The Salvation Army responds to Texas, Ohio tragedies

The Salvation Army responds to Texas, Ohio tragedies

The Salvation Army responded quickly to assist first responders and others affected by mass shootings that left 31 people dead and dozens, injured, in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Within hours of the El Paso shooting Saturday, Aug. 3, The Salvation Army deployed a mobile kitchen to provide drinks, snacks and emotional and spiritual support. The ministry continued into the following week as the police investigation continued.

“This week we have seen as many as 150 first responders and law enforcement coming to the aid of El Paso, and we want to help them in any way we can,” said Nora Aviles, emergency disaster coordinator for The Salvation Army in El Paso. “As well as providing practical help and refreshment, we continue to pray for those involved and for our city.”

The Salvation Army Texas Division deployed a 53-foot field kitchen to the El Paso Convention Center to support families and first responders.

The field kitchen prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Family Assistance Center and was expected to remain in El Paso for two weeks. Volunteers and staff from the El Paso Corps and volunteers from the Southern Baptists were preparing and serving these meals.

Meanwhile, an emergency canteen and emergency disaster services team from Cincinnati responded to the Dayton shooting scene early Sunday morning, Aug. 4, to provide hydration and emotional and spiritual care to survivors and first responders.

The Salvation Army also set up at a family reunification center established nearby, offering water, snacks and emotional and spiritual care to those directly impacted by the event.

The Cincinnati unit was released by the police department Sunday evening, but local Salvation Army personnel from the Dayton Kroc Center continued to be available.

Territorial Commander issues challenge in wake of shootings

By: Dan Childs

Commissioner Willis Howell is calling on Salvationists to pray for the nation in the wake of tragic mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, and to engage intentionally with people on the margins of our society.

The territorial commander posted a video message on the Southern Territory’s Facebook page asking Salvationists to be a force for good in the wake of the shootings that resulted in the deaths of at least 31 people on the first weekend of August.

“This is not a time to wring our hands or run away,” Commissioner Howell said. He said his heart was broken by the tragedies, but he asked the territory to join him in prayer not only for those grieving and suffering because of the shootings but also for the perpetrators of senseless violence.

Rather than condemning the world for its darkness, “let me challenge you instead to increase the wattage of the heavenly light you’ve been given because, as we know, light always eliminates the darkness.”

He referenced the song taught in Sunday school – “This Little Light of Mine” – and that more than ever, Salvationists should take every opportunity to share that light with their neighbors.

“This is not the time to huddle behind the walls of our corps or behind the walls of our centers,” he said. “It’s game time. This is the very time for us to intentionally come out from behind our closed doors and be the light we sing about. I call on all Salvationists in the Southern Territory to intentionally shine the love of Christ as brightly as you can in your community.”

Commissioner Howell urged the territory to make every effort to reach out in love especially to people from backgrounds different from our own.

“Together, let’s go look for the ones who are lonely, outcast and afraid. Together, let’s embrace and include them.”


Engage 2019: Territorial Youth, Music Institutes meet jointly in Nashville

Engage 2019: Territorial Youth, Music Institutes meet jointly in Nashville

By: Brad Rowland

For the first time since 1984, youth and music delegates from across the Southern Territory and beyond came together for a combined institute July 20-28. More than 700 delegates and staff arrived on the campus of Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee, for a spirited week of worship, learning and fellowship, under the banner of TYMI, Territorial Youth and Music Institute.

In the last three-plus decades, the institutes have operated separately, and TYI and TMI operated this year on slightly different schedules while occupying the same space. However, the two institutes united daily for the “Morning Manna” devotional time and for multiple evening programs during the nine-day gathering.

Upon arrival, TYMI delegates were greeted with a typical registration process, with music and arts delegates navigating auditions. From there, an opening night program set the tone for the week. Individuals were welcomed with high-energy musical worship, first from the TMI faculty band and quickly followed by a combined worship band that inspired throughout the week. The meeting then turned to an amusing and upbeat edition of “Family Feud,” memorably hosted by Bernie Dake, assistant territorial music secretary, and Jovanie Smith, young adult and mission deployment coordinator.

