Salvationists, partners serve others as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic

Salvationists, partners serve others as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army in the Southern Territory mobilizes to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As families face sudden joblessness and financial crises, and vulnerable homeless residents seek shelter from the disease, corps and commands come up with creative ways to serve people in need and welcome stepped-up support from their community partners.

Augusta, Georgia: Sgt. April McCormick helms the grill at the Augusta Center of Hope. “You haven’t tasted grilled food till you’ve had April’s grilled food!” the Augusta Corps said in a Facebook posting. The Center of Hope has been sheltering men, women and children around the clock, providing three meals a day as well as snacks and entertainment. To assist, a local Holiday Inn Express and Suites donated toiletries and blankets; the Jamaica Way Restaurant provided a dinner of homemade burgers, hot dogs, jerk chicken and other foods; and TBonz Steakhouse donated cole slaw, fresh vegetables and other items.

Photo Credit: Augusta BBQ

Johnson City, Tennessee: Thanks to the Johnson City Morning Rotary and Tennessee Hills Distillery in nearby Jonesborough, Tennessee, the corps handed out 50 bottles of hand sanitizer while serving carry-out dinners at the Center of Hope – one bottle for each client. Tennessee Hills is using its reserves of vodka, rum and gin to produce individual, airplane-size bottles of sanitizer for local organizations to use in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

Photo Credit: Johnson City 3

Cumberland, Maryland: Though the students of Bishop Walsh School in Cumberland, Maryland, are staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they remained committed to their service project. As part of their Lenten Challenge, students at the Catholic pre-K – 12th grade school led by Cara Bako organized a collection of food and toiletry items for charities. They delivered goods March 31 to The Salvation Army of Cumberland. The corps also thanked the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant in LaVale, Maryland, for a donation of fresh produce; and Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and Bread for a donation of bread.

Photo Credit: Cracker Barrel LaVale MD

Richmond, Virginia: The Salvation Army Central Virginia opened a temporary housing center for the homeless in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The center, located in The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, is for people who are already in the housing system and at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. The center can house 75 adults and will have clean bedding, shower facilities, heightened healthcare screenings and three daily meals.

Photo Credit: Richmond BCG homeless shelter

Owensboro, Kentucky: Matt Weafer, owner of Niko’s Bakery and Cafe, made hundreds of yeast rolls and bread for the mobile feeding ministry to serve alongside spaghetti to neighbors in need at The Salvation Army Corps in Owensboro.

Photo Credit: Matt Weafer Owensboro1


Memphis Kroc Center staying in touch with members despite social distancing challenges

Memphis Kroc Center staying in touch with members despite social distancing challenges

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers pride themselves on creating community amidst sometimes desperate circumstances. But how does one do so when a pandemic and “social distancing” forces a center to close its doors?

The Kroc Center in Memphis, Tennessee, has risen to the challenge by going virtual – staying in touch with its 10,000 members through social media, posting fitness workouts to its Facebook page, and offering daily inspirational messages by dialing an “844” phone number, among other strategies.

Salvation Army facilities in Memphis closed to the public on March 16, following guidance of the city of Memphis and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“There are a number of people who count on us in a variety of ways,” said Cleo Griffin, Kroc Center director. “How were we to remain connected and engaged with them? We wanted to quickly think about resources we could deploy to our members.”

Major Marion Platt, Memphis area commander, and his staff established a toll-free number people can call – 844-830-1865 – and hear a message of hope from The Salvation Army. The line has been averaging about 200 phone calls a day.

The Kroc Center is streaming worship services on Facebook at 11 a.m. Sundays. Major Platt and musician Ronnie Murchison also are posting what they’re calling “a time of worship and encouragement” on Facebook at 6:45 p.m. Sundays.

Additionally, Facebook, Twitter and email blasts went out to Kroc Center members, advising them of resources posted online. Les Mills Fitness Classes, for example, offer 95 free workouts across eight categories for youth and adults. “Silver Sneakers” offers material on demand for older members.

The center also is producing and posting “Virtual Fitness” videos to Facebook – a series of classes, from cardio fitness to yoga, barre, kickboxing, Pilates and dance, led by Katie Veach, the Kroc Center’s health and recreation director, and her team of instructors.

