Chattanooga ‘Run with a Reason’ raises funds to support Angel Tree

Chattanooga ‘Run with a Reason’ raises funds to support Angel Tree

By: David Ibata

Eager to “Run With a Reason,” Echelon volunteers and friends in Chattanooga, Tennessee, ran 123 miles to support The Salvation Army Angel Tree program.

The group raised $19,500 and provided gifts for 84 Angel Tree participants – up from 51 last year – as well as holiday meals for families in the program.

The brainchild of Kyle Briner, a senior accountant at HHM CPAs and service co-chair of Chattanooga Echelon, the inaugural Run With a Reason was held in December, 2018. The 2019 run took place Dec. 7 at Redoubt Soccer Association.

HHM and Echelon member employees organized the run. Runners were backed by sponsors who pledged a specific amount for each mile completed.

“Our goal is to provide a joyful environment for the kids and their families on Christmas that might otherwise have been impossible,” Briner said. “We might not know what struggles those sitting right next to us are facing. We hope our efforts can lessen the burden for some families in the Chattanooga and North Georgia area.”

The run was only Part I of the initiative. On Dec. 13, volunteers in festive clothing cruised the aisles at the Signal Mountain Walmart in Chattanooga, searching for gifts to fulfill Christmas wish lists.

Walmart provided a separate check-out lane for the volunteers. Store manager Daniel Casillas was an Angel Tree Program recipient when he was a child and is very passionate about the cause.

The fund-raiser came full circle when the Salvation Army volunteers distributed the gifts to Chattanooga and North Georgia families Dec. 18 and 19 at the Christmas Warehouse, 5000 Calhoun Ave. Participating households had registered with The Salvation Army in October, qualifying by income guidelines or due to extenuating circumstances.

Donnie Hutcherson, HHM managing partner, said, “It is great to see some of our newer staff build relationships with local organizations. When Kyle came to me with the (Run With a Purpose) idea last year, I could see how passionate he was about it.”

Briner and Chattanooga Echelon members look forward to keeping the momentum alive and strengthening the program.

Echelon was founded in 2010 in Dallas, Texas, and now has 24 chapters across the US. For information on Chattanooga Echelon, visit


Men as mentors: Positive male influence and example seen as a critical need for boys

Men as mentors: Positive male influence and example seen as a critical need for boys

By: Brad Rowland

Men’s clubs are prevalent in The Salvation Army, with gatherings designed to induce fellowship and ministry in various ways. However, a targeted emphasis is now being placed on the expansion of men in mentoring capacities across the Southern Territory.

“We have men’s clubs throughout the territory, of course, but in an overall way, there are men in every corps across the territory,” said Major Mark Satterlee, territorial men’s ministries secretary. “What we’re trying to do is to emphasize men pouring themselves into the lives of young people and particularly young boys as that kind of role model and positive influence. It’s as simple as getting men involved in whatever way that we can, even if not always in formal roles.”

Major Satterlee notes that there is “some alarm” with statistics gathered in numerous surveys, indicating that there is a problem with a lack of male role models for young people and, especially, for young boys in the modern world. Though it must be noted that there is immense gratitude owed to amazing women in leadership that can and have made similar impacts, the facts and figures are not positive for those who don’t also have strong male influences of some sort in their lives. As such, an importance is being placed when it comes to challenging men to step in when it comes to local ministry and leadership opportunities.

“Numerous studies tell us that, especially for those in elementary school and in junior high, boys need to see godly men that can be role models for them on a continual basis,” Major Satterlee said.

The Adventure Corps program is a potential conduit for that kind of role modeling and dedicated mentorship, though Major Satterlee notes that the effort in the territory is “certainly not limited” to that specific program. The Salvation Army’s Caliber program, an initiative to help encourage and measure the impact and achievement of men in the Southeast, is seemingly yielding positive results, with reports of buy-in and an uptick in men’s ministry and leadership in certain corps.