After an invigorating kickoff, the week settled into a necessary routine, but the Morning Manna gatherings were particularly noteworthy and excellent. Joseph Sojourner, a communicator, emcee and writer from Atlanta, Georgia, served as the featured speaker for the week and he thoughtfully combined biblical teaching with real-life, practical application.

“Morning Manna was a definite highlight,” said Major Timothy Gilliam, territorial youth secretary. “I think Joseph Sojourner knocked it out of the park with relevant teaching that covered all ages. Adults and leaders were also responding, not only for support of the youth, but to pray and reaffirm their own commitments. I thought that was phenomenal to see, and the worship times were memorable and important.”

“Joseph Sojourner spoke about real-life issues and challenges that penetrated the hearts of the young people,” said Nicholas Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary. “Overall, the times of worship with TYI were powerful, and we were led by an amazing worship band that fired all the delegates and staff up each day.”

With outstanding worship at the forefront, the combined TYMI was also the first foray for either institute away from Salvation Army property. In commemoration, Trevecca Nazarene University surprised delegates with a scholarship announcement
during the week’s concluding gathering, a dynamic creative arts finale. It was announced that a pair of scholarships, one for a TYI delegate and one for a TMI delegate, will be offered at a value of $10,000 per year for four years, with selections to follow, after the submittal of essays in the coming days.

Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, addressed the delegation during the opening session, and his words rang true to describe the inspiring nature of what 700 committed persons can and will achieve in the future.

“My prayer for you this week is that all you experience, all you do, will help discover your purpose if it is ever unclear,” said Commissioner Howell. “If it’s unclear, I hope you find it. For those of you that understand your purpose, then I encourage you to engage all the more with it. Engage with his spirit. Grab hold of his purpose for you with holy passion. If we all engage, all of us at TYMI, with his purpose for us, I can promise you that we will change the world.”

TYI digs deep for spiritual growth

As part of an historic crossover gathering of TYMI, the Territorial Youth Institute brought more than 400 delegates and staff together in Nashville, Tennessee, July 20-28 with an eye toward spiritual growth. The spirit moved within the assembly, centering on inspiring “Morning Manna” times of worship and permeating through daily activities.

Moving worship occurred with the integration of dynamic artistic expression. TYI delegates also were able to reflect on the information breathed into them by Joseph Sojourner, keynote speaker for the week. Immediately following Morning Manna, delegates gathered in “D Groups” to dig deeper into the word and their reactions, with life-changing decisions made along the way.

“On the first day of D groups, one of our delegates pulled us aside to say he gave his life to Jesus that morning,” said Captain Joshua Hinson, commanding officer of the Columbus, Georgia, corps and a TYMI staff member. “We were able to pray with him and follow up with him throughout the week. He shared his struggles with anxiety, and we were able to see not just his growth, but the growth of many of the delegates as they opened up in D groups.”

TYI delegates also took part in a pair of elective classes, with an impressive catalog of choices that allowed young people to seek growth. One was of a performative variety, including hip hop, spoken word, drama, gospel choir and videography. The other, in a more traditional classroom setting, offered journaling, spiritual discipline, soul care and biblical responses in today’s world.

Memorable evening programs were headlined by a crossover gathering with TMI delegates for “Dancing with the DYS’s” on Tuesday evening. Divisional youth secretaries from across the Southern Territory were paired with trained dancers from within Salvationist ranks. The program emulated “Dancing with the Stars,” the popular ABC game show.

“I have to say that the Dancing with the DYS’s evening had to be the best night program I’ve ever seen,” said Major Timothy Gilliam, territorial youth secretary. “It was exceptionally well done. I think the bulk of that falls to the Music Department and (territorial creative arts director) Bethany Farrell. She did a fantastic job putting that together. You would’ve thought you were on ABC with the way the music and production came together.”

