The Salvation Army partners with community in creation of Peachtree Creek Greenway

The Salvation Army partners with community in creation of Peachtree Creek Greenway

By: David Ibata

When dignitaries and residents of Brookhaven, Georgia, gathered to cut a ribbon and formally open the first phase of the Peachtree Creek Greenway, they paused to recognize a key partner in the $10 million project.

“Without their assistance and generosity, we would not be here today, and that’s The Salvation Army,” said Joe Gebbia, mayor pro tem of Brookhaven.

Phase I of the walking and bicycling path runs 1.27 miles along the North Fork of Peachtree Creek northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. Except when a heavy rain sends it over its banks, the waterway is only a few inches deep and about 30 feet wide. It threads its way behind apartment buildings, office complexes and The Salvation Army’s Southern Territorial Headquarters and Atlanta Temple Corps.

Until recently, the stream was an impassable thicket. Work crews last year chopped and cleared the vegetation, opened the creek bed to sunlight and hauled away years of accumulated trash. They carved into its slopes a 14-foot-wide paved trail with multiple access points and parking, including two on The Salvation Army campus.

At roughly the half-way mark, a bridge of concrete and steel was built to carry the path across the creek. Here, the city set up a white tent with folding chairs at the foot of the bridge for speakers and refreshments; the ribbon-cutting took place on the span.

Gebbia thanked The Salvation Army for donating land and easements for the project. He specifically cited Captain Kenneth Argot, Atlanta Temple Corps officer; Nathaniel Coles, assistant director of facility operations for the THQ Property Department; and Caleb Louden, mission specialist for the Metro Atlanta Command.

“They were responsible for the North Druid Hills trailhead,” next to THQ, Gebbia said. “Also, we had a homeless population living along the creek, under bridges, and the charge of the (city) council was not to shuttle these people off, but to handle the situation holistically and with respect. The people of The Salvation Army gave us the assistance to really address that situation.”

The Red Shield Harbor Light Corps in Atlanta worked with Brookhaven to offer homeless residents a place to stay for up to six months; food, clothing and medical care; and for those wishing it, spiritual counseling, job training and help overcoming substance abuse.

The Army also made available a 14-by-160-foot retaining wall along the Greenway for a mural to be commissioned by the city and plans its own mural on the side of a warehouse building along the trail.

A future Phase II will extend the trail south into Atlanta, and Phase III, north to the cities of Chamblee and Doraville, for a total length of 12.3 miles. And at its midpoint, visible to thousands of passersby every week, will be The Salvation Army.


Heroes with hammers and saws

Heroes with hammers and saws

By: Lisa Loren

“What is the use of preaching the gospel to men whose whole attention is concentrated upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive?” William Booth posed this question in the late 1800s; over 100 years later the question is as relevant today as it was when he presented this challenge to the world.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm, hit Collier County, Florida, on Sept. 10, 2017. Trees toppled onto roofs; other roofs were ripped from homes; exterior shells were shredded, and flooding destroyed floors, walls, ceilings, cabinets, appliances and furniture. Many residents lost everything.

More than two years later, they are still struggling to rebuild. Families and seniors who were already hard pressed to put food on the table were exposed to the worst of the devastation. Though previous storm patterns could never have predicted the people least able to recover would be the worst hit, this was the reality for our families, friends and neighbors in southwest Florida, especially in the cities of Immokalee, Copeland, Everglades City, Chokoloskee and Goodland.

Livelihoods here are primarily based on agriculture and fishing. Men and women at the mercy of Mother Nature to make a living endure in a perpetual state of poverty or near poverty. Resiliency is not in their vocabulary, though persistence, determination, hard work and survival are the esprit de corps of their very nature.

In keeping with Booth’s vision for practical living assistance as a real example of Christ’s love, The Salvation Army has a longstanding and powerful policy of disaster assistance to those in need. To that end, Ashley Jones was appointed to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) in 2016 after more than 15 years responding to natural disasters as a Salvation Army soldier.

Jones’s commitment to helping Collier County recover from Hurricane Irma led to partnerships with other humanitarian organizations.

One of these was Team Rubicon, a group dedicated to helping the victims of natural disasters. Its membership is unique: 70 percent are military veterans, and 20 percent are first responders. It had been sponsored as a VOAD member by Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe of The Salvation Army. Led by former service personnel whose commitment to serve is deep in their DNA, Team Rubicon celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2020.