Major Satterlee notes that, as many can report both inside and outside The Salvation Army, strong male leadership during his youth helped to chart a positive course in his own life. From there, he can see the need for replication.

“Personally, I still recall those kinds of uplifting influences in my life, outside of my own home, and I ended up looking up to those men in my corps as a young person,” he said. “I saw them living out the Christian life, and it unquestionably helped me to model it in my own life.”

“Maybe it’s a one-time thing initially, using a volunteer opportunity or something like that, but men can start getting involved in the lives of these boys, hoping they can continue to be a Christian influence,” Major Satterlee said. “To put it plainly, boys need men. Boys need positive role models. To me, that’s the bottom line and we need more of it in our world today.”


His prayer of desperation today means a promise kept

His prayer of desperation today means a promise kept

By: Major Frank Duracher

In September 1995, George Henry was desperate. He stood on his backyard deck and pleaded with God to intervene. George’s heavy drinking was taking a toll on his health and his family. By his own admission, he was at the point of suicide. If only a miracle could happen, George promised a life totally sold-out in the service of others.

“I remember walking back inside, thinking, he’ll never answer my unworthy prayer. He’s got too much to do!”

Even as he uttered the prayer, he felt a severe unworthiness. But God intervened, all right— although not in a way George expected.

“I had just dropped my wife off at work, and was driving under the influence,” George said. “I got pulled by a highway patrolman and was soon arrested for DUI.”

But that was God at work, answering his prayer, George quickly adds. It was the wakeup call he needed. He checked himself in at the Asheville, North Carolina, VA Hospital, where after five days he “was still disoriented.” One thing he does remember: God revealed to George that this incident was heaven’s answer to the prayer he made on his back deck.

His further revelation was that he is just as worthy to ask God for anything; and that his worth was as great as any other man’s in this world.

“God showers me with blessings!” George said. “I’m overwhelmed that he chose me out of all creation to be here on this day, and at this moment, ringing this little bell for The Salvation Army!” His eyes moistened at just the mention of such a realization.

And as for George’s promise to God – he’s kept his bargain. In the 24 years since, George Henry has become well-known for his volunteerism, particularly for three passions God laid on his heart to serve: Kairos Prison Ministries; delivering meals through the Macon County, North Carolina, Home for the Aged; and, ringing a kettle bell at Christmas for The Salvation Army.

“I’m only here because God placed me here,” George said. His kettle stand is at one door of the Ingalls Supermarket in Cashiers, North Carolina. He’s there between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, and hardly anyone passes him by without stopping to talk to him. Most put a donation into the red kettle.

In the two South Carolina prisons where George and his Kairos mates minister, he is known by the inmates as “the love smuggler.” Love is the only thing he can smuggle to the prisoners, some of them on Death Row, he said.

Why The Salvation Army? He remembers service rendered as far back as World War II. “I was only about 9 or 10, but I remember the good they did.”

George has quite an impact on The Salvation Army’s mission in the seven counties under the corps located in nearby Waynesville, North Carolina. His two top Christmas efforts through the years have each raised over $10,000. Two top days in a row each garnered $600, an hourly average at $100.

“When I first met George Henry, I was stunned in a good way because of his mountain-moving faith. His love and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ inspired me,” said Major David Cope, Waynesville corps officer. “George raises thousands of dollars ringing the bell and organizes (other) volunteers so that we can support and help the needy citizens of Jackson County. Even when there are few volunteers, George rings the bell alone to help keep the effort going. He is involved in prison ministry and other community service, and always seeks to help his fellow man. George Henry touched my life.”

At age 85, George shows no signs of slowing down. He maintains his state license as a building contractor and insists, “I don’t even like the word, ‘retirement.’”

Not even a fight with prostate cancer slowed him down. He completed his treatments and has total faith in God’s plan for his life.

Any sage advice for would-be kettle volunteers?

“Yes: Remember to put the ding before the ling!” he said, chuckling.

Major Frank Duracher, a former staff writer for The War Cry and the Southern Spirit, is a retired Salvation Army officer living in North Carolina.