TYI’s slate of evening programs also included an awards ceremony set to the backdrop of the “Tonight Show,” and Major Gilliam credited Captains Matt and Jessica Hedgren with a “job very well done” in presenting a light-hearted, effective atmosphere.

As always, Sunday worship leapt to the forefront at the conclusion of the week, with TYMI delegates coming together and focusing on the reason for their gathering. TYI delegates performed as part of the creative arts finale and, while fellowship and amusement took place throughout the week, lives were clearly changed in the image of God.

TMI: Expressive worship on stage

More than 200 young people from the Southern Territory assembled at TMI to not only study in eight dedicated disciplines in music and arts, but to express their talent in fellowship and worship.

The octet of “major” classes, ranging from dance and visual arts to brass band and choral leadership, displayed a variety of worship methods and shined a bright light on the work being done across the territory.

From the moment each delegate arrived in Nashville, TMI was a whirlwind of study, with major classes flanked by chorus gatherings and other avenues for artistic growth. Delegates showcased their work on multiple occasions.

A mid-week “preview” concert featured four bands, five choruses, three worship teams and a combined creative arts performance. At the end of the week, groups split into two sessions for concluding performances, with bands and choruses taking the stage Saturday evening and the creative arts and worship team delegates performing in a dedicated finale Sunday.

“I was delighted with the excellent achievement of some of our groups at TMI,” said Nicholas Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary. “We have great kids in the Southern Territory, and I am so proud of our young people. They are talented, humble, willing to learn, and responsive to the Holy Spirit.”

In addition to group-driven settings, a night of soloists highlighted individual talent. Delegates performed in the areas of vocal, woodwind, brass, dance and contemporary worship.

Notably, Anthony Barrington impressed all with a beautiful cornet rendition of “Sounds of Singing,” and the trio of Bannister Chaava, Clay Smith and Carl Corbitt excited attendees with a rock-and-roll version of “A Mighty Fortress.”

Awards were given recognizing delegates’ decorum and contributions. They included a pair of newly minted scholarships named after the late Major Dan Proctor, a long-time TMI faculty member. His daughters, Kaylene Baker and Kally Proctor, presented present awards for “most improved instrumentalist” and “outstanding international delegate.” It was a moving tribute to their father.

While musical and artistic standards were at an impressive level, there was also a marked spiritual emphasis permeating the institute. Gatherings with TYI delegates at Morning Manna and evening programs were noteworthy but, amid hard work and preparation through artistic expression, everything was viewed through the lens of worship and a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

“If you’re here for any other reason other than worshipping him, it’s all just noise,” said Andrew Barrington, divisional music director of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Division. “If you don’t know Jesus, come and find me, or come and find someone else on the staff. I can promise you that we want to tell you about him.”


The Salvation Army of Austin, Texas, expands shelter services with Rathgeber Center

The Salvation Army of Austin, Texas, expands shelter services with Rathgeber Center

By: Corey Leith

The Salvation Army of Austin, Texas, celebrated the opening of its third shelter in the area June 6 at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Rathgeber Center. The 212-bed facility for families is scheduled to open this August.

The facility, named for longtime Austin Salvation Army supporter Dick Rathgeber, has been constructed in two phases: a 120-bed emergency shelter and a 92-bed extended stay shelter. In addition to shelter, the Rathgeber Center will offer housing-focused case management to families with children who are experiencing homelessness.

The Salvation Army in Austin typically has hundreds of women and children on its wait list for shelter. Last year, the Army sheltered 934 women and 335 children and provided 27,000 meals in Austin. The Rathgeber Center will accommodate families that are already on the wait list.

Among the amenities at the Rathgeber Center are extended stay units, rapid rehousing programs for residents, private bathrooms in each room, outsourced childcare, case management offices, a computer learning center, family style rooms laundry facilities, community rooms, a full-service kitchen and dining room and a children’s playground.