Because of Jones’ reputation for excellence, knowledge and practical experience, David Venables, Team Rubicon’s deputy director of rebuild operations, knew that by partnering and building on the strengths of the two organizations, they could repair and rebuild homes throughout Collier County.

Team Rubicon has more than 100,000 volunteers. They’re run through a training program that covers “muck and gut” cleaning up, roof tarping, tree sawing, heavy equipment operations and damage assessment, among other topics. Before any can deploy – whether to small-scale flooding or a massive fire response – they must pass background checks and complete two FEMA classes in the National Incident Management System.

Upon completion of “basic training,” volunteers earn their badge of honor on their first deployment – a gray T-shirt with the Team Rubicon logo and a “space bar” for their names or call signs.

It isn’t the shirt, but the sweat, dirt and sometimes blood that soaks the shirt, that show these heroes offer hope through the physically demanding work of responding to natural disasters.

There’s a deep desire to provide purpose and comradeship post-service within the organization. Given the reality of 22 veterans a day taking their own lives – veteran suicides have a higher annual death toll than active-service combat casualties – the Clay Hunt Fellowship Cohort Program was born. In the spring of 2018, the eighth round of class members was selected from hundreds of applicants. The eight members of “Cohort 8” would have a profound and lasting impact on Collier County, particularly the town of Immokalee.

Team Rubicon committed to a one-year partnership with The Salvation Army. The morning of Sept. 17, 2018, found the Cohort 8 team at the Disaster Assistance Center Naples of The Salvation Army.

Repair and rebuild training began immediately as disaster case managers of The Salvation Army provided the requests for help from local families and seniors. Some sought repairs; some, funds for roof replacements; and some, total demolitions and rebuilds of their homes.

In the end, 124 residents benefited. Families and seniors who had no hope and no options, who had no insurance, inadequate FEMA assistance and certainly no savings accounts from which to rebuild their lives, received not only safe and comfortable homes but security, safety, peace of mind and a renewed spirit of hope. The Cohort 8 team led 185 “Gray Shirt” volunteers repairing 40 residences and funding repairs on an additional 33 dwellings, thereby turning hurricane victims into survivors.

A new component to Team Rubicon’s long list of services was developed at the Florida rebuild. Working with Paradise Coast Builders, a local partner with The Salvation Army repair program, total rebuilds were initiated. In collaboration with owner Gene Silguero, the Cohort 8 team built two homes from the ground up. Where complete devastation had shattered the lives of two families, the renewed hope, resiliency of spirit and simple, safe living conditions now stood strong.

The spirit of service and championing of recovery for families following a disaster is the heart of both The Salvation Army and Team Rubicon. These two committed organizations have partnered successfully, bringing together all aspects of humanitarian aid in disaster response and recovery. Their heart to turn Hurricane Irma victims into thriving survivors has changed the lives of families and seniors and replaced trauma with hope for the communities of Collier County.

Lisa Loren is a long-term recovery coordinator with the Naples, Florida, Corps.

Dalila Grimaldo

Fearing the worst as Hurricane Irma approached Southwest Florida, Dalila Grimaldo and her husband Candelario Rodriguez left their beloved home to stay with their son in a more secure location. The moment they felt it safe to return, they rushed back to inspect the damages. They were heartbroken to discover the extent of the destruction.

The couple had lived in Immokalee for 40 years and had been fortunate to weather previous, lesser hurricanes with few issues. This time, though, would be different.

Immediately, they could see their roof was compromised. Nothing, however, prepared them for the scene when they opened their front door to find ceilings collapsed to the floor from the weight of torrential rains. The deluge of water left the floors (to quote the homeowner) “squishy” as well as uneven, which created a huge tripping hazard for this senior couple. Safety was a constant source of anxiety.

To complicate matters further, their severely limited income was well below the poverty line. The first step was to complete the FEMA aid application. While they doubtfully awaited a decision from the federal agency, by necessity, they continued to live in this precarious place.

The family did not have homeowners’ insurance. Fortunately, FEMA did award funds for both property damage and rental assistance. As landowners, they were determined to find a way to repair their home and diligently saved every penny possible. Unfortunately, the integrity of the structure was so compromised, it was imperative that they find alternate housing. They put down deposits for an apartment, electricity and water.