Salvation Army video series to offer help for young adults

Salvation Army video series to offer help for young adults

By: Brad Rowland

Young adults face unique challenges in today’s landscape and, to assist them in meeting them, The Salvation Army’s Southern Territorial Youth Department is set to launch an online video series. The “Youth Down South: Young Adult Edition” series debuted in January 2020 and, every month, a new topic of study and conversation will be on display.

“Every video that we drop will come with a resource that we will put on Ministry Toolkit, our website and other places to make the information convenient to access,” said Jovanie Smith, the host of the series and the Southern Territory’s young adult and mission deployment coordinator. “There are tangible ways that this resource can be used in the field, and we think it can and will be very useful.”

The first video outlines the focus and vision of the series, for 2020 and beyond. From there, practical topics will be addressed, from financial management and resume-building to summer jobs, goal-setting and mental health.

Other segments will focus specifically on college students and individuals in that age range, including a focus on final exam preparation, student loan management and what to do after graduation.

“We really want to resource the field on a number of topics that are practical,” Smith said. “We want it to be geared specifically to young adults to help with things that are directly relevant to interests of people in that age group.”

Beyond their function as carriers of information that is relevant and practical, the videos will seek to to sustain an ongoing conversation with young adults and let them know they are being considered and that the issues they are battling can be overcome.

“I’m really excited about the videos and the impact they might have,” said Smith. “It doesn’t always happen that young adults are specifically the focus of something like this, and we think it can speak to some real-life questions that people might be facing.”


Salvationist’s care and kindness captured heart of Alabama man

Salvationist’s care and kindness captured heart of Alabama man

By: Major Frank Duracher

Community Care Ministry workers faithfully execute their missions of grace through regular visits to nursing homes, hospitals, shut-ins, as well as jails and prisons. Formerly known as the League of Mercy, the oft-unheralded outreach draws its boundless inspiration from Matthew 25:40, where Jesus assures that whatever is done for the least of humanity is like doing it expressly for him.

One recipient of these visits – Earl Boatrite of Florence, Alabama – became a real trophy of grace and was won to the Army due to the kindness he saw each week during a long convalescence.

Boatrite’s contact with the Army goes all the way back to his childhood when he came up through the Army’s Scouting program at the Florence Corps. He even knows some of the “old faithful” from back then – some of whom are still around today.

But when Earl grew up, he also grew away from the Lord and the Army. That is, until the Lord got Earl’s attention in a veterans hospital ward.

Earl had left home as a teen, joined the military and served our country with distinction. He became a good husband, father and neighbor. But by his own admission, he wasn’t right with the Lord. The religious training he received at the Army back in Florence seemed light years away.

He knew something was missing in his life.

Earl would be the first to tell you today that he considers the decades outside of God’s will to be his “wasted years.” But he will also add that the Lord never gave up on him. An “angel” (his word) in the form of a League of Mercy worker became the model for the new direction Earl desired.

“I got real sick and was laid up in the VA Hospital in Birmingham,” Earl said. “During those long weeks, I became more and more impressed with the faithfulness and Christian love exhibited by someone in a Salvation Army uniform.”

Although he doesn’t remember her name nor whatever became of her, Boatrite said he will never forget her aged face, nor the regular doses of kindness and prayer dispensed for him and the other patients in the ward.

Each visit of this grandmother-figure in uniform became more important to Boatrite’s eventual conversion. Her visits were cherished highlights among the hourly monotony of treatment, therapy and tests. The floor around his sickbed became “holy ground.” He decided one day that the example of this elderly warrior was especially meant for him.

“I knew then and there: That’s what I want to do!”

He also witnessed to the Lord’s healing power. “Early on, my doctor told me that my type of illness would most likely leave me at 60 percent normal capacity. He said I would be legally disabled, never to work again. He even advised me to sell all my mechanic tools!”

