Finding a Voice

Clara Kleinman helps run The Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Spree in Santa MonicBy Jared McKiernan – 

Timely assistance from The Salvation Army in the 1930s fuels Clara Kleinman’s passion to give back today.
The biggest concern of most 8-year-old girls is how they might fashion their dolls, what to bring to the next sleepover or how to catch the attention of the cute boy in class.
When Clara Kleinman was that age, she was warding off gangsters. She was being teased for her religion, tormented for the way she spoke. And talking back never did her much good, because no one understood a word she said.

Kleinman now lives at The Salvation Army’s Silvercrest Residence in Santa Monica, Calif. She’s 87, and sharp. She’s not five-feet tall, but her posture grabs your attention. Her voice sparse, but when she speaks, you listen.

“There weren’t many Jews in our neighborhood; it was mostly black,” she said of the St. Louis slum she grew up in. “We were taunted because we were Jewish. The prejudice was unbelievable.”

Kleinman was born in 1926 the eighth of nine children on Biddle Street, a high-crime, desolate section of downtown St. Louis. Even a simple walk home from school could mean risking your life.

“I saw the worst of life,” she said. ”I saw knifings on the way home from school. I knew how to hide in the alleys.”
Kleinman’s father had a paralytic stroke when she was 5 years old. This left her mother, Yetta, as the household’s primary caretaker. While ruthless, as described by Kleinman, Yetta was always hospitable.

“She always told us never to feel sorry for ourselves because there was always someone worse off, and she was right,” she said. “I remember all of the people my mother took in when we barely had enough to eat, but she would never let anyone sleep in the streets or go hungry.”

Kleinman’s older siblings and eventually she herself, began working to contribute to the household income. It was either that, or go hungry.

To make matters worse, Kleinman was born with an abnormally small throat passage, which caused a severe speech impairment.

Bullies had their way.

“Not only did I live in the toughest area,” she said, “but talk about being teased. You could not understand one word I said. It was not that my speech was unclear. I could not get the words out…I fought every gang member. My brothers taught me how to hit the areas that hurt the most.”

Her brother Lou, especially, was like a guardian, quick to defend his younger sister to anyone. Lou once even slapped a schoolteacher in the face as payback for hitting his sister.

When Kleinman was 11, she got a measure of relief from the heckling. Her school sponsored speech therapy for her at Central Institute for the Deaf. Every day that year, she rode the bus from one end of St. Louis to the other to practice her speech.
“The classes were difficult,” she said, “but they gave me the chance to have a normal life.”

Over the next few years, she worked a combination of office jobs, later relocating to Michigan, then California. She married and had two children, though still maintaining two part-time positions. She became a proficient typist, clocking 225 words per minute, which helped her secure several jobs. While unglamorous, things were headed in a positive direction—until one day when she got a call about her brother Lou.

He was shot and killed by a group of gang members.

“I couldn’t eat,” she said. “I could not eat. We were very close.”

She wasn’t exaggerating. Disturbed by Lou’s death, she neglected her health and dropped all the way down to around 85 pounds.

“I looked in the mirror one day and said, ‘This is not what my brother would want.’ So I pulled myself together and accepted it for what it was.”

Though much of her childhood was marked by trial and injustice, Kleinman recalls each holiday season as the pinnacle. Every year, The Salvation Army rented out an auditorium to throw a Christmas party for all of the kids in the community. She and her siblings would go get their clothes and shoes for the school year.

“I remember how important the shoes were,” she said. “Shoes were one of the most important things because we had to walk quite a distance to go to school. And you had to remember to always get them big because you had to stuff them with newspaper so they would last all year.”

Her memory of The Salvation Army was simple––they served. For one day each year, her religion, her handicap, her family’s circumstances––none of it mattered.

“They never cared about your religion, or color of your skin. The way they gave, when they were handing out things, it was such a warm, personal feeling,” she said. “In those years, to take charity or welfare you really had to be ashamed. You tried not to talk about it. But when we went to these [Salvation Army] parties, it always impressed me how nice they were and how they always smiled. And it made you feel good.”

Kleinman worked well into her 80s, retiring just three years ago. After that, she finally settled down in her Silvercrest apartment—or so she thought.

“I heard them talking about The Salvation Army Christmas Spree. I said, ‘Oh my gosh. I’m going over there to see if I can volunteer,”’ she said. “All my life I had this dream. I always said if things ever changed, I would give back to The Salvation Army, because when my family needed them, they were there for us. Now, I’m giving back not just for myself, but for my whole family.”

Kleinman has served as treasurer for the Santa Monica Women’s Auxiliary for the past three years, planning fashion shows and Christmas Sprees like the ones she attended as a child.

Now widowed, Kleinman said she is grateful for the opportunity to give back, even at this stage in life. And while grinding is all she knows, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I really feel and I still feel that it’s up to us what we get out of life,” she said. “Not everyone has the same chances, but the minute you start feeling sorry for yourself, it’s over. I really think that you have to go through some suffering in life to appreciate the good things. I really am a very lucky person.”

-By Jared McKiernan
Post originally featured in The New Frontier Chronicle.

Princess Ball Shows What Real Beauty is to Survivors of Domestic Violence

princess ball
“Kissed by the King” was the theme of the inaugural Princess Ball held at The Salvation Army Block of Hope. Click the image to see more photos.

Originally posted by Samantha Hyde of The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Visit to read more. 