“The new shelter will be a safe haven for families experiencing homelessness,” said Major Andrew Kelly, Austin area commander. “The main objective is to move each family from crisis to self-sufficiency.”

To maintain fiscal integrity, the Rathgeber Center will roll out services as funding is secured. At 100 percent capacity, the facility would serve 664 people annually, with 76 percent exiting to safe housing, and 76 percent of those participating in employment services increasing their financial stability.

Funding is essential to the center’s ability to operate at full capacity. It has been projected that annual operating costs will reach $5.2 million.

Online donations are being accepted at Room sponsorships are being made available to donors. To learn more, contact Kelly Perkins, director of development, at [email protected]

Corey Leith is the director of communications for the Austin Area Command.


AKA in Memphis brings the joy of reading to youth at Camp Hope

AKA in Memphis brings the joy of reading to youth at Camp Hope

By: David Ibata

When the public schools in Memphis, Tennessee, ended a summer camp program several years ago, the Beta Epsilon Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority searched for a new home for its children’s summer reading outreach.

“As Alpha Kappa Alpha, we’re focused on trying to help children, and our reading program is one of our signature initiatives,” said Annetta A. Hamilton, chairperson of the Freda Franklin Greene Summer Reading Program, named for a longtime BEO chairperson who was one of the founders of the program 45 years ago.

“We were looking for another place where we could make a difference in the lives of children, and we heard about Camp Hope at The Salvation Army,” Hamilton said. A delegation visited the Purdue Center of Hope. “We shared our vision of a reading program. They just welcomed us with open arms.”

Beta Epsilon Omega members recently spent a week at Camp Hope working with about 40 children, ages kindergarten through 12th grade.

Most BEO volunteers are present or retired educators. Some are sorority sisters in other professions who rearrange work hours or use vacation time so they can help at the camp. Others are undergraduate student members from the University of Memphis and LeMoyne-Owen College.

“They rapped about verbs, learned about Sequoia trees and how to say ‘hello’ in French, Spanish and Swahili,” says a Salvation Army Facebook posting.

“Camp Hope is our camp program for children in residence at the Purdue Center,” said Gwen Hooper, spokeswoman for The Salvation Army Memphis Metropolitan Area Command. “They’re children of displaced families, whose mothers are trying to find stability.”

It’s hard for youngsters, especially those experiencing homelessness, to remember lessons from the regular school year, Hooper said. “The lack of stability, even just being in a state of transition all the time, really impacts their ability to retain what they’ve learned and to progress in the fall. So for us, this is an opportunity for children to continue growing and be supported.”

Hamilton is a retired educator who taught for 42 years in a Memphis elementary school and has been the reading program’s chair for the last 20. The effort started in a Catholic Church, then moved to a YWCA, and for a time was hosted by the city schools.

“We don’t just do reading,” Hamilton said. “We do reading skills, we do language skills, and we have even added music and arts. But we try to focus, with little children, on basic skills – knowing the alphabet, being able to recognize letters and beginning and ending sounds; and older children, on comprehension, helping them improve their reading.”

Several volunteers who are present or retired guidance counselors also work on career awareness with older students – “children deciding what they want to do in life, helping them to plan what they need to take in high school so the courses will benefit them,” Hamilton said.

“We do a wide range of activities, trying to give children experiences that will benefit them right now and in the future,” Hooper said. “At the end of the week, the AKAs have a celebration. They honor the children, provide them with rewards” —this year, a drawstring backpack with books and treats – “and allow them to present the lessons learned during the week.”

The chapter also donates school uniforms at the beginning of each school year.

The ladies of Beta Epsilon Omega , Hooper said, “are a real blessing. We’re just really happy to have a partner like them in the community.”


Musicians form partnership in Shelby, North Carolina

Musicians form partnership in Shelby, North Carolina

By: Major Frank Duracher

A three-way partnership in Shelby, North Carolina, between The Salvation Army, Gardner-Webb University and local government received considerable fanfare in the form of a march of witness through downtown, and a public concert at the Shelby Pavilion. The event’s purpose was twofold: to raise awareness of The Salvation Army’s presence in Shelby; and, to announce plans to establish a performing arts school in Shelby – the sixth in the North-South Carolina Division.

