Today we’re sharing another moving story from The Salvation Army Massachusetts, as told by Donor Relations Director Larry Grazio. It’s an amazing account of a boy who truly had nothing. But now that he’s grown up and successfully established, he never forgot the support and love shown him by The Salvation Army during his darkest times.
He got his clothes from a Salvation Army thrift store. He got his food from a Salvation Army pantry and the first Christmas gift he ever received came from a Salvation Army Officer. He literally has walked in the shoes of the poorest of the poor. These experiences as a child had such a profound effect on him and created empathy so deep that, today, he is one of the most generous donors to The Salvation Army of Massachusetts. So modest is this man though that he does not want his name publicized – so I’ll call him Michael.
Michael escaped with his mother from an Eastern European Communist country. Unfortunately the Communists killed his father, older brother, three uncles and a nephew. He immigrated to New York City because he had been told that the streets there were paved with gold. When he got there, however, he quickly learned differently–to survive, he had to eat out of garbage cans. Then he found The Salvation Army, and his life began to change.
Eventually, he moved to Boston where he got his first job: selling magazines door-to-door in the Uphmans Corner area of Dorchester.
Today Michael is an extremely generous, Godly man who owns a successful investment company. He has always told me if we need help, just let him know; and he has always come through. His concern for the basic needs of the poor is so real that if Michael makes a designated gift for a special capital project, he will always make a gift of equal size for basic services. Michael puts people above projects.
As a young boy, Michael was given a scholarship to attend The Salvation Army’s Camp Wonderland in Sharon, MA. He told me that in those days all the boys put Brylcreem or Vitalis Hair Tonic in their hair to slick it back, but because he was so poor, he could not afford that. So one day he put lard in his hair and combed it all back. Getting on the bus that day for camp, he was very proud. He sat down in his seat for the ride to camp, and then….the sun shone through the window…. and the lard melted all down his face. He was mortified by his desperation to hide his extreme poverty.
However, he proudly told me this last story: he was playing baseball at camp; it was the 9th inning, two outs, his team was losing. He came to the plate. With a full-count, he hit a dramatic game-winning walk off home run– but fell rounding second base and broke his arm. The camp counselors took Michael to the hospital. When he got there, the Red Sox were also losing in the 9th inning with three men on. At that moment, Ted Williams came to the plate – just like Michael – and hit a game-winning walk off grand slam – just like Michael – and won the game – just like Michael! Michael was feeling pretty special right about then! Despite having broken his arm that day, Michael will tell you that “that baseball game was one of his single best childhood memories”.
This past August, TSA of MA had a matching gift challenge that Michael participated in with a generous gift. Now, as the year is coming to a close, he read that gift income is down, need is up and more people than ever before are asking for our help with the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing.
In yet, another act of extraordinary kindness, Michael called to offer us a $175,000 matching challenge grant to encourage other donors – first-time or long-time — to continue to help those in need because he knows what it’s like to feel that kind of pain, fear and desperation.
Although Michael no longer gets his clothes from a Salvation Army Thrift Store or his food from a Salvation Army food pantry, he has never forgotten the help The Army gave him. He just wants to make sure that The Army can continue to provide help to those in need – the way they provided for him so many years ago.
[Brett and Deana Favre pose with one of the families they sponsored through The Salvation Army.]
Brett and Deana Favre pose with one of the families they sponsored through The Salvation Army. (Photo: Craig Dirkes)
The Salvation Army’s Northern Division (serving Minnesota and North Dakota) shared this story of holiday generosity with us and we couldn’t pass up sharing it with you.
This Christmas the Salvation Army Northern Division wanted to give needy families and individuals in the Twin Cities food baskets with all the fixings for a proper Christmas dinner.
However, they knew it wouldn’t be easy. Their food pantries have seen a 30% – 150% increase in demand since 2008. Plus, they received assistance requests from 1,000 more families this year than they did last, but donations were down nearly half a million dollars.
So the Army launched a fundraising effort with a goal of $60,000 in order to provide food for 2,000 families…but they only raised $300.
Then they received a call from Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre’s and his wife Deanna’s community outreach rep. The couple wanted to adopt some families through The Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family Program and wanted to know what other ways they could help. After hearing about the Army’s food baskets plan, they donated the entire $60,000 out of their personal funds to cover the project. Thanks to their generosity, 2,000 families and individuals received two boxes stuffed full of food.
[Brett and Deana Favre hang out with families at a private meet and greet.]
Brett and Deana Favre hang out with families at a private meet and greet. (Photo: Craig Dirkes_
Plus, they adopted four families in need, all of whom were in some way battling cancer, an issue close to Deanna Favre’s heart.
Not only did Brett and Deanna purchase generous presents for each sponsored family, they set up a meet and greet at the Vikings practice facility where kids and parents got to hang out with the star couple.