Sadly, Candelario got deathly sick and passed away in September 2018, barely one year after Hurricane Irma. Dalila mourned her husband’s death, and everything in her life stalled. She vacated the apartment and returned to the unsafe home. This widow truly needed help to transition from disaster victim to disaster survivor.

Through our partnership with Team Rubicon, Paradise Coast Builders and Dalila’s remaining FEMA funds, we can build her a new home. Although Dalila was hopeful we could help her save the home that held so many treasured memories of the life she shared with her husband for so many years, she understands the integrity of the structure was so compromised, it was unsafe to repair.

Jesús and María Montez

Jesús Montez and his wife, María, struggle to care for their two granddaughters on a fixed disability income. Both Jesús and María have extremely poor health with medical conditions that require weekly visits. Nonetheless, this couple is doggedly determined to raise their granddaughters in a safe, secure and loving home environment.

“Worried” and “frightened” did not come close to describing the fear that motivated them to seek shelter in their son’s apartment as Hurricane Irma bore down on Collier County, Florida, on Sept. 10, 2017. The couple and their granddaughters Alyssa, 7, and Bethany, 10, gathered just enough belongings to get by in their son’s cramped quarters until they could return home. They had no way of knowing their worst fears were about to be realized.

Returning to their house shortly after the storm passed, the Montez family was devastated. Nothing was salvageable. Absolutely nothing. The roof had been ripped from the home and the contents, drenched with enormous amounts of rain. The ceilings and walls were wet and crumbling. The floors were bowed and splintering. The air conditioning and appliances were damaged beyond repair. Furniture could not be salvaged. Clothing and personal items were a complete loss.

The family desperately tried to remain in their home while applying for FEMA aid; yet the smell of mold and the appalling state of the structure was unbearable. They received $10,000 for repairs – not nearly enough to replace all that was gone. Hopeless and miserable, the Montez family were at a loss as to how to even begin to put their home and their lives back together. They truly needed help with the logistics of navigating the recovery of such overwhelming losses.

“The damage was so extensive, you could see the sky from inside the dining room,” said Clara Herrera, disaster case manager for The Salvation Army. “Only rebuilding could restore normalcy to this family’s lives.”

Thanks to Team Rubicon and its partners, the Montezes have renewed hope. Work began on their new home in May 2019, and the family moved in that November.

Earl and Elizabeth Bishop

With great trepidation, Earl Bishop, a U.S. Army veteran, and his wife Elizabeth decided to evacuate their house in Immokalee prior to Hurricane Irma’s landfall. They were stunned by what awaited them when they returned.

Strong winds had destroyed their small home’s roof, and torrential rains had poured in. The water gushed through the ceilings and down the walls, decimating cabinets and floors. Their appliances were also ruined. Everything, from top to bottom, would have to be removed and replaced. Not one piece of their home or their lives was left untouched.

Fortunately, the Bishop family was referred to Disaster Case Manager Aileen Castro of The Salvation Army for help navigating the complex process of getting their lives back together. By the time the Bishops met with Castro, they had already ripped out all the water-soaked drywall in hopes of eliminating mold issues. The elderly couple cares for three young grandchildren during the week while their mom works as an elementary school teaching assistant for Collier County.

Whether dealing with mold or exposed wall studs, safety was a daily source of anxiety. With an infant, a toddler and a preschooler, Elizabeth and Earl had their hands full. Making a bad situation worse, Earl is a disabled veteran with many health issues. This couple indeed needed help to transition from disaster victims to disaster survivors. Another constant source of anxiety was financial hardship. The family did not have homeowners’ insurance and received from FEMA only a small amount of financial aid, which they stretched as far as possible. These meager funds did not come close to completing any repairs.

At this point, The Salvation Army partnered with Team Rubicon and Paradise Coast Builders to bring hope back into the Bishop’s lives and begin making their house safe and comfortable again.

The first order of business was replacing the roof to prevent further damage. Paradise Coast Builders, owned by Gene and Rosalie Silguero, quickly dried in and reroofed the home. The Bishops were beside themselves as their hope was renewed.

Then Team Rubicon set to work under the leadership of the Cohort 8 Clay Hunt Fellows and their team of volunteers. Eliot Tucker led group members as they ripped up floors, shredded the bathroom and annihilated the kitchen in very short order. The real fun began as piece by piece and board by board, the shell of a building began to be reshaped into a home. Team Rubicon volunteers honored their code of service with sweat and hard work over the course of two months.

