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liz murray

Harvard graduate born into poverty and homeless as a teen shares her story

liz murrayWhen Liz Murray overcame homelessness to graduate from Harvard University, people called her a bootstrapper and lauded her hard work.

But hard work doesn’t tell the whole story, said Murray, the featured speaker at today’s D.J.’s Hero Awards luncheon sponsored by the Salvation Army.

There has to be a bridge — someone or something offering help and encouragement, she said. That could be a committed social worker, a friendly stranger, a scholarship fund.

“When you have that, an introduction to a person who can help you, it’s a bridge that turns hard work into opportunity,” she said.

In an interview Monday, Murray said it’s up to the community to be that bridge: “Nobody is off the hook.”

She said today’s Salvation Army event is part of the solution. Eight high school seniors each will receive a $10,000 scholarship at the luncheon. The awards are named after D.J. Sokol, the son of David and Peggy Sokol, who contributed to his school and community despite battling cancer. He died in 1999 at age 18.

Murray said she had lots of help and inspiration along her path. She went from being a homeless teen who missed school 75 percent of the time to making up lost courses in two years and winning a New York Times scholarship to the Ivy League school.

She was born in grinding poverty to drug-addicted parents, but she never was angry at them. Instead, she viewed the addiction as a terrible thing that happened to the family, which included a sister.

“I had an instinct for the fact that they were sick,” she said. “People can’t give what they don’t have.”

Despite that, they gave her plenty. She was grateful she grew up with two parents who showed her an abundance of love. With regular trips to the public library, her dad — who had two college degrees — planted the idea that education was a way out. Her mom taught her to dream when she shared her own dreams with her daughter at night.

In a roundabout way, they taught her to be independent. “I never expected people to do things, because no one did,” Murray said.

At age 13 she ended up in a difficult group home when her mom was hospitalized with end-stage AIDS. Dad was in a homeless shelter, and her sister lived with friends. By 15, she was homeless herself.

Her mom’s dreams of becoming sober and owning a home died when AIDS claimed her life. Murray took that as a signal that she should get serious about school to preserve her own dreams. She graduated from the Humanities Preparatory Academy in Manhattan despite a still-precarious living situation.

Strangers who read her story in the Times showed up to help: bringing brownies, cards, a homemade quilt. One woman drove from New Jersey each week to do her laundry.

Now, she said, she tries to do the same for teens in similar situations. She works with youths from Covenant House, the largest organization for homeless teens in the country. She looks for ways to introduce them to people who want to help with jobs, internships and other aid.

“I love to see people’s dreams come true,” she said.

She turned that coaching into a full-time business, but recently stepped back to have a family and pursue a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University.

She’ll share her story with the 1,100 people expected for today’s luncheon at the CenturyLink Center. She finds inspiration in the stories of each winner in the award’s 15-year history. They all have much to contribute, she said.

It’s up to everyone to help more young people figure that out, she said.

“One thing I hear people say constantly, when they’re talking about the ills of the world, is that someone needs to do something — ‘they’ need to do something. I ask: Do you realize there’s no ‘they?’ ”

Lubbock Salvation Army helps homeless

Lubbock Salvation Army assists the homeless

Lubbock Salvation Army helps homelessEven with the spring semester coming to an end, Lubbock’s morning breeze and nightly cool temperatures have remained constant. For Lubbock’s homeless population, this often means long, cold nights.

With the help of organizations and volunteers like those in the Salvation Army, individuals are able to bring warmth and aid to those in need, especially during extremely cold conditions.

“We provide a couple of different services to the lower-income community,” Shannon Sudduth, the community relations and development coordinator at the Lubbock Salvation Army, said.

Sudduth has worked actively toward helping the homeless community, she said. Sudduth graduated LCU with a major in organizational communications and is currently working toward her graduate degree at Tech in mass communications. Salvation Army has an event called Survive the Night.

Survive the Night involves active participation of volunteers helping the homeless community around Lubbock get shelter, food and disaster relief.

“We take our truck around during 30 degrees or below temperatures around 6 p.m. during the months of November to mid-February,” Sudduth said. “We drive around downtown looking for homeless community who aren’t able to get back to our shelter and provide them with blankets, warm clothing like scarves, beanies, gloves, that sort of thing.”

Sudduth said during the winter the Salvation Army asks for donations and blankets and they are later put in the building’s storage unit to be supplied to those in need during the right time. Tech students usually help out in the shelter, she said, helping arrange bags containing blankets and hygiene kits. Sudduth said during January there is a sign-up sheet for volunteers to help on their rounds for Survive the Night.

“The program is designed to try and help people survive the night,” Dave Frericks, the disaster coordinator at the Lubbock Salvation Army, said. “Nights we go out and find them on the street and provide them with socks, caps and a hot meal. And if they want we can bring them to the shelter for the night so they can survive one more day.“

Salvation Army recruited Frericks after his work in the government as an advisory board member in the disaster team during 1994.