By the time Boatrite was discharged, the same doctor pronounced him at 98 percent capacity. He returned to Florence, looked up The Salvation Army and later got a fulltime job at the U.S. Postal Service.

After many years, Boatrite’s determination has not wavered. Today he is the corps sergeant-major in the Florence Corps. His wife, Delia, joins him in faithful service in all of the corps programs, including CCM. Over the years, Boatrite attended Local Officers Training School held at Evangeline Booth College.

No one seems prouder to wear his uniform than CSM Earl Boatrite.

Major Frank Duracher, a former staff writer for The War Cry and Southern Spirit, is a retired Salvation Army officer living in North Carolina.


Tennessee girl demonstrates her love of giving for her 7th birthday

Tennessee girl demonstrates her love of giving for her 7th birthday

By: David Ibata

For her fifth birthday, Tinsley Ryan of Clarksville, Tennessee, took up donations for a local dog shelter. This summer, Tinsley recruited her neighborhood friends to make and sell bracelets, raising $167 for the Manna Café food pantry.

And for her seventh birthday, in November, Tinsley asked that all her gifts – nearly 50 presents – not go to her, but to The Salvation Army Angel Tree program.

“There’s nothing purer than a child’s heart,” said Captain Dawn Whitaker, who with her husband Captain Jonathan are corps officers in Clarksville. “Tinsley had her birthday party and asked for the gifts to go to kids in need for Christmas, and her friends did not disappoint.

“It’s just an amazing little spirit there,” Captain Dawn said. ”Her little heart is set to giving.”

Tinsley is in first grade and is active in gymnastics and at her family’s Grace Community Church in Clarksville. She loves animals and has talked of growing up to be a veterinarian or a zookeeper.

“I decided to give away my presents to help the poor,” she said. “I hope they’ll give them to people that don’t have any presents for Christmas. I feel really excited and happy and proud of what I have done.”

Staci Ryan, Tinsley’s mother, said she and her daughter had talked about what she wanted to do this year. “I mentioned, what if she collected toys for kids who weren’t going to get anything? She thought that was a great idea and just ran with it.”

When the time came to decide where to go with the gifts, the family didn’t have to look far.

“We see your Angel Trees all over,” Staci Ryan said. “It’s a recognizable program, and we know The Salvation Army does great things for the community and would give the toys to people who are really in need.”

The presents filled the back of the Ryan family’s Suburban when they were delivered to the corps.

“Most of the gifts were for girls – Barbies, American Doll accessories, you name it,” Captain Dawn said. They will help fill out regular Angel Tree requests, she said, and go to “forgotten angels that don’t quite fly back home at the appropriate time.”

“Her Mom said to me the day she dropped them off, ‘We’re really just trying to raise good humans.’ I said, ‘You’re doing a good job.’”


Express train bears season’s cheer through the South

Express train bears season’s cheer through the South

The Holiday Express, a Christmastime tradition of the Kansas City Southern Railroad, is distributing $170,450 in charitable contributions to The Salvation Army as the brightly decorated, six-car train makes its way across five Southern and Midwestern states.

The train departed Nov. 27 from Shreveport, Louisiana, and was to make stops in 20 communities in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas before concluding its journey at Kansas City, Missouri, Union Station – home base for the KCS – Dec. 18-22. Click here to view the Holiday Express schedule.

“KCS looks forward to bringing Santa and his elves on the Holiday Express train to communities throughout our U.S. network,” said Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, KCS president and chief executive officer. “This project brings people together, strengthens community ties and supports our corporate vision and values.”

When the train stops, gift cards are given to the local Salvation Army to purchase warm clothes and other necessities. The gifts are made possible by contributions of KCS employees, vendors and friends.

Led by KCS’ Southern Belle business train, the Holiday Express consists of “Rudy,” a smiling locomotive; a flat car carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a gingerbread boxcar; an elves’ workshop; a reindeer stable; and a little red caboose. Each car is dressed in lights. People are invited to board the train, meet Santa and his elves, and tour three cars filled with holiday displays.