Exciting changes could be seen on a daily basis. Floors were rebuilt, walls were replaced, kitchen and bathroom fixtures as well as cabinets were installed, and painting was completed. Always working side by side, Team Rubicon ordered gravel while The Salvation Army ordered sod.

March 5, 2019, approached with an air of excited anticipation. Helping a family regain their peace, hope, joy and safety in a home destroyed by Hurricane Irma nearly 1½ years before and now rebuilt, has been an incredible journey.

Team Rubicon and its Cohort 8 Clay Hunt Fellows and dedicated volunteers, The Salvation Army Disaster Team and Paradise Coast Builders have been blessed to be involved in changing the lives of this family. By joining forces, these devoted individuals put boots on the ground and invested materials, labor and heart to restore hope and rebuild the Bishops’ home.


Columbia, S.C., corps is taking its Sunday school to the community

Columbia, S.C., corps is taking its Sunday school to the community

By: Brad Rowland

Every other Saturday, a motivated group from The Salvation Army of Columbia, South Carolina, ventures into the community for “Sidewalk Sunday School” to great impact. Majors Henry and Benita Morris, Columbia area commanders and corps officers, lead an assembly of 20 to 25 soldiers and corps cadets on average, visiting different pockets of the Columbia area and putting boots on the ground in ministry form.

The outreach-driven activity takes about two hours, with the time split evenly into four specific areas of focus. First, the group engages in fun activities aimed at gathering individuals – and children, specifically – together to have a good time. The Salvation Army’s canteen then follows along with dedicated lunch service, delivering simple food to those gathered. From there, a biblical message is delivered in open-air form, with time specifically assigned to door-to-door visitation for outreach in the locations visited.

“When we’re out visiting and doing Sidewalk Sunday School, we often have parents and family members that are curious about The Salvation Army,” said Major Benita Morris. “That is our opportunity to let them know what we have going on and what the Army has to offer. It isn’t uncommon to come away with addresses and information from people where we’re sending buses back to do pickups from the areas and using this is an outreach.”

Sidewalk Sunday School began in the summer of 2018, and the fruits of the program are evident in Columbia, with plans to continue the positive momentum. YPSM Glenda Rushin comes alongside the officers to play a critical organizational role, utilizing young people and dedicated adults in various capacities each time the mobile ministry hits the road.

Numerous success stories have resulted from the ministry’s work. In fact, the Columbia Corps is examining the potential expansion to a second Sunday service, in part due to the success of Sidewalk Sunday School and its impact in bringing others into contact with the church.

“We feel that if these people won’t necessarily come to us, we’re going to come them,” Major Morris said. “We believe it’s important to get out from the four walls of the corps. Go to where the people are. We need to go into those neighborhoods where the Army needs to be visible and where people need to hear, and to know, that God loves them. … We’ve gotten respect in those neighborhoods because we’re out there, we’re consistent and we’re visible. It’s been great for us.”


Territorial musicians help The Salvation Army celebrate 100 years of service in Orlando

Territorial musicians help The Salvation Army celebrate 100 years of service in Orlando

By: Brad Rowland

In 2020, The Salvation Army is celebrating its heritage while embracing the future with a commemoration of 100 years of service in Orlando, Florida. To aid in kicking off a year that will feature myriad events, the Southern Territorial Band and Southern Territorial Songsters visited the community in late January for a wonderful weekend of music and ministry.

Upon arrival, the two groups participated in rehearsals over the course of two days, coming together for fellowship and worship. The band and songsters performed together on numerous occasions during the weekend, with the songsters having the tremendous experience to work with Derric Johnson, an advisory board member in Orlando and a 33-year consultant for Disney World. One of Johnson’s central roles was as the arranger and producer for the Epcot Center’s “Voices of Liberty,” a premier a cappella group, and he inspired with his modesty and genuine love of The Salvation Army.

“I was impressed with Derric’s humility,” said Major Pete Costas, corps officer at Charlotte, North Carolina, Temple Corps and a member of the songsters. “Someone with his credentials and experience, visiting us and sharing his expertise with us was awesome. His faith and sincerity came through, as well as his professionalism.”

From there, an outdoor concert took place on Saturday at Lake Eola, with the groups providing stirring music to those gathered on a beautiful day in a park setting. Saturday evening was spent in combined ministry at First United Methodist Church in downtown Orlando, with a memorable night of worship that featured the Orlando singing company and beginner band programs as central figures.