“One night in February we went out during 12-degree weather. The wind was blowing and we happened to find a fellow sleeping on a bench. He was wearing a T-shirt and shorts,” Frericks said. “He was shaking so badly he could barely stand up. We got him in down here and there was no question in my mind, I wanted to save his life. He would have died right there.”

According to the Tech website students often volunteer with Salvation Army during Tech Lubbock Community Day and with other organizations like Raiders Helping Others.

Tashika Curlee, a senior English and sociology dual major from Paris, Texas, has volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, the South Plains Food Bank and the Salvation Army.

Curlee said that she had previously volunteered with the Salvation Army along with her organization Pegasus.

“From everything that I had heard, the Salvation Army was an organization meant to help those who were struggling within the community,” she said.

Most of the students who volunteer at the Salvation Army are assigned to meal preparation, cleaning or other basic duties, she said. Curlee was able to be a part of the volunteer team through the preparation of meals.

During her time volunteering, Curlee said she felt like she really got to know the staff and the work they put forth, in addition to those individuals in need.

“Most of the people were so nice and had an amazing attitude regardless of their circumstances. One family that is burned into my memory is that of a Hispanic father and his two young daughters,” she said. “The daughters were smiling and playing around with each other. They were not the only family we served that day, there were some others as well.”

Volunteering is an important part of being a member of a community, Curlee said. Community means helping others.

“As a college student, I recognize that I would not be here getting a higher education if not for the generosity of those within our community in giving out scholarships and other forms of financial aid,” Curlee said. “Therefore, I believe volunteering at any level showcases how thankful I am and my desire to give back to a community that has given me so much.”

From left, Terrance Bostic, Shaun Carroll and Miesha McLeod sing karaoke at the Chattanooga Salvation Army on McCallie Avenue recently. The Salvation Army offers karaoke every Wednesday to give area homeless people something to look forward to.
Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Homeless karaoke lovers find a home at the Salvation Army

Karaoke

From left, Terrance Bostic, Shaun Carroll and Miesha McLeod sing karaoke at the Chattanooga Salvation Army on McCallie Avenue recently. The Salvation Army offers karaoke every Wednesday to give area homeless people something to look forward to. Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

A sleeping woman embraced her belongings in a corner booth, seemingly deaf to her surroundings as fellow homeless Chattanoogans took their turns belting out karaoke songs at the Chattanooga Salvation Army on Wednesday.

But she was the only one asleep — the rest of Chattanooga’s homeless karaoke lovers danced vigorously between the coffee tables at the small cafe.

Standing out of the way of the dancers, Jessica Owens, a 52-year-old who has been homeless on and off for the past eight years, waited to take the stage.

“I’m kind of shy but I used to sing when I was younger so this makes me feel good and brings back memories,” Owens said. “[Karaoke] gives me some peace, kinda gives me a little excitement, since the majority of the time I’m by myself.”

When she took the stage, she sang Whitney Houston, her favorite artist. Despite the eruption of applause when she finished, she kept her eyes low and offered only a hidden a smile.

Karaoke isn’t a hot shower, isn’t a free meal, isn’t a bed to sleep in — but it is a chance to feel human.

“Where else can homeless go to perform, be applauded and loved on in the Tennessee Valley?” asked Kimberly George, the director of marketing and development for the Salvation Army 614 Corps.

The weekly event offers people who love karaoke an alternative to going to a bar to sing, and brings people into the building who may otherwise not request help.

Sometimes karaoke can even change lives, said George. Since the karaoke events began three years ago, one man devoted his life to the seminary, and many others are now off the streets, some even returning to volunteer on a regular basis. George said she thinks karaoke day is unique to the Chattanooga location — no other programs like it are anywhere in the United States.

“It just touches my heart, seeing people trying to get off of the street,” said volunteer Fred Holland. “If they have a bad day or sad day or something on their mind, it allows them to sing it out instead of going out and doing drugs or getting in trouble.”

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Spend tonight on couch and discover “hidden” issue facing young people!

Major Rod Ainsworth and Hannah Stead are supporting The Salvation Army’s appeal for people to sleep on a couch tonight to raise funds for youth homelessness

Hannah Stead knows better than most the hardships that face young people who have nowhere to go.

Hannah, 17, had her first taste of homelessness at 13 and has spent the past four years couch-surfing at friends’ houses or on the streets.

Hannah’s story isn’t unique, according to Darren McGee, manager of Youth Outreach Service (YOS), with youth homelessness an issue in Pine Rivers and greater Brisbane.

To raise awareness and funds, they are asking people to walk a mile in the shoes of young people such as Hannah and join the Salvation Army’s Couch Project.