“We look forward to this collaboration between Gardner-Webb and The Salvation Army in the coming year,” said Dr. Patricia Sparti, GWU professor of music.

The praise concert began with performance by the GWU Brass Choir (led by Dr. Sparti), followed by a full concert by the Carolinas Conservatory, including all aspects of what the campers are learning: namely brass, chorus, praise and worship and drama.

“The Carolinas Conservatory is here today to support the officers and soldiers of the Shelby Corps in their effort to make this community aware of the coming School of Performing Arts,” said Nathan Cole, divisional music director. “We’ll be working in tandem with Gardner-Webb’s music department, whose students generally go on to become music instructors, with hopes that they will go on to associate their respective music programs with local Salvation Army corps.”

Cole explains that the Army will be providing tuition for young musicians who otherwise would not be able to access quality music education elsewhere. Shelby Mayor Stan Anthony and other civic leaders are on board with this venture and are working closely with The Salvation Army to determine a suitable location.

Over 90 conservatory students and staff, along with Shelby soldiers and Carolinas officers, participated in the march through the historic downtown.

“Our intent today is also to show our community that The Salvation Army is a church, in addition to a social service agency,” said Sergeant Les Ashby, corps administrator. “We are very excited about the future growth of our corps because of the School of Performing Arts that will greatly enhance the ministry of the Shelby Salvation Army.”

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


Pathway of Hope helps Texas family find stability and hope for future

Pathway of Hope helps Texas family find stability and hope for future

The family was homeless: Brian was living in a car with the three boys while Hannah was staying elsewhere. There just wasn’t space for all of them to be together. Dealing with ongoing health issues, Brian was unable to work consistently, so Hannah had to be available to look after him and the children. They were without hope and couldn’t see a way out of their situation.

The Salvation Army in Lewisville, Texas, received a referral for the family from Grace Like Rain, another ministry in the Dallas area. Both organizations have been involved with the family since then.

“The Salvation Army was able to help right away,” Hannah said.

Christy Daniel, their Salvation Army case manager, developed a personalized action plan and meets with them regularly. “They were an ideal fit for Pathway of Hope, a nationwide Salvation Army initiative that assists families, ultimately helping them to be self-sufficient,” Daniel said.

She helped Brian apply for disability benefits and continues to meet with the family twice each month. “Hannah is working as a bus driver for the school district, securing a steady income and health benefits for the first time. Once they receive disability payments, the family will reach a new level of financial security and be able to plan for the future,” Daniel said.

Additionally, Grace Like Rain continues to provide financial support and a coach, who is like an emotional cheerleader, and meets with the family regularly.

It’s been really helpful to have people to talk about what is going on in life. I’m not used to that kind of support network,” Hannah said. “I feel like there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m learning to deal with stress and pressure in a completely new way.

“We’re living paycheck to paycheck, but that’s OK. I’m hoping we will soon have a little money left in our account at the end of each month,” she said. “I want to eventually take the kids on vacation and do stuff other people do. For now, we’re paying the bills and have a roof over our heads.

Hannah said she is grateful for The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope. “They helped pick us up and kept us working toward our goals,” she said. “I want to say ‘thank you’ to The Salvation Army and Grace Like Rain for being there for us.”


Cumberland doll show helps fund The Salvation Army’s work

Cumberland doll show helps fund The Salvation Army’s work

By: David Ibata

A fun event that raises thousands of dollars for The Salvation Army in Cumberland, Maryland, every spring began more than three decades ago when some individuals took donated dolls, cleaned them, made clothes for them and, at Christmas, gave them to needy children.