“We’d already been doing some videos, so we knew we had the technology and an audience capable of using that technology to engage with members,” Griffin said. “We had to quickly determine what formats would be most desirable to people.”

“The response has been really favorable. Several of our videos have had over a thousand views. This has been our primary way of staying in touch with members.”

The Kroc Center also is assisting the Purdue Center of Hope, home to 130 women and their children, and women seeking to escape poverty, domestic violence and addiction.

Major Platt said, “We’re setting up a computer lab for the children because they will not be going back to school for at a least a month. A lot of our residents do not have the technology required for online schooling. This way, children can attend classes via the Internet.”

Back in the physical world, the Kroc Center has entered into an agreement with the Mid South Food Bank to be a food distribution center for Memphians in dire straits due to a pandemic-related job loss or other circumstances. Initial distributions were set for Mondays, March 30 and April 6. About 250 families were expected at the first event, and up to 500 families at the second.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Hoon Chung and volunteers are roaming the streets of Memphis in The Salvation Army mobile kitchen (canteen) – known as the FedEx Disaster Response Unit, for the company that donated it to the Army – taking nourishment to places homeless residents are known to congregate. They’ve been providing meals to about 250 people a day.

The initiative is supported by a Memphis resident’s idea to feed the homeless while also helping the city’s beleaguered dining industry. Donors give money that is channeled to local restaurants, which prepare boxed meals distributed by The Salvation Army. So far, seven restaurants have joined the effort: Garibaldi’s, Huey’s, Paradise, Hog Wild, Lenny’s, Pimento’s and Spell Restaurant Group.

“It’s become much bigger than we could have hoped for,” Major Platt said. “This is one of the most amazing things I’ve been a part of.”

As for the future, Griffin said, “Our city is under a ‘shelter at home’ executive order that expires April 7. At that point, we’ll determine the conditions in Memphis. If it’s possible to do some version of normal operations by then, we probably will try to get back to normal as quickly as possible. But it’s unclear what things will look like for anybody.”

If conditions continue as they are now, two of the Kroc Center’s biggest concerns are its financial outlook and the wellbeing of its staff. It has made an urgent appeal for people to maintain their memberships; the revenue stream is crucial for its operations.

The response has been encouraging.

Major Platt said, “The community is incredibly supportive. I’ve been blessed by the kindness of Memphis. They always think of The Salvation Army and want to know what we’re doing and how they can help.”

Griffin said, “We’ll continue to serve, using online resources and cooperating with local food bank to help people in need of meals. We’ll continue our canteen ministry to the homeless and try to support our staff at a reasonable level of compensation.

“Lastly, we’re trying to maintain an environment that allows us to reopen as quickly as possible with as many of the normal amenities as possible, when and if CDC and local government guidance allows for that.”


Army in the South hosts townhall conference call addressing COVID-19 pandemic

Army in the South hosts townhall conference call addressing COVID-19 pandemic

By: Brad Rowland

On the evening of March 31, The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory held its first-ever donor townhall conference call, with information on how the organization is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Major donors and advisory board members from across the southeastern United States were invited to attend via phone, with Major Terry Israel, community relations and development secretary, shepherding the call.

During the call, several interactive opportunities materialized, with feedback, questions from attendees and valuable polling data collected through the use of survey questions. In addition, the group of over 11,000 listeners was simply thanked for all they have done and will continue to do in service of the Army’s mission.

“Tonight, we want to say ‘thank you’ and provide ourselves as being transparent, accountable and responsive,” said Colonel Ralph Bukiewicz, chief secretary. “The Salvation Army has always wanted to nurture a culture of caring. It’s in our DNA. It’s part of who we are, in our passion to respond, first of all to the amazing grace and the transforming love that God has demonstrated to us. We can pass that along to our neighbors in need in the most practical and powerful ways possible.”

Major Israel and Colonel Bukiewicz were joined by Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, Major Andrew Wiley, social services secretary, and Jeff Jellets, emergency disaster services coordinator, for different segments of the presentation.

As part of the informational session, it was affirmed that every divisional headquarters has a crisis management team in place for coordination and support with three top priorities: keeping Salvation Army housing programs open, continuing to provide meals to needy individuals and families and the distribution of essential supplies, such as a food boxes, cleaning products and personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves.

In addition, the necessity of continued emotional and spiritual care was at the center of the discussion.