We don’t usually associate homelessness, domestic violence and life in a shelter with ball gowns, sparkling jewelry or joyous dancing. For the women at The Salvation Army’s Ruth Lilly Women & Children’s Center in Indianapolis, this all changed with the inaugural Princess Ball, held next door to the shelter at Center City Corps.

Princess-Ball-2-198x300The two buildings are part of the Block of Hope, The Salvation Army’s property in downtown Indianapolis that attends to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of women, children and families from across Indiana. Many who come here have traveled difficult, demoralizing roads. Hope often seems out of reach and love a thing of fairy tales.

That’s where the idea of the Princess Ball grew. It was conceived as a way to show the women living at the Block of Hope that real beauty and worth live in our hearts and souls. As Envoy Becky Roberson explained to the ladies, “We are all princesses because we have all been kissed by the King.”

The event was made possible with the generous support of local businesses like More Than A Boutique, which donated gowns and shoes for the women, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang salon, which sent over a team of stylists to transform the women into “princesses” before the ball began. The Salvation Army ARC also stepped up with evening gowns and accessories and local baker George Taylor provided sweet treats from his A & M Bakery Cafe.


While many of the women seemed hesitant and unsure as they faced an unfamiliar activity, it wasn’t long before they were all dancing the night away in their new finery, uninhibited and joyous. Mothers swirled their daughters to the sweet sounds of “My Girl” and a riotous Conga line swirled around the pink-festooned sanctuary-turned-ballroom when “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” played over the speakers. Laughter, confidence and sisterhood replaced trepidation and feelings of worthlessness. Together, these women found strength and kinship.
Of course, it takes more than an evening playing Cinderella to mend broken lives.

The struggles that lie ahead for these women and their families are real, but they have a little extra firepower in their hearts and a more confident outlook as they take on the next challenge. After all, who wouldn’t glow a little brighter when she has been “Kissed by the King?”

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National Recovery Month: Trevor’s Story

This post was contributed by The Salvation Army Midland Division.

In honor of National Recovery Month, we invited Major Kendall Mathews (known to St. Louis as Major KK) of our Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) to share a story of one person who has come through the ARC program. The name has been changed to protect the subject’s identity. You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, For so You have prepared it.-Psalms 65:9


Trevor grew up in Kansas City, Mo., in an upper-middle- class area.

His mother was married to a dentist, he lived in a good neighborhood and had several friends. But as the years went by his mother and stepfather decided to get a divorce, and in a split second, he went from upper-class circumstances to living in public housing with his grandmother. He had a tough time adjusting to his new environment. He was constantly reminded by the children in the neighborhood that he was different. Trevor wanted a better life for himself and decided to join the U.S. Navy. It was hard for him to leave his family, but a change was needed in his life. Trevor excelled in the Navy; he was doing things naturally that people were trained for weeks to do. He worked his way from a Sailor to Aviation Chief, served in the Navy for 20 years, and retired. Even though he was living his dreams, he was still presented with several obstacles in his life. The Navy caused him to be away from his wife and children for months at a time. He started to feel lonely and ended up giving into his temptations. He had no idea that his wife was feeling the same way and their marriage ended up suffering from their choices to be unfaithful. And even though he was qualified, he still struggled with being the only African-American in a leadership position in the Navy and with accepting recognition for his hard work.

Trevor always drank socially and used marijuana on occasion, and it never seemed to cause him any problems. He started using crack cocaine in his late 30’s and used it on and off for 25 years. He had a method to his madness: he used alcohol because it allowed him to be more social, marijuana because it enhanced his concentration, and crack because it allowed him to be more sexual. He attempted to live a sober lifestyle a few times during his addiction. He relapsed after being clean for four years. He still thought that he had control over his addiction until the Navy gave him an ultimatum. In order for him to receive his retirement benefits, he would have to check himself into a rehabilitation program. Another one of Trevor’s problems was being a people-pleaser, and in all of his pleasing he neglected himself, destroyed his marriages and the relationships with his children, and almost lost his retirement. His addiction controlled his life for more than 25 years.

Today, the most important thing is his life is the relationship he has with God. He has been sober since 1995 and has since stopped leaning on his own understanding and realized that the Lord is his provider. Trevor has committed his life to God and to living a Christian lifestyle. He is a Soldier of The Salvation Army and a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

The origin of the word “provide” is in the Latin providere, meaning “look forward, prepare, supply, act with foresight.” To be a provider, one has to be able to look ahead and anticipate the needs of those for whom one is providing. Part of being a good provider is having the wisdom to discern the best way in which to accommodate those needs.

The ministry of The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center is to Recycle goods, Reclaim lives, and Rebuild families through our work therapy program and a spiritual walk with Jesus Christ. The ability to dream of a better life, a better community and a better world is common to us all. Men who suffer from substance abuse need this better life in order to give back to our society in a sober and spiritual way. It is a long road to their recovery and as is true in this story, all things are possible through Christ and caring community. Our ARC becomes their safety net where we catch the drug-addicted man, then support in living a transformed life, free from the bondage of sin and shame.

Our program is designed to minister to the whole person, rather than just a specific problem. The majority of men who come to our center for assistance are having problems in many areas of their lives: social, medical, spiritual, personal, and employment. We make every effort to cover these tenants to bring about a total recovery with a positive, after-care support plan tailored for each individual. The goal is re-entry back into the community in a positive manner with sufficient support for maintenance of sobriety and growth in lifestyle. “For we are God’s Workmanship, recreated in Christ Jesus, that we may do those good works which God predestined for us, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Posted by Jackie on Friday, October 4, 2013 ·