That was the beginning of The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary Annual Doll Show and Luncheon, the auxiliary’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

The 35th edition, “Dolls for All Seasons,” was held May 10 in the gymnasium of the Cumberland Corps. It drew 200 enthusiasts from as far away as Washington, D.C., and raised a net $7,500 to support an after-school program, summer day camp and other projects.

“It’s one of the best years we’ve had,” up from $5,000 net proceeds last year, said Captain Ronnette S. Smith, corps officer.

The show always takes place the Friday before Mother’s Day. Doors open at 10 a.m., with dolls on display for viewing and judging in various categories.

A luncheon and entertainment follows, and then, the big event of the day: the live auction featuring rare, vintage and otherwise highly prized collectibles. This year, 30 dolls, sets of dolls and accessories were put out for bid.

Among them: a nostalgic set of six “Little House on the Prairie” family members; a Marx 1950s-era tin dollhouse; several Madame Alexander Presidents’ Wives dolls; two 1940s-era Italian Brevettato dolls; and a porcelain Shirley Temple doll in a hand-tailored, navy blue, Salvation Army uniform with a red satin-lined cape, bell and kettle – one of two dolls donated by retired Major Dianna Blevins of the Cumberland Corps.


‘Blessing Box’ meets after-hours needs in Dalton, Georgia

‘Blessing Box’ meets after-hours needs in Dalton, Georgia

By: David Ibata

Kara Green and her classmates at City Park School in Dalton, Georgia, this past school year came up with the idea of a “Blessing Box” – a free repository of socks, bottled water, pop-top canned goods and hygiene items – as a community service project. But where to put it?

Kara said, “My Nana is the business manager at The Salvation Army. I’m sure they’d want the Blessing Box there.”

Kara’s grandmother, Patricia Thompson, a Dalton Corps employee, said, “Oh my gosh, that’s perfect. There are so many people who come here after hours when we’re closed. Even if they just need a bottle of water, we’ll be there for them.”

Members of the City Park School STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Club, an after-school organization for fourth-grade girls interested in engineering careers, were inspired by the Little Free Libraries (“Take a book, share a book”) that have popped up around town.

They decided to apply the concept to help homeless neighbors and others in need. Their motto: “Take What You Need, Leave What You Can Give.”

The girls designed the box, a blue-and-pink wooden cabinet with shelves and a glass-front door that opens. One of their mentors, Tom Springfield of Shaw Industries, a local carpet manufacturer, built the box using materials donated by Home Depot.

“Then, students at Dalton Middle School – nobody spoke to anybody over there, this was purely at act of God to make it all come together – decided to collect hygiene products in ‘Blessing Bags,’ and they donated them to us,” Thompson said.

Each bag contains pull-top cans of single-serve chili and soups, bottled water, a clean pair of socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and body wash. The Salvation Army in Dalton now has materials to keep the Blessing Box filled. It sits outside the corps food center.

“In the evenings, two gentlemen who work at the food center stock it so it’s ready for that evening or the weekend,” Thompson said. “Of course, the community can donate as well. We’re so excited; we had cans of vegetables donated the other night.”

The box is appreciated. “We come back many days and find the boxes depleted. Kara and I came back here the other night – I had left my wallet in the office – and she got to see someone take something out of the Blessing Box, and I thought she was going to cry. She teared up and said, ‘Oh look, they’re getting something out of the Blessing Box, they must need something.’”


Florida Division dedicates state-of-the-art music facility at Camp Keystone

Florida Division dedicates state-of-the-art music facility at Camp Keystone

By: Brad Rowland

For three decades, the Florida Division has hosted the Longino Music Conservatory at Camp Keystone, centrally operating in a building constructed in 1990. In late June, current leadership joined forces with dignitaries from the past in dedicating a new, state-of-the-art facility.

“Today, we dedicate this house of glad remembrance for the youth of the Florida Division to gather to do three things,” said Commissioner John Busby, retired national commander and former divisional commander. “First, to improve their musical ability; second, to draw closer to their Heavenly Father; and third, to surrender their enhanced musicianship, developed here, to his honor and glory.”