Sunday morning was the centerpiece of the weekend, with poignant worship taking place and a strong message from Lt. Colonel Ken Luyk, Florida divisional commander.

“Sunday morning worship was powerful, and that is always the centerpiece of every weekend for us,” said Nick Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary. “The hospitality from the folks in Orlando was also tremendous, and the spirit was positive and bright for the entirety of the weekend. It was a fantastic experience.”

Orlando’s centenary celebration will continue with a homecoming weekend in February, annual gala in March, Christmas in July, multiple concerts, a corps retreat and a rendition of “Blood of the Lamb” in October.

“The combined ministry of the territorial band and songsters acted as a powerful catalyst for the first of many events in Orlando to celebrate their centenary celebration,” said Bernie Dake, assistant territorial music secretary. “I believe the combined ministry lends itself to incredible impact and a springboard for the rest of what should be a fantastic year.”

“I don’t know about you but, for me, the Holy Spirit has already visited and entered us into an incredible spirit of worship,” said Captain Ken Chapman, Orlando area commander and corps officer. “We’ve already had an exciting week, and we look forward to an exciting year. Relationships were created out of their concert at Lake Eola on Saturday, and that could be ground-breaking for The Salvation Army. You never know what ministry will do, but the word of the Lord has been proclaimed and we’ve been inspired.”


Catering to a dream: Louisville’s Chefs for Success program helping clients build new lives

Catering to a dream: Louisville’s Chefs for Success program helping clients build new lives

By: David Ibata

When students of the Chefs for Success Culinary Arts Training program of The Salvation Army in Louisville, Kentucky, complete their studies and graduate, many want to do more with their new skills than hire on at a restaurant. Sam Ford, for example, wants to help homeless people like himself – and that may mean going into business for himself.

“With some of the people I’ve met at the shelter, I’d like to try them out and have them help me start catering,” Ford said. “I explain that the first run may be hard – nobody including myself is going to get paid because what we earn will go back into the company – but hopefully I can point them in a direction to get their lives back together, the same way I am doing.”

To accommodate dreams and ambitions like these, The Salvation Army Louisville Metropolitan Area Command has started a culinary post-graduate program, teaching students the ins and outs of the catering business.

“When students graduate from Chefs for Success, at least 25 to 50 percent say, ‘I want to cater, I want to own my own business, I want to own a food truck,’” said Wendy Rothfuss, a professional chef and caterer hired last fall to set up and teach the course.

“There’s a need for further education,” Rothfuss said. “I’m building a curriculum for a class that can be taught three to four times a year for graduates of Chefs for Success.”

Chefs for Success is an intensive, 10-week course that teaches its enrollees – men and women with a history of financial struggles and, often, homelessness – the requisite skills to enter the hospitality field, leading to a living-wage job and eventual self-sufficiency.

“We have restaurants calling us, asking for students,” Rothfuss said. “This program makes it possible for me to work with people individually to see their skill level so that I can match the right student with the right restaurant job.”

The Novak Family Foundation provided a $35,000 one-year grant to launch the catering training and service program. The grant also enhances Chefs for Success to more fully develop student recruitment, job placement and continued connections with fellow graduates and the program.

The first catering class, with nine students, started in January. It is offered at no charge to culinary school graduates. Students meet for three hours twice a week for seven weeks at Louisville Command headquarters, the former Male High School on Brook Street.

The curriculum covers such topics as converting recipes, measurements, event planning, presentation and budgeting.

Students also participate in The Salvation Army’s nascent catering program, started by Rothfuss as an adjunct to the school. “I’m trying to build that up as a business so that it can be rolled back into the program and continue,” she said.

The operation catered three in-house events last autumn and is now booking outside functions.

“Each student has to help at one of our catering events so they can get some experience,” Rothfuss said. “At the end of the course, we’ll have a tasting. We’ll make things on the menu that we’re creating for our catering menu and invite people in the area – other nonprofits and businesses – that might be interested in booking us.”

Ford, for his part, volunteers mornings in the Louisville Center of Hope shelter kitchen before going to work in the deli of a local Kroger.

He said he never would have made it this far without the prodding of daughter-in-law Audrey Ford, who first told him about the Chefs for Success program; and the encouragement of a friend, Vernshell Evans. “I have a disability, depression, and there were times I was down and didn’t want to go; she was one of the people by my side motivating me and pushing me.”