“Perhaps our greatest challenge has been in the provision of one of our most essential services – the delivery of emotional and spiritual care,” Jellets said. “While COVID-19 has made ‘social distancing’ the norm, The Salvation Army will not give up when it comes to comforting the lonely, isolated or distraught. Instead, we have established an emotional and spiritual care hotline where those in need can find a friendly, caring and compassionate voice who can help ease fears in these troubled times.”

The toll-free hotline, which can be reached at 1-844-458-4673, is available for anyone to call for support between 9 a.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET each day.

The work of The Salvation Army continues, both in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis and with other programming, including emergency disaster service deployments, persisting across the territory, all while following CDC guidelines for social distancing. The on-the-ground response is paramount but, in concluding the townhall conference call, Commissioner Howell made sure to note that the centerpiece of everything is the comfort and nurturing that arrives from a trust in Jesus Christ.

“Regardless of how threatening things may seem, let me assure you that if Jesus is in your boat, you’re not going to sink,” Commissioner Howell said. “If Jesus is in your boat, scary as the situation appears, you have nothing to fear. We’ll get to the other side of this…. Being in a storm with Jesus is far safer than being anywhere else without him.”


Bible conference, TMI, TYI postponed until 2021

Bible conference, TMI, TYI postponed until 2021

By: Dan Childs

The Southern Territory’s three major summer events have been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an announcement by territorial leadership.

The Southern Bible Conference, held in mid-August each year at the Lake Junaluska resort in western North Carolina, will not convene this year. The Territorial Music Institute was scheduled for July 26-Aug. 3 at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, but also will not be held this summer. Also postponed was the Territorial Youth Institute, which was to gather July 26-Aug. 1 at Camp Walter Johnson in Denton, North Carolina.

The current coronavirus public health crisis has enveloped the nation and world in a cloud of uncertainty, and with skyrocketing numbers of cases of the illness and the urgent need for people to practice social distancing, countless cancellations and postponements of public gatherings and even entire sports seasons have been announced

Factoring into Southern leadership’s decision to call the events off was uncertainty about how long the  pandemic will last and its residual impact on people’s health, employment and financial resources. Large public gatherings are not permitted now, and some estimates by public health authorities say it could be several months before such gatherings are allowed. Also influencing the decision was uncertainty about school schedules that may need adjustment, necessitating attendance during the summer. Finally, postponement of the three summer events will allow the South to focus its attention fully on corps and divisional programming.

“There are more reasons, but I believe this will help us all understand the decisions that we never wanted to make, but had to,” said Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood, territorial program secretary. “We also pledge from the Territorial Program Department to focus all of our efforts on continuing to resource our corps and divisions in the coming months and discover new ways to serve, teach and disciple. We are in this together and if we are of one mind, soul and spirit, God will use this pandemic to do a work in his Army we haven’t seen the likes of before.”

Lt. Colonel Hobgood said that plans are already moving ahead for all three events in 2021.


Prayer is essential in our spiritual journey

Prayer is essential in our spiritual journey

By: Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson

In order to develop our spiritual lives and to deepen our relationship with God, five factors are necessary – obedience, prayer, Bible study, fellowship and service. Relationships require communication, and our spiritual life is no exception. People of God must be people of prayer!

Spiritual life for all of us begins with the same prayer: “O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” A relationship with Jesus must begin with an acknowledgement that we are sinners and in need of his help. As our spiritual life develops, so must our prayer life. The first disciples asked Jesus to “teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples to pray.” (Luke 11:1) Prayer, or communion with our Lord, must be learned as our relationship deepens – much like our time with our spouse or a close friend. Spending time with God in prayer is essential for us to continue our spiritual journey – drawing closer and becoming more like Christ, restoring the image of God in which we were created.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is part of God’s response to Solomon’s dedication prayer as the Temple is filled with God’s presence in Jerusalem. It says, Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked says, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. There are several lessons concerning prayer we can learn. First, by joining “humble,” “seek” and “turn from wicked ways” with prayer, we learn that prayer is more than communication. Prayer is humble acknowledging that we cannot live our own way, but we must turn, or repent, and seek God’s presence. This is the essence of prayer before we say our first word. The second lesson comes from the word “if.” Prayer is a choice – we can bow before God and call on him as Lord, or we can ignore him and pretend that we are our own masters. The if/then aspect of this verse also teaches that God’s response is not a given, but that God has promised to “hear,” “forgive” and “heal.” It is also true that without prayer there is not forgiveness or healing.