The new building, constructed on the site of the old structure, includes purposely dedicated space for creative arts, percussion, vocal training, brass instrumentation and recital/concert hosting. In conjunction with the opening of the space, the final concert of the Florida Music Institute (FMI) took place, with six bands, five choruses and three creative arts ensembles comprising nearly 200 young people performing in a moving and uplifting way.

Within the dedication ceremony, thank-you messages were distributed to those who took part and FMI delegates commemorated the event with an artistic tribute. Stirring testimonies came to light, citing the impact that the division’s music programs have made and looking ahead to what is a bright future.

“I believe with all of my heart that this is a life-changing program,” said Major Elizabeth Birks, divisional secretary for business. “I can attest to the personal impact it had on my children and what I’ve seen myself. It’s an incredible blessing to see these young people rehearse, perform and grow, and we’re so grateful to all who made this project a dream come true.”

“As a product of The Salvation Army’s music programs myself, I’m excited for the opportunities this new facility will open up for our young people,” said Darryl Crossland, assistant divisional music director. “When children see an investment being made in their future in such a way, it gives them confidence to keep pursuing their dreams.”

The division’s Longino Senior Conservatory program began just hours after completion of FMI and the new facility is being utilized in continuous fashion, all with an eye toward the glory of God and worship through the arts.

“It’s a red-letter day for the Florida Division,” said Lt. Colonel Ken Luyk, divisional commander. “We’re here to celebrate the progress being made but, really, what it’s about is discipleship through musicianship and artistry. All of those are expressions of worship unto the Lord, and that’s why we’re here.”


The Salvation Army in Waco, Texas, salutes two exceptional servants

The Salvation Army in Waco, Texas, salutes two exceptional servants

More than 90 years of committed service was honored by The Salvation Army in Waco, Texas, recently as it recognized the dedicated work of long-time employee Janet Harrison and EDS volunteer Wayne Branscum. Each received an Exceptional Service Award, signed by National Commander Commissioner David Hudson.

In 1982, Janet Harrison was appointed the director of the Fresh Start Program at The Salvation Army in Waco and would go on to serve faithfully for 35 years. The program assists inmates from the federal prison system as they transition from incarceration to freedom. Low risk inmates are assigned to the program by the Bureau of Prisons, and Salvation Army case workers help them acquire state IDs, prepare resumes, learn how to interview for employment and acquire other skills to give program participants the best chance to transition successfully.

Since its opening in 1983, more than 3,000 individuals have transitioned through the Fresh Start Program, with a success rate of 86 percent.

“It has been a pleasure to see men and women come through our program and make positive changes to their lives,” Harrison said. “One young man accepted Christ into his life while in our program and later became an ordained minister and now visits federal and state prisons throughout Texas. That’s the kind of life-changing impact the Fresh Start program has.”

Harrison is a faithful soldier and bandmaster of the Waco Corps. She received The Salvation Army National Award for Excellence in Corrections in 2006.

Wayne Branscum discovered his passion for serving others when he was a teenager. “I remember going to help at a large fire where we served coffee and food to the first responders. I was only 16,” he said. “We spent the night and worked well into the next day.”

That was the beginning of a lifetime of volunteer service.

Branscum, the assistant corps sergeant major at the Waco Corps, reflects on his 55 years of service in the mobile kitchen.

“Over the years I have deployed to serve after hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires and other disasters in Texas and around the Southern Territory. I went to Panama City after Hurricane Michael as a driver and was responsible to keep the mobile kitchen fully operational. I was blessed to also deliver emotional and spiritual care to those affected by the storm – to talk with, listen and pray with people.”

“Wayne and Janet both exhibit the very spirit of salvationism,” said Major James Taylor, Waco area commander. “Their service has always been for the betterment of mankind with the goal of pointing people towards Christ. We say thank you for their commitment and faithful dedication and look forward to new opportunities of service in the future.”