KCS thanks major sponsors who made this year’s trip possible, including APL Logistics Americas Ltd, Bartlett Grain/Savage Companies, Deanne Porter and Patrick Ottensmeyer, Husch Blackwell LLP, Kansas City Southern Historical Society, Michael and Marlys Haverty Family Foundation, Precision Waste Solutions LLC, RailPros, The Kansas City Southern Charitable Fund and Watco Companies.


Inspired young adults convene ‘The Kickback’

Inspired young adults convene ‘The Kickback’

By: Brad Rowland

In mid-January, young adults from across the South will gather in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for a weekend of mission, fellowship and worship.

“The Kickback: It’s In Your Hands” was created organically and technically outside The Salvation Army’s purview. However, the idea and execution arose from a small group of young adult leaders from the Florida Division, with the goal of bringing people together with purpose.

These words are the backdrop and central focus of The Kickback:

“Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others. We must carry our own load.” — Galatians 6:4-5 (CEV)

“A few young adults from Florida had the idea to invite young adults to Gatlinburg for an event that isn’t technically under the Army’s umbrella,”aid Jovanie Smith, territorial young adult and mission deployment coordinator. “They’ve tried to be intentional in passing along the message that, as young adults, we can take things into our own hands and not wait for others to give us permission to use the gifts and ideas that we’ve been instilled with,” Smith said. “There is no frustration or resentment involved, but there is a great opportunity to gather together, fellowship and worship.”

The Kickback’s origination was completely organic, beginning with a petition sent to Sabrina Kemper, Florida’s divisional creative arts director and one of the event’s organizers. Kemper talked with members of the event’s eventual leadership team – Emaniel Brifil, Cherika Gregory, Tonya Stickney and Smith – and they agreed something needed to be done.

“From there, the Holy Spirit just brought everything together effortlessly,” Kemper said. “Emaniel came up with the name ‘The Kickback,’ we agreed on the tagline of ‘It’s In Your Hands,’ and we were fueled by what is now our theme verse in Galatians 6.”

“I believe moving forward to action in order to meet a need is in our DNA as Salvationists,” Kemper said. “Christians are a doing people. That said, this isn’t a special event that took special people to put it on. The same spirit that moved William Booth to start The Salvation Army, or that brought together our brothers and sisters in Acts Chapter 2, is the same spirit at work here.”

The weekend’s activities, Jan. 17-19, will offer time for worship, service projects and group discussions on such topics as spiritual warfare, mental health, financial responsibility and authentic discipleship.

Attendance is open to anyone, with or without a previous Salvation Army relationship. The gathering will take place at Elk Springs Resort in Gatlinburg, a location chosen in part due to its centralized geography in the Southern Territory. Registration is $20 and is available at

Many in the young adult community are eagerly looking forward to coming together and doing so without reliance on anything but a worshipful spirit.

“While community is invaluable, there is a danger in relying on others, organizations, officers or those in designated leadership roles to run forward with the passions or ideas that God has planted in you,” Kemper said. “It’s an easy thing to do in the Army since, as young people, we’ve been sort of spoiled with programs, camps, youth councils, territorial events and a million other things being done and made easily available to us. We greatly appreciate that, and now we are happy to take up the mantle.”

“In the end, the Kickback is a gathering of encouragement to remind us that our faith, our ministry, our spiritual journey is really in our hands.”


Dallas Cowboys’ playful jibe results in a handsome donation to the Army

Dallas Cowboys’ playful jibe results in a handsome donation to the Army

A contract holdout by a standout NFL running back that prompted an offhand joking comment from the Dallas Cowboys’ owner is resulting in a very handsome $150,000 donation to The Salvation Army, the Dallas Morning News reported.

This past summer, when Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was in a contract holdout and Jerry Jones, the team owner was asked about it, Jones jokingly responded by asking, “Zeke who?” Jones’ comment was made in a light-hearted way, and when Elliott and the Cowboys reached agreement on a new contract, the team made T-shirts imprinted with “Zeke who?” and sold them to Cowboys fans.