So then, why are God’s people praying less and less? Why is the prayer meeting (if it is on the corps calendar) the hardest event of the week for people to attend? Why has prayer become, “bless us, bless the offering, bless our going out – amen?” Every great movement in Church history has been preceded by prayer, but it is missing from our calendars. Ask anyone who has been on this spiritual journey if they have any regrets and the No. 1 response would be, “We didn’t pray more!” So, in your personal life, in your corps life, in your family, in your community – pray more tomorrow than you did yesterday. God is waiting for you to spend time with him!


The Salvation Army strives to meet demands of COVID-19 crisis

The Salvation Army strives to meet demands of COVID-19 crisis

By: Dan Childs

In reaching out to help people most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Salvation Army is operating in unfamiliar and uncharted territory. The public health crisis demands the best of what the Army offers in its social services outreach while also making strong demands on its disaster relief services. And, of course, those demands are magnified by the limitations imposed by the need for social distancing. Simply put, it can be challenging to help people while trying to maintain some distance from them.

Nonetheless, Salvation Army disaster relief teams have been mobilized across the 15 states of the USA Southern Territory to help, and the territory’s social services wing is likewise meeting a wide array of challenges to get help to the people most in need, especially with millions of Americans out of work as a result of economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.

The top three priorities for the Army at this time are keeping Salvation Army housing programs open, continuing to provide meals to needy individuals and families and distributing essential supplies, such as food boxes, cleaning products and personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, said Jeff Jellets, territorial disaster coordinator. Many shelters across the territory have actually increased their capacity during the crisis, despite adhering to the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing.

“We are, of course, not doing this alone,” Jellets said. “We are working closely with our partners in government and virtually staffing federal and state Emergency Operations Centers. We are also collaborating with fellow non-profits, like our nation’s food banks, to secure and deliver food supplies.

Jellets added that with social distancing now the norm, the Army has had to confront another new challenge: How do we provide the emotional and spiritual counseling that has become a foundational outreach for The Salvation Army during a disaster?

The Army’s response has been the establishment of an Emotional and Spiritual Care Hotline. Implemented March 27, the hotline is accessible by calling 844-458-4673 (HOPE) between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. The hotline is staffed by Salvation Army officers and employees working in shifts. Spanish-language help is available on the hotline.

“While COVID-19 has made social distancing the norm, The Salvation Army will not give up when it comes to comforting the lonely, isolated or distraught,” Jellets said. “Instead, we have established an emotional and spiritual care hotline where those in need can find a friendly, caring and compassionate voice who can help ease fears.”

Social distancing has become a necessary fact of life, but it continues to erect obstacles that must be negotiated. From the outset of the coronavirus crisis, Salvation Army units in the field have been getting food to people most in need. Mobile feeding, a staple of Salvation Army disaster service during a disaster, must be performed differently to make it safe.

“It’s a different animal now,” Jellets said. “Our feeding is now grab-and-go or drive-thru; that’s really the best way to get food to people now.”

The Salvation Army is working with the Midwest Food Bank, with whom it has partnered in past disasters, to distribute food boxes.

Although some of the less densely populated areas in the Southern Territory have not yet felt the full brunt of the pandemic’s toll, other areas have been hit hard. As of March 31, Florida had over 4,700 coronavirus cases. Louisiana, which has seen alarmingly high increases in the past few days, had over 3,500 cases, and Georgia reported more than 2,700 cases.

All 15 states in the Southern Territory are in some state of emergency, with guidelines and restrictions varying from state to state. About 16 percent of the nation’s confirmed coronavirus cases are in the states that make up the USA South.


In COVID-19 crisis, Louisville Joy Center is safe haven for homeless

In COVID-19 crisis, Louisville Joy Center is safe haven for homeless

By: David Ibata

Every fall with the approaching holidays, The Salvation Army Christmas Joy Center in Louisville, Kentucky, is a bustling place; families come to sign up for the Angel Tree program, and hundreds of volunteers prepare thousands of packages for gift-giving. The rest of the year, the building is quiet.

