British Petroleum (BP) and state and local government entities contacted The Salvation Army this weekend for our help in supporting thousands of volunteers who are responding to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. As the oil approaches the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts, The Salvation Army deployed teams to Ocean Springs, Mississippi and Venice, Louisiana to handout water to the throngs of individuals who are participating in the clean-up efforts.
The Salvation Army is continuing discussions with involved governments and BP to find additional ways to support the clean-up efforts.
Be sure to follow The Salvation Army’s Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi Division’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, which they are frequently updating with volunteer information and news of their latest efforts. You can also find more information at their website www.salvationarmyalm.org.
Chef Timothy Tucker’s students are not the typical individuals you would expect to be enrolled in intensive culinary classes – they’re homeless or living below the poverty line. But through these classes Chef Tucker is not just meeting the momentary needs of the disadvantaged population, he’s empowering them to support and sustain themselves for the rest of their lives.
Timothy graduated with a degree in culinary arts and worked in high end restaurants. He later spent a few years doing research and development on an organic farm where he says he began to understand that diet affects all areas of an individual’s functionality, attitude and behavior, and that food can play a significant role in healing.
Chef Tucker, wearing black, with his culinary students.
He brought this knowledge with him to The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope in Louisville, KY in 2005, where he developed the Culinary Training Program, an intensive 10 week course that teaches basic culinary skills needed to find an entry level position in the food and hospitality industry. Here, homeless or impoverished students learn everything from safety and sanitation in the kitchen, to knife skills, to preparing a range of foods, and much more. They’re tested weekly and even cook for events and fundraisers to raise support for this self-funded program.
The Salvation Army’s Culinary Training Program even has two gardens outside – one is the half the size of a football field and the other half the size of a basketball court – where fresh vegetables and herbs are grown for use in the kitchen. According to the Program’s Facebook page, these organic gardens grow nearly 1,500 pounds of produce each year which help feed the Center’s homeless. Amazing!
Culinary students receive intensive training and hands on practice in the kitchen. (Photos: Culinary Program’s Facebook page)
On average, 9 students complete the course each semester, and Chef Tucker says approximately 75% of his graduates secure work. The remaining 25%, however, don’t acquire a job not for lack of skill or help from the Program, but rather a lack of desire to rejoin the workforce. But Chef Tucker says he’s confident those individuals would be able to find a job if they pursued it. Meanwhile, he says he has visited his former students in their new work places and receives wonderful feedback about his program.
Under the guidance of Chef Tucker, The Salvation Army’s Culinary Training Program has done a great job of not just feeding the homeless but reducing homelessness through education and opportunity. He is working with other Salvation Army facilities across the country to replicate this program and reach other disadvantaged populations.
For more information about the amazing work of The Louisville Salvation Army’s Culinary Training Program, visit their website at www.centerofhoperadio.org . Also visit them here on Facebook and help them reach their goal of 3,000 friends by the end of May!
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 www.salvationarmyusa.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Here’s a video that will practically guarantee a smile on your face by the time you finish it.
Before heading to rehearsal for their concert at Nokia Theater, Honor Society visited The Salvation Army’s Harlem Corps Community Center in New York City where they met City Year volunteers and some very excited kids. When exploring the facility, the band admired (and even helped paint) the murals that decorate The Salvation Army Center’s school.
Honor Society spent most of their time with children’s choir and gave them tips on performing, including how to turn fear of being on stage into excitement! The band’s visit provided some awesome encouragement to the kids and everyone had a GREAT time!
Click here to find more information about The Harlem Community Center and youth programs offered by The Salvation Army’s Greater New York Division.