“Youth homelessness is a hidden issue. When people think of homelessness they usually think of the old guys sleeping on the streets,” Mr McGee said.

“Well that’s not the facts, about 40 per cent of the homeless are young people sleeping on couches, so it is hidden homelessness.

“We are challenging people to sleep on the couch for a night on Saturday, do some fundraising and sleep like these young people who are couch-surfing.’’

It will help people going down the same route as Hannah.

“I stayed in about five or six different places over about two months and ran out of money and people started not wanting me on the couch anymore,” she said.

“My stuff was everywhere. I had nowhere to put it, I was eating their food, using their laundry and showering.

“They were getting over having me there.

“Sometimes I would just go spend a night on the streets because I felt guilty asking if I could just stay one more night.”

The Couch Project will raise funds and help the Salvation Army’s work helping young people.

Shelters

Salvation Army moving forward with plans for new housing complex

housingThe Salvation Army “hasn’t lost momentum” on replacing its decaying emergency housing shelter, new divisional commander Frank Pittman has vowed.

Major Pittman, who assumed his post a month ago, said he’d been taken aback by the decrepit state of the Salvation Army’s existing shelter in Hamilton.

The charity for the needy hopes later this week to announce the architectural firm that has been selected to design its new housing complex at The Glebe Road, Pembroke.

Conceding he’d been surprised by the level of social need prevalent in Bermuda, Major Pittman added: “Probably the most alarming thing was to see the condition of the emergency housing compound on North Street. “It’s a building that was meant to last ten years, and it’s been going for 30.”

The Salvation Army is already two months into its six-month Memorandum of Understanding with Government on renovating the disused Bishop Spencer building, abandoned years ago by the Department of Education.

The move came after a City of Hamilton task force condemned the existing shelter, which has been in use since 1982.

The charity has “already put out expressions of interest” to various firms asking for quotes on their services, Major Pittman said.

“We have an agreement with Government to explore the feasibility of that building to house the emergency shelter,” he added. “I had to hit the ground running because of the time that’s lapsed.”

On August 4, Major Pittman replaced former divisional commander Shawn Critch, after serving as the area commander for East Newfoundland, based in St John’s, Canada.

His wife, Major Rita Pittman, also directs the Salvation Army’s women’s ministries and community care ministries in Bermuda.

“We’ve been warmly received — we’re totally impressed with people’s hospitality and kindness,” Major Pittman said.

“Bermuda is a wonderful place from what we’ve seen thus far. If this is any indication of what our years will be like, we’re really looking forward to it.”

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Trading places: A Homeless Experience

homeless
The following was originally posted on The Salvation Army Northern Division’s blog.
The mercury plunged to minus 6 the night Nicholas Conner slept under a bridge in Fargo, N.D. He was curled up inside his sleeping bag wearing street clothes, a jacket, hat and mittens. But the layers were no match for the biting cold. His chattering teeth sounded like a telegraph clicking SOS.
“I spent the whole night shivering – I might have slept two hours,” he said.
The crazy part is, Conner didn’t have to be there. He’s a full-time college student and could have been sleeping in the warmth of his dorm room.
Even more peculiar, he spent the next night in his car – and the following seven nights in a Fargo homeless shelter, where he ended up getting sick with a fever of 102.7.
If Conner didn’t have to live like that, then why did he?
One simple reason: He wanted to know exactly what homeless people go through so that he could serve them more effectively as a volunteer at the Fargo Salvation Army and elsewhere. No more, no less.
“Nicholas Conner is an incredible young man of God,” said Major Byron Medlock, Fargo Salvation Army administrator. “His passion for service is nothing short of inspiring, and he’s only 19.”
Pivotal moment

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Conner’s homeless experiment took place in December 2012, several months after his first time serving hot meals at the Fargo Salvation Army – where he still volunteers to this day.
“There was a very pivotal moment that’s kept me coming back (to The Salvation Army),” said Conner, a North Dakota State University sophomore from Bemidji, Minn. “It happened when I met this homeless guy who started telling me about his life – how he served in Desert Storm, how we was in prison for 10 years, how he was an alcoholic.”
The man wound up showing Conner where he lived: A few blocks from the Fargo Salvation Army, underneath the evergreen bushes pictured above.
“He broke down and cried right in front of me,” Conner recalled. “It was my first real encounter with homelessness. I skipped my calculus class because of the conversation I was having with him.”
With that, Conner discovered a newfound passion: helping people who have nothing.
“I had to do more,” explained Conner, a devout Christian. “It ignited a passion in me for wanting to bring these people something and give them something to look forward to, to think about, to work for.”
Perfect fit