Not so this spring. With the sudden onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the Joy Center is being pressed into service as an emergency homeless shelter for up to 100 people diagnosed with or exposed to the coronavirus. Living on the streets with inadequate shelter, food or health services, and often with underlying medical conditions, homeless residents are among those most vulnerable to the disease.

“This time of year, there’s not a whole lot going on in the building,” said David Yarmuth, community relations director for The Salvation Army Louisville Command. With the coronavirus outbreak, “the city asked us what we could do beyond our normal day-to-day operations.”

The Joy Center immediately came to mind.

A former Nabisco warehouse in an industrial park on the south side of Louisville near the airport, the center has a large open interior, covered vehicle bays and more than 30,000 square feet. Purchased by The Salvation Army about four years ago, it is home base for the Louisville Command’s mobile feeding units (canteens) and for storing non-perishable food items.

Heavy-duty shelving units were repurposed as bunk beds. Large, thick mattresses were spaced six to 10 feet apart. One part of the building houses people who have been diagnosed as carrying the COVID-19 virus; the other part, physically separate by a concrete wall, is for those exposed to the disease but not yet showing symptoms. The city has provided portable showers and restrooms.

Two officers from the Portland Corps in Louisville have volunteered to wear protective gear to minister to the guests. A local nonprofit, Phoenix Health Care for the Homeless, is on site monitoring people’s health and offering acute care when necessary.

The Louisville Command’s kitchen is working overtime to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for a growing population in need at the Joy Center and elsewhere. Nearly 2,000 meals a day are being packaged in to-go boxes.

At command headquarters, the former Louisville Male High School, The Salvation Army has made its gymnasium available to accommodate up to 400 unsheltered men and women. The “healthy shelter” is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guests are given three meals a day, and the city has brought in portable toilets.

The Salvation Army also is working with a local food bank, Dare to Care, delivering food to infected persons sheltering at home and to senior citizens who can’t get out.

“If any organization is equipped to meet this type of need, it’s The Salvation Army,” Yarmuth said. “These are times communities here and across the world look to us – when people are scared, losing hope, losing their jobs.”

“After the virus has dissipated, people will still need us; the effect on their financial status will be enormous. As in any disaster, we’ll meet the initial need and be there afterwards to help people and their community’s economy.”


The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory responds to COVID-19 crisis

The Salvation Army responds to COVID-19 crisis

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army Corps in Columbus, Georgia, takes its cue from the local schools on whether to be opened or closed to the public. The schools had indicated they’d stay open despite escalating concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak, so on Saturday, March 14, Captain Josh Hinson went about preparing his message for the Sunday holiness meeting.

The bombshell dropped that afternoon: The schools announced they’d be closed Monday.

“I had a sermon and the elements already prepared; our series in Lent is focused on ‘Walking With Jesus,’” said Captain Josh, who with his wife, Captain Jordan Hinson, commands the Columbus Corps. “A lot of churches were going to be sharing their services online, but I really didn’t feel I had enough time to stream or record or edit our service.”

Captain Josh’s solution: Post his sermon outline, Scripture references, links to worship music and Ministry Toolkit assets on the corps Facebook page, and invite the community to participate in a virtual Bible study.“

I really wanted there to still be a sense of community, whether you’re doing it on your own or with others,” he said. “We did it with my family around our dining room table. We went over some of the Scriptures with the kids and talked about what grace meant.”

As businesses shut down, people lose their jobs and officials urge the public to practice “social distancing” to try to keep novel coronavirus in check, corps and commands are meeting the crisis head-on. Some are streaming their Sunday worship online. Others have offered to be food pickup points for school districts trying to feed children who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

All are preparing their social service offices for the expected deluge from households whose breadwinners suddenly find themselves furloughed or unemployed. Economists predicted more than 1 million people in the U.S. could lose their jobs by the end of March.

“We’re preparing to serve our community members who have been economically impacted and who may need a hand up in the coming weeks,” National Commander Commissioner David Hudson said in a video message to Salvationists. “Families in need and people experiencing homelessness often lack access to hygiene supplies, updated information or health care, so many of our facilities and community centers are taking active measures to protect them from the spread of the coronavirus.”

In Columbus, Captain Josh said, “Our schools are closed, as are all sporting events and parks and recreation activities. Our corps is closed for church services and after-school programs, but our social services office is open. We’re getting quite a few calls from people worried about paying their rent. We’re getting more food boxes ready to deliver in the evening in place of our community meals.”