Jones’ reply to the question about the running back’s holdout had been made in fun, and the fans bought into the exchange. The T-shirts are sold on the Cowboys website at $29.99 apiece, and proceeds from sales of the shirts are being donated on Elliott’s behalf to The Salvation Army, which Jones and the Cowboys have supported for many years. When Elliott ended his holdout and signed with the Cowboys earlier this year, he announced that he would donate $100,000 to The Salvation Army.

An on-field celebration by Elliott three years ago first linked him to The Salvation Army. After scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in December 2016, Elliott leaped into one of the oversize Red Kettles at the edge of the AT&T Stadium playing field. The playful leap was rebroadcast often over the ensuing days, and the Army reported that its Red Kettle donations took a corresponding leap. Last season, Elliott dropped a $21 donation into the Red Kettle after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day (Elliott’s jersey number is 21).

The Cowboys’ relationship with The Salvation Army dates to the late 1990s when the team dedicated a portion of its halftime show to the Army during the team’s annual nationally televised game on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys arranged for a nationally known performer to provide halftime entertainment that served to kick off the annual Red Kettle Christmas donation campaign. This year’s halftime show featuring Ellie Goulding marked the 23rd year the Cowboys have partnered with The Salvation Army for the Red Kettle Kickoff.


Motorcycle club joins hands with The Salvation Army to help local kids in Richmond, Va.

Motorcycle club joins hands with The Salvation Army to help local kids in Richmond, Va.

By: David Ibata

Active and retired law enforcement personnel who love riding motorcycles saddled up recently to deliver Christmas toys to The Salvation Army in Richmond, Virginia.

About 150 members and friends of the Blue Knights VA III chapter – some coming from as far away as New Jersey and Delaware – met at a local Harley-Davidson dealership the morning of Saturday, Nov. 2, to make the Inaugural Salvation Army Toy Run to benefit children in need.

“The Blue Knights are passionate about community service and supporting organizations helping others,” said Matt Pochily, development director for the Central Virginia Area Command. “They knew they could put out the call to gather and ride their bikes to support an organization like The Salvation Army and have a great response.”

The toys will go toward Angel Tree gifts for the children of families enrolled in Central Virginia’s Christmas Assistance Program.

The Richmond Blue Knights had had a teddy bear run for a local children’s hospital for 37 years, but a program change at the hospital this fall ended that initiative, said Michael Hart, secretary-treasurer of the club and a retired 35-year veteran of the Henrico County, Virginia, Police Department.

“We were looking for a new charity we could help,” Hart said. “I’ve always thought The Salvation Army would be a good fit for our group and event. We contacted them, and they were more than happy for us to do something for them.”

The Army asked for toys suitable for infants through 14-year-olds, and the Knights went shopping – for dolls to Legos to trucks. They carried the gifts as they rode more than 50 miles across Hanover and Henrico counties to a Salvation Army drop-off point at a Richmond area shopping mall.

The Blue Knights organization is the latest partner to join the Christmas Assistance Program.

“We have a number of unique partners that make possible a comprehensive distribution of gifts to families in needs – stockings, coats, toys, clothing,” Pochily said.

One media partner, for example, assists the Angel Tree campaign; another gives stockings. A third partner runs a coat drive that brings in 12,000 pieces of outerwear, while a fourth provides funds that help support the Christmas Center – the command’s gift distribution warehouse – and the purchases of supplies for other campaigns.

The Blue Knights is an international, nonprofit, fraternal organization of motorcycle-riding law enforcement veterans with hundreds of chapters and thousands of members in 29 countries, according to the VA III chapter website,

In December, their members will return to The Salvation Army to put bicycles together and help at a distribution day. They look forward to next year’s toy ride.

“We had short notice this year as we switched from one charity to another,” Hart said, “but next year, we’ll have a lot more time to plan, and it should be a bigger and better event.”