When asked why he supported The Salvation Army programs, Favre said he strongly believed it’s much better to give than to receive.
The Salvation Army Northern Division posted photos here on their Flickr page.
We don’t know how to say thank you enough to the Favres for their kindness! The Salvation Army is blessed by their generosity and it helped bring a very happy close to the year for thousands of our clients.
Favre chats and signs an autograph for a young fan. (Photo: Craig Dirkes)
Do you ever wonder, “Who are those people who so faithfully ring the bells alongside Salvation Army Red Kettles every holiday season? What is it that motivates each of them to serve?”
What makes many of these faithful servants unique is that many bell ringers have been on the other side of the social service system. They have first-hand experience at homelessness and going without – bell ringers like Peter Adup, one of the “lost boys” from Sudan who escaped to the U.S. as a teenager when his entire family perished due to political strife. He has no immediate family left, but The Salvation Army has become his family.
He currently resides at a Salvation Army homeless shelter, where he’s working to get back on his feet with gainful employment – perhaps even as a Salvation Army officer one day! In his free time, he volunteers every chance he gets, including as a bell ringer.
Peter Adup is recognized as Southern California’s “Bellringer of the Year.” (Photo from Salvation Army of Southern California’s Facebook album.)
For three years in a row now he’s been stationed at one of the highest trafficked kettles in Los Angeles.
Due to his contagious smile and amazing energy, his has one of the most successful kettles in town.
Despite all of the hardship Peter has faced in his home land – or perhaps because it – Peter’s desire is to pursue full-time ministry and return to Africa as a missionary.
His amazing attitude and contagious energy are evident to all, and those are just a few of the reasons the Southern California Division has named him “Bell Ringer of the Year.”
His is an inspiring story of triumphing despite all odds.
Information submitted by Dawn Wright from The Salvation Army USA’s Southern California Division. Thanks Dawn!
Christmas may be over, but that doesn’t mean the spirit of Christmas has to be. Today we’re sharing with you stories of many ordinary people who have done extraordinary things to give back to those in need. If you ever think that you don’t know what you can do to foster change, we hope you’ll be encouraged by these stories of individuals of all different ages and means who find creative ways to help others.
Lynn Smith (Photo: WAVE News)
A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY WISH
Lynn Smith of Kentucky has for years adopted angels through The Salvation Army Angel Giving Tree program. But this year, as she turns 50, she wanted to do something extra special – so Smith adopted 50 angels! She enlisted about 40 friends to help as their birthday present to her.
Mary Timmons was hesitant to take up bingo because she viewed it as gambling. However, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with the money. For the past six months, the 97-year-old has been saving all of her 50-cent bingo winnings in order to donate it to The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle fundraiser. This December she dropped more than $40 in quarters into a Red Kettle outside her local Walmart.
Bob and Betty Haldeman (Photo: John Carrington/ Savannah Morning News)
For several years Bob and Betty Haldeman have created a winter wonderland of Christmas lights on their lawn (and the lawns of their neighbors) to be enjoyed by the public. They play Christmas music, serve free coffee and hot chocolate, and collect donations for The Salvation Army Red Kettle fundraiser. Over the past 12 years with their light display they’ve collected $50,000 for the campaign!
Dan and Denise Costa of Modesto, CA have volunteered with The Salvation Army since the 1970’s. They were instrumental in creating the annual “Thanks-For-Giving” event for people in need held at the Modesto convention center. Unlike a traditional food line, the event mirrors the experience of a 4-star, fine dining restaurant with linen table cloths, garnished tables, plated dinners, music and entertainment, games for kids, and full table service. Dan and Denise even write letters to the public and collection donations to fund the dinner so that it comes at no cost to The Salvation Army. More than 1,000 people enjoy “Thanks-For-Giving” each year.
SMALL COINS REAP BIG GAINS
The Salvation Army of Greensburg recently concluded its first ‘World’s Largest Kettle’ Campaign, a program aimed at filling the world’s largest Salvation Army kettle with 5.4 million pennies. While the program did not succeed at filling the entire kettle, $20,000 was raised in pennies in just one day. Donors to the program ranged from young children who contributed just a few pennies, to a man who had been saving pennies since 1963 and was looking for a special avenue to share those pennies. A local middle school had homerooms compete against each other and collected 963 pounds of pennies—an estimated $1,500.00. A local bartender collected more than 75 pounds of pennies from tips and other loose change left at the bar.
Salvation Army Captain Deborah Weigner dropped off 35 Angel Tree tags at the local Walmart in Corry, PA for shoppers to sponsor a child a need before Christmas. When she returned to the store another day, the service desk attendant informed her that every single child’s wish list had been taken care of. An anonymous Ohio business owner had come through the store and seen the tags. He took each one and employed the help of other shoppers to buy everything on the tags, stating “No child shall be left behind this Christmas.” He spent more than $1,400 to make sure that they would all have a merry Christmas.