As schools, churches and community programs shut down across the United States, many young people are searching for nourishment. In Lakeland, Florida, the local corps temporarily discontinued its Sunday services March 15. But members of the church still came, as they do each week, to prepare breakfast. The meal was then delivered to children of three families living in hotel rooms.

“Knowing that many of our children rely upon school and corps feeding programs, it became apparent that we would need to step in and fill the food gap for a while until the COVID-19 situation improves,” said Major Barry Corbitt, Salvation Army administrator in the Lakeland area. “We are grateful for caring church members who go the extra mile to care for our kids.”

The Salvation Army in Lakeland plans to continue this service to individuals previously enrolled in its programs.

When Hampton, Virginia, directed businesses and churches to close and cancel events and services, Captain Michael Good of the Virginia Peninsula Corps faced a challenge.“

Our church members are among the ‘vulnerable’ population talked about in this pandemic crisis,” Captain Good said. “We don’t want anyone left behind, and we wanted our people to have the full Sunday experience even if they couldn’t be here in person to worship.”

So, the Virginia Peninsula ministry team met early Sunday, March 15, to assemble and deliver “Church in a Box” to 30 families. The boxes included step-by-step instructions, guiding families through hymns to sing along to, devotionals and scripture readings, games and activities for children, and snacks. While Church in a Box continues, the corps also delivers midweek “Boredom Boxes” to families with children and is working with local authorities to feed and provide food boxes to people in need.

Likewise, the Salvation Army of Central Maryland and its DMG Foods grocery store in Baltimore offered to provide and deliver food pantry items to those quarantined. The Frederick, Maryland, Corps continues to serve breakfast and lunch, but in takeout containers rather than at the corps building.

In Brownwood, Texas, The Salvation Army Service Center switched from serving free lunch in its building, Monday through Friday, to offering free pick-up meals. A typical plateful: pulled pork, bread, baked beans, dessert and tea.

Corps in Charleston, West Virginia, and Jackson, Mississippi, are delivering food to seniors. “It is our goal to make certain that our senior population does not go hungry or forgotten during this difficult time,” said Michelle Hartfield, director of community relations in Jackson.

The Salvation Army in Parkersburg, West Virginia, posted to Facebook that “we continue to feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. We cannot do this without the brave staff and volunteers who come to serve alongside us.”

The corps requested donations of board games, card games and art supplies for children in its shelter, as well as Clorox and Lysol wipes, Lysol spray, toilet paper and paper towels.

At The Salvation Army of Whitfield, Murray and Gordon Counties in Dalton, Georgia, “we canceled our weekly meetings like youth programs and home leagues, and we are helping the schools. They are providing breakfast and lunch to kids, and we are one of the stations families can come to get carry-out meals for their children,” said Captain Niurka Pena, who along with her husband, Captain Arnaldo Pena, commands the corps.

Friends of The Salvation Army also are stepping up.

In Atlanta, Georgia, the family of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman pledged to donate a total of $124,000 for coronavirus relief – $50,000 to the Atlanta Food Bank, $50,000 to Giving Kitchen and $24,000 to The Salvation Army.

Major Bob Parker, area commander for The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta, thanked the Freeman family and said the donation will help the Army “immediately meet the needs of individuals within our communities who will experience some type of hardship because of the economic fallout of this virus.”

With the closure of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, perishable foods have been donated to The Salvation Army in Orlando. Truckloads of apples, oranges, potatoes and other fresh produce are helping the Army assist shelter clients, drop-in clients and others.“

We have been serving the populations most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, the homeless and senior citizens each day. This generous donation means we can serve so many more in need,” said Captain Ken Chapman, Orlando area commander.

Corps may have canceled Sunday worship services, but they haven’t stopped preaching the gospel.

On Sunday, March 15, the Kentucky-Tennessee Division launched an online worship led by the divisional commanders, Majors Art and Ann Penhale. The half-hour service is streamed at 10:30 a.m. Sundays EDT at, is available for viewing during the week and can be linked to from the social media pages of individual corps. The theme of the Lenten series is, “The Uncertainty of Worry.”

