who has found a unique way to support the needy in his community. The teenager has provided thousands of pounds of food for hungry, impoverished persons in Northeast Florida through his “gleaning efforts.”

Gleaning is an ancient, biblical practice that involves gathering leftover crops that would otherwise rot from fields that have already been formally harvested.

Ryan has gleaned and donated more than 3,000 lbs. of fresh produce to The Salvation Army and other non-profit agencies. He started at the age of 12 when he needed to complete several service hours for his church confirmation. During his first gleaning experience, he harvested potatoes from a farm in Hastings, Florida with other 7th grade boys. Despite being hot and dirty after many hours of hard work, they were thrilled to have harvested hundreds of pounds of potatoes!

Having previously served meals at a Salvation Army soup kitchen, Ryan knew first-hand that they could use more fresh produce, so he made it his personal mission to continue gleaning as much produce as possible.

In 2010 alone, he gleaned more than 2,000 pounds of potatoes, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and citrus which he and his parents delivered to The Salvation Army. The value of Ryan’s donated food is worth more than $4,200 and has provided more than 1,600 nutritious meals for homeless men, women and children. According to Ryan, this is only the beginning. He continues to set personal gleaning goals and well surpasses them.

[Produce]

Head Chef for the local Salvation Army, Anthony Mosely, cannot say enough about Ryan and his gleaning efforts.

“Ryan has literally saved us thousands of dollars in produce costs and had added variety and freshness to our meals. He is an enthusiastic kid with an abundance of energy and ambition. He is the kind of kid they should make a movie about. How many kids his age do you know that set personal goals of helping to feed homeless people – and then actually follow through on them? This kid is amazing!”

And amazing he is! Ryan will be entering high school in the fall and shows no sign of slowing down in his efforts to help others.

From all of us at The Salvation Army, thank you Ryan for your outstanding work and leadership! You are a true blessing and role model.

Information submitted by The Salvation Army Florida Division.

Homeless Man with the Golden Voice Inspires Other Homeless Citizens

Thursday, January 6, 2011

By now you’ve all heard of the homeless man with the golden radio voice, Ted Williams. (To view the YouTube video that started it all, click here.) In just a few days he’s gone from panhandling to becoming an internet sensation with prestigious job offers pouring in.

Ted’s amazing turn of events, not to mention his humble and charismatic personality, has inspired an instant and growing fan base.

Interview with CBS’ The Early Show

Now Ted’s second chance at life is inspiring other gifted homeless people, including Salvation Army clients. In Minneapolis, Stu and Laporsha are both talented and educated individuals who never expected to be homeless, but they have hope that they will be able to once again get back on their feet, just like Ted.

Fox 9 spoke with them about how The Salvation Army is helping them pursue their own second chances:

Great News for Our Residential Facilities

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Salvation Army residential shelters just got some great news to start off the New Year.

Stearns & Foster (owned by Sealy) announced it’s donating $1 million worth of new mattresses to our facilities across the country. The bedding manufacturer teamed up with retailers during the holidays to offer $100 in donations per mattress set sold, and, to our excitement, they reached the maximum amount of donations.

Stearns & Foster’s generous gift will fulfill a basic need for men, women, and children who need a safe place to stay and comfortable night’s sleep at The Salvation Army.

We have shelter programs operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Last year we provided more than 10 million lodgings to Americans in need.

We can’t wait to get these mattresses out to our communities and see the impact a good night’s sleep will have on the people we serve every day! Thank you to Stearns & Foster and participating retailers for your generous support!