Now, Ford wants to do likewise for his fellow shelter residents.

“I appreciate being able to volunteer because, when it comes time for me to switch and follow that career in catering, I’m getting experience at the shelter,” Ford said. On White Flag nights when cold weather doubles the number of people coming in, for instance, he can do menu planning to ensure there’s enough food for everybody.

“I want to take this culinary experience and expand it every way I can to help people.”


Young adults gather for discipleship, fellowship at ‘Kickback’ weekend

Young adults gather for discipleship, fellowship at ‘Kickback’ weekend

By: Brad Rowland

Created organically from the desires of young adults in The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory, “The Kickback: It’s In Your Hands” convened for a mid-January weekend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Dozens of mission-minded, spiritually focused individuals gathered for a weekend of community, fellowship, fun and worship, all under the banner of Galatians 6:4-5.

“The Salvation Army has a group of on fire young adults who will not sit idly by when it comes to their own spiritual development,” said Emaniel Brifil, Florida divisional young adult and missions program coordinator and an organizer of the weekend. “I think it would benefit people to know that a group of young adults came together who are desperate for intentional relationships and discipleship.”

The event featured worship sessions, small group discussions and breakouts, service projects in the local community and a panel discussion on Saturday evening.

“The panel highlighted how passionate young adults are about cultivating authentic relationships with Christ and living that out in church and their communities,” said Sabrina Kemper, Florida divisional creative arts director and an organizer of the weekend. “All of the questions and the discussions that followed pointed to a group that loves the Lord, loves The Salvation Army and really wants its ministry to thrive and accomplish kingdom progress.”

Above all, the sense of community was palpable, particularly within small groups that could focus on issues and topics relevant to young adults.

“The Kickback was a different, yet amazing, experience that I really enjoyed,” said Matt Pulver, an attendee. “The small group setting allowed all of us to lead sessions amongst ourselves with our own questions. I really appreciated the opportunity to worship in an environment of mature young adults.”

Service projects ranged from nursing home visitation to the cleanup of a local park. That provided inspiration, and the atmosphere of the weekend was conducive to reflection and growth.

“This occurred with the money, energy and time of young adults who worked to make it happen simply because they cared to and that God blessed their efforts,” Kemper said. “It was a beautiful time of discipleship, prayer, singing, learning and outreach that changed all attendees for the better.”

Though plans are not necessarily in motion for a return in 2021, the leadership team is open to “wherever God leads” in this area, far from ruling out a similar gathering in the near future.

“The weekend was so needed,” said Jovanie Smith, territorial young adult and mission deployment coordinator. “It was fantastic to just be with people, have people feel welcome and not worry about anything but being there in community with one another. Honestly, it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever been a part of.”


Sons of the Savior: Don’t call these Salvationists a motorcycle ‘gang’; they’re a ministry

Sons of the Savior: Don‘t call these Salvationists a motorcycle ’gang‘; they’re a ministry

By: Major Frank Duracher

Normally, when you hear or see a motorcycle gang, the image of fierce, mean renegade outlaws could be what you conjure up. But not the “Sons of the Savior” Motorcycle Ministry (SSMM), some of whose members are also soldiers of the Hendersonville, North Carolina, Corps.

That’s because, first, they don’t consider themselves “a gang” (theirs is a ministry); and second, these men and women are all born-again Christians. When they are not taking on a project to benefit the community or their corps, they are roaring down the open road — and even then, their witness is most evident by the gospel patches adorning their leather jackets.

The founding four members — Roy Snelson, Gary Benfield, Robert House and Scott Justus — were brainstorming ways to give life to the “aging” Men’s Fellowship Club at the Hendersonville Corps. Some younger members wanted to do more, and as they talked, they realized they all shared a love of motorcycles.

“Originally, we wanted to call ourselves ‘Sons of the Son,’ but another group had rights to that name, so we tried a few others on,” said founding president Snelson. “We really wanted to keep the ‘SOS’ or ‘SOTS’ acronym, and Gary suggested ‘Sons of the Savior.’ The name stuck.”

The “Sons” are male and female, and they spend about as much time doing good in the corps and in the community as they do on their hogs. Membership quickly grew; and you don’t necessarily have to own a motorcycle to join in the fun. The oldest member is 55; the youngest, 21.