Speaking words of encouragement in another video shared online, Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, said, “As we navigate our way through these next weeks, maybe even months, I would encourage all of you to find comfort and strength in prayer. Remind yourself and those around you who God is and how he has helped in the past. Focus on his strength, his character, his promise, his power.”

“Join me in taking every opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ within your neighborhoods. Let’s use this time to find new ways to carefully and prayerfully reach out and meet the unique needs around us, in Jesus’ name. As we’re told in 1 Corinthians 16, stay alert, stand firm, show courage, be strong, and whatever you do, do it in love.”

Dalton’s Captain Niurka said, “We’re taking things one day at a time, in faith – just trusting God and encouraging our clients to not be afraid, but to be strong in God and trusting he will take care of us.”

Chris Priest, Michelle Hartfield and Brad Rowland contributed to this story.


The Salvation Army of Tallahassee is investing in its musical future

Tallahassee investing in its musical future

By: Brad Rowland

Music is at the heart of The Salvation Army’s ministry in many locations and, in Tallahassee, Florida, an investment is being made with the opening of the Beginner Music Academy. The instructional program opened its doors in mid-February, with a weekly gathering on Tuesday evenings.

The Beginner Music Academy currently has three tracks – piano, dance and guitar – and each child attending also participates in a united chorus. The academy, held at the Tallahassee Corps, utilizes two rooms that were overhauled for the program, with the unveiling of a dedicated dance studio. With the help of a partnership with Guitar Center, a keyboard lab is also in use to aid in the development of the piano program.

“Our community and our donors make this academy possible for these kids, and that is a gift” said Lieutenant Ryan Meo, corps officer. “It’s truly an enduring gift.”

The professional-caliber instructional staff includes a pair of graduate students from local universities. Beyond the staff’s artistic experience, however, is a dedication to the overall development of young people through The Salvation Army’s mission.

“All of our instructors understand the mission of The Salvation Army and use what they are teaching these kids to show them the love of God,” Lieutenant Meo said. “They’re passionate about what we do, and it shows in how they invest in the program and these children.”

The academy operates on a semester system, with a break engineered in the schedule for the summer. That is a purposeful choice that allows the potential to introduce children to the Army’s divisional music and arts programs and to promote the summer camping experience.

While the academy has only been officially underway for only a short time, it is already successful, and there is potential for growth and development as a result.

“The response has been great,” said Lieutenant Meo. “We wanted to take the first semester slow and work out all the kinks, but it’s filling out very quickly. We are looking at ways to potentially expand, while still keeping the quality of the program at a high level, and we’re thrilled with how it’s going so far.”

Ultimately, the promotion of musical and artistic development is intriguing and a centerpiece of the academy’s design. Still, there is greater power at work, and that thinking permeates the weekly instruction.

“The power of music should really never be underestimated,” Lieutenant Meo said. “It really has the power to change the course of these kids’ lives. When a child discovers for the first time that they have the ability to make beautiful music, sometimes that can just alter things in so many awesome ways. We just love to see the way the Lord uses music in their lives. It is something they can look forward to, no matter what home or school are like, and music opens doors and opportunities for a lot of kids.”


Call to Mission Congress postponed until 2021

Call to Mission Congress postponed until 2021

By: Dan Childs

The Call to Mission Territorial Congress scheduled for June 5-7, 2020, in Atlanta has been postponed until 2021, according to an announcement made by Commissioner Willis Howell, Southern territorial commander. The postponement is a result of the uncertainty created by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Although the congress will not be held this year, the territorial commander said plans are to hold it June 4-6, 2021. The venue – the Infinite Energy Center in the Atlanta area – will remain the same. Notably, The Salvation Army’s international leader, General Brian Peddle, and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle have agreed to be the featured guests at the 2021 event, as they were scheduled to be this June.

“Quite simply, we believe it’s the responsible thing to do given the uncertainty and challenges so many are facing right now,” Commissioner Howell said.

The territorial commander added that options for commissioning activities for the Messengers of the Kingdom are being examined now by the territory’s leadership. The commissioning and ordination of the session were scheduled to be held on the final day of the Call to Mission Congress.“

To be sure, we will still be having Commissioning – of some sort,” Commissioner Howell said. “But by necessity it will likely look very different.”

Commissioner Howell added that other scheduled territorial events in the near future might well be affected by circumstances created by the public health crisis and that announcements will be made as decisions are reached.