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The Fargo Salvation Army is the perfect fit for Conner to carry out his passion for helping homeless people in the name of Jesus Christ. The place allows him to interact with the 100-plus homeless people who come there every weekday for a bevy of services: hot breakfasts and lunches, showers, clothing, counseling, spiritual support and – above all – love.
Conner serves breakfast or lunch there at least once a week (pictured).
“Afterward, I mingle,” he said. “I try to help people understand they’re not alone in this. These people really need support.”
Conner provides more of that support outside of the Fargo Salvation Army. He’s the founder of a student organization called Hands and Feet, a 32-member Bible study group that performs service projects every two weeks.
“We’re all about being the hands and feet of Christ,” said Conner, who plans to attend seminary after college. “Last year the service project everyone enjoyed the most was throwing a Super Bowl party for homeless people. We put the game on for them and served a bunch of football food.”
Conner doesn’t enjoy recognition, and agreed to be interviewed for this story on one condition: that God get all the credit.
“I am not anything special, I am just trying my very best to submit to God,” he said. “I believe in service that is selfless and humble.”
The Salvation Army couldn’t have said it better. Join us in that same spirit of service by getting involved. Doing so is easy: You can make a donation or find volunteer opportunities in your area.

WaterDrive3[1]

Salvation Army keeps Phoenix hydrated during hot summer days

One of our Phoenix-area cooling stations

According to The Washington Post, the state of Arizona is in the top 10 fastest warming states since the 1970’s. Every summer, too many of Arizona’s homeless and elderly go without water and necessary items to keep them hydrated and protected from the extreme temperatures. As the temperatures rise, access to clean water and protection from the sun becomes an issue of life or death.

On average Arizona sees 109 days of 100-plus degree temperatures. For many, access to air conditioning, pools and fans is a constant comfort while others are not as fortunate.  Last year, officials estimate that about 100 elderly shut-ins and homeless people died of dehydration.

The Salvation Army’s Heat and Hydration Project Program, in partnership with local police and fire organizations, provides water and other helpful items to Arizona’s most vulnerable—our homeless and elderly.

Last week, 3TV and Safeway collected 92,307 bottles of water and $16,783 during a water drive for The Salvation Army. Currently, local Phoenix Ford dealerships are holding their own water drive continuing into next week.

Water donations are welcome. Every case of water you donate will be distributed through The Salvation Army on heat emergency days at one of our cooling stations.

Find the full article at The Salvation Army Western Territory’s blog, Expect Change, by clicking here.

For more information about donating to this program click here.

To learn more about The Salvation Army visit: www.salvationarmyusa.org

mattress

Stearns & Foster Donate $1 Million in Mattresses to The Salvation Army

stearns & fosterTRINITY, N.C., March 5, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Stearns & Foster, the luxury mattress brand under Sealy Inc., announced today it has donated $1 million in new mattresses to The Salvation Army as part of its annual Gift of Sleep program. Now in its third consecutive year, this donation will bring the total amount provided to The Salvation Army residential shelters on behalf of the Stearns & Foster Gift of Sleep program to $3 million.

“The Stearns & Foster brand has a wonderful history of giving back, and we are proud to continue the brand’s philanthropic legacy with our commitment to The Salvation Army through the Gift of Sleep program,” said Jodi Allen, chief marketing officer, Sealy. “We would also like to extend thanks to the participating retailers’, who year-after-year, continue to ensure the success of this program that calls attention to the many Americans who rely on The Salvation Army’s residential facilities for a safe and comfortable place to sleep.”

The program, which kicked off on November 20 and concluded January 11, promised to give $100 for every Stearns & Foster mattress set sold during the busy holiday shopping season toward the purchase of new mattresses for The Salvation Army.

“We are very thankful that new mattresses are headed to The Salvation Army residential shelters,” said Major Ron Busroe, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army. “These mattresses will ensure a better night’s rest for our clients. We are grateful for the Stearns & Foster partnership.” For more information on the Stearns & Foster Gift of Sleep program, please contact Sarah Sinitean at Sarah.Sinitean@mslgroup.com
or 312-861-5274.

About Sealy

Sealy owns one of the largest bedding brands in the world, with sales of $1.3 billion in fiscal 2012. The Company manufactures and markets a broad range of mattresses and foundations under the Sealy(R), Sealy Posturepedic(R), Sealy Posturepedic Optimum (TM), Stearns & Foster(R), and Bassett(R) brands. Sealy operates 25 plants in North America, and has the largest market share and highest consumer awareness of any bedding brand on the continent. In the United States, Sealy sells its products to approximately 3,000 customers with more than 7,000 retail outlets. Sealy is also a leading supplier to the hospitality industry. For more information, please visit www.sealy.com.

About The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 130 years in the United States. 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar The Salvation Army spends is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to www.salvationarmyusa.org. Media Contact: Sarah SiniteanSarah.Sinitean@mslgroup.com312-861-5274
SOURCE Sealy, Inc.