“At least one member of the ‘Sons’ is on the road every day,” said Benfield, who rides a 2015 Harley Davidson Road King. “We try to group up on Saturdays and after church on Sundays—we ride as much and as often as we can.”

“This started out as a fellowship, but it quickly morphed into a ministry,” said Justus, who rides a 2000 Road King (all-chrome, with painted orange flames). “This is a brotherhood, and without a doubt it is the best. We love each other and we love serving the community.”

House, who sports a Kawasaki Vaquero 1700, said, “It is important for me to get with a group of guys who love the Lord and who I can trust. We do a lot of good around town, but it’s really to show everyone what Christianity is all about.”

One young couple caught the fever, although Shawn Briggs is a multigenerational biker.

“My mother was a biker (and a tattoo-artist!) and she rode with her dad. She passed her love of riding on to me,” Briggs said.

His wife, Christy, said she absolutely loves sitting on the back of Shawn’s 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan.

Some of the things they do in the name of Christ include helping with The Salvation Army Angel Tree program; making toy runs; stuffing school backpacks; manning hydration and prayer tents at Christian outdoor events; buying groceries for needy families; paying people’s power bills; and witnessing.

That last item is especially important to the Sons.

“When we ride to a location, we never take the same way back home,” Snelson admitted. “That’s because people are curious when they see us riding, and we answer their many questions. Whether we’re eating an ice cream cone or drinking a cola, we tell them about our love for the Lord and what he can do in their lives as well. We offer to pray with them.”

Straddling his 1999 Harley Davidson Fat Boy, Snelson said, “Look past our tattoos, bandanas, and leather jackets and see that we are a group of brothers who love Jesus.”

This is by no means the only Salvation Army motorcycle club, by any name — there’s at least one in each of the USA Eastern, Central and Western territories. Most clubs have their own patches and are incorporated.

However, offshoot chapters of “Sons of the Savior” are springing up in Austin, Texas; Topeka, Kansas; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Phoenix, Arizona; Hilo, Hawaii; and an innovating branch at the Charlotte, North Carolina, Adult Rehabilitation Center.

“In fact,” Snelson said, “our clubs are planning to meet near Camp Walter Johnson (North & South Carolina Division) and roar into men’s camp in May. Wouldn’t that be a fine sight (and sound) to see some 30 Christian men on their bikes rumbling into camp?”

For more information, please visit and on Facebook, Sons Of The Savior M/M.

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.


‘Gather’ aims to provide women in mission and ministry with resource

‘Gather’ aims to provide women in mission and ministry with resource

By: Brad Rowland

More than a decade ago, The Salvation Army implemented “Catch the Joy” as something of a manual for ministry to women. Over time, it became clear to those monitoring the initiative that a fresh, modern approach was needed, and, beginning in January 2020, that vision comes to fruition with “Gather.”

“Gather” is described as a guide for women in mission and ministry. While it is not a traditional manual in some respects, it provides a full-fledged toolkit emphasizing freedom in ministry.

“We want to engage, encourage, equip and inspire women to be all that God created them to be,” said Major Susie Erickson, assistant territorial secretary for women’s ministries. “That’s our purpose in ministering to women. With this piece, we also want to encourage women to bring other women around the table. We want them to think beyond programming as well. We’re such great programmers, but we want women to start thinking about real season of life needs. We need to join with others in the community, getting outside, and ministering to specific needs rather than simply establishing programs.”

Aside from the primary requirement of mandating 44 mission-focused meetings per year as a tool for accountability and structure, the guidelines are exceedingly flexible and represent more of a re-imagining of the comprehensive work previously in place. One significant shift is the distinction between women’s ministries and what the resource refers to as ministry to women, with an aim toward being more culturally relevant and mission focused.

“Part of what ‘Gather’ does is that it gives permission for us to think differently about how we minister to women,” Major Erickson said. “We need to think beyond just a program, instead focusing on the holistic person. It is important that we reach beyond the walls of our corps building and into the community to see how we can minister to the needs of women.”

“’Gather’ is not a program. It’s more of an ethos or a call. It is inherently a call to mission, to gather women and to go where they are and bring them in.”

The guide is now available for distribution. “Gather” supplies resources for the development of ministry, including practical ideas on what women may encounter and what their challenges may be. In addition, “Gather” seeks to get away from the program-minded nature of some initiatives, instead focusing on mission.