Kroc Centers use downtime to launch capital projects

Kroc Centers use downtime to launch capital projects

By: David Ibata

A Salvation Army pool equipment contractor was on his way to work on the filtration system at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Kerrville, Texas, on April 6 when he got the phone call no one wants to get: A family member he’d had contact with had been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.

“He called and told me he’d already made the decision to turn around and go home,” said Ross Wheeler, territorial Kroc Centers capital renewal manager. That delayed the launch of capital projects across the South while the contractor self-quarantined, but that’s OK.

“It put us two weeks behind schedule, but we didn’t put any staff at risk. I was thankful for that,” Wheeler said.

The seven Kroc Centers in the Southern Territory, closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, are taking advantage of the downtime to launch projects that otherwise would have had to be scheduled around day-to-day health and wellness programs serving adults and children in their communities. All have been doing deep cleaning, painting and other sprucing up.

“All sorts of great things have happened in the time the buildings have been closed,” Wheeler said. “A lot of projects the facility manager couldn’t get to because it was hard to find downtime when the building was occupied, like floor finishes, can be done now.”

“These actions and tasks speak to the dedication and pride that the Kroc Center facility managers have to serve in their roles and their communities, and ultimately to support the mission of The Salvation Army.”

At the territorial level, plans had been made to repair and replace pool filtration equipment at the six Kroc Centers (other than Atlanta, Georgia) with swimming pools. The project was to go through September; the project requires each location’s pool to be closed three to five days at a time.

The original execution plan had the months of June, July and August blacked out, as these are peak times for swimming pool operations.  With the closures that came in the wake of COVID-19, though, all that changed.

“Kerrville’s new filter is going in this week,” Wheeler said in an April 27 phone interview. The focus of pool filter installations moves to Memphis, Tennessee, the following week; then Biloxi, Mississippi; Greenville, South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Norfolk, Virginia.

“We’re really at the last bit of downtime associated with the coronavirus, we hope,” Wheeler said. “In the event we miss this window of opportunity, we will coordinate with each Kroc Center to identify the next best opportunity to shut pool operations down for a three- to five-day period. Under normal circumstances, the ideal time to execute large capital projects is after Labor Day.”

All the work except at the Hampton Roads Kroc Center in Norfolk should wrap up by June 1. Being last, and if it’s reopened to the public, that center and the new pool filter will wait until the next best opportunity.

Elsewhere, while the Kerrville and Memphis Kroc Centers are mostly closed – they are partly open for day programs serving children of first responders and medical personnel – they will start replacing their building automation/HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) control systems the week of May 4.

“Again, we had looked at some point in the future to plan the projects, but when we saw the downtime coming, we asked the local Kroc operations team and the contractor if we could go with a more aggressive schedule,” Wheeler said. “In Memphis, we reduced the controls project installation time by 50 percent. We were probably looking at a month to do it under normal circumstances; now, we can do it in two weeks.”

Safe practices are being followed, such as ensuring distance between individual workers and proper personal protective equipment.

“We approach these capital projects very cautiously,” Wheeler said. “A lot of our facility managers are already working on other building repairs and interior finish projects. I didn’t want to cause a directive coming from the territorial level that did not align with the policies and protocols being made at each specific site for the execution of a capital project.

“If the local team is not comfortable or unable to support a capital project, we simply defer the proposed project to a future date that the team can comfortably support.”


Partners step up to assist with feeding programs

Partners step up to assist with feeding programs

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.

Louisville, Kentucky: It’s often said that “Timing is Everything,” and that couldn’t be truer thanks to The Salvation Army’s friends at Better Beef Brands. Working with Summit Media Group, Better Beef Brands donated meat to feed 1,000 families and children during these very difficult times. The Louisville Command’s daily meal counts have more than doubled since the COVID-19 outbreak, and thanks to generous donations like this one, the Army has been able to fulfill its mission of meeting basic needs, in his name, without discrimination. Thank you to Better Beef Brands and the Gatlin family for #DoingTheMostGood for #others.

Hampton Roads, Virginia: The Kroc Center’s ministry team reached out to seniors in the surrounding community to help provide relief during the coronavirus pandemic. In partnership with the Food Bank and Mercy Chef to Seniors, the team delivered meals to the homes of senior citizens as well as senior high-rises in the community.

Birmingham, Alabama: The Salvation Army’s food assistance programs are being dispersed through a drive-through service, with eligibility requirements adapted to meet growing needs. Canteen distribution is also being utilized for walk-up service.

Vero Beach, Florida: Following the cancellation of a local fair, authorities contacted The Salvation Army to aid several migrant workers who were stranded. Meals were provided for the workers, while community partners helped to secure transportation for their safe return home.

Knoxville, Tennessee: Elkmont Exchange Brewery & Eating House donated fresh foods for shelter residents. “These kinds of donations are vital in our ability maintain consistent service in these challenging days,” the corps said in a Facebook posting. “Thank you for your kindness to us and others!”

Jackson, Mississippi: The Salvation Army is delivering boxes of food and supplies to 70 seniors who need additional assistance during this trying time. In addition, staff and volunteers are preparing food boxes on a daily basis for distributions to those who need them most.

Arlington, Virginia: The Salvation Army corps has been reaching out to low-income families trying to cope with the stresses of the COVID-19 crisis. On a recent day, the corps distributed emergency grocery bags to 180 families.


Last summer’s ministry pays dividends now in Washington, N.C.

Last summer’s ministry pays dividends now in Washington, N.C.

By: Major Frank Duracher

In July 2019, Salvation Army officials in Washington, North Carolina, could not have realized that a hot lunch feeding program for students out on summer recess would be the very thing needed throughout the coronavirus outbreak of Spring 2020.

“We opened as a summer feeding site, and the children ate in our fellowship hall,” said Major Karl Bush, Washington corps officer. Then, as now, meals are prepared by the county school system and brought to the corps building for dissemination. “Currently, with COVID-19 concerns, the county brings the food (to us) and it is distributed at a safe distance as families and children walk up or drive up.”

Major Karl reports that as of mid-April, some 4000 hot meals have been served to school-aged children and their families.

“In addition to the hot lunch every day, we give each student breakfast for the next morning, and on Fridays, they get breakfasts and lunch for Saturdays and Sundays,” Major Karl said.

On most Fridays, 700 meals are given out to last each child through the weekend. Weekday meals average about 200, he said.

“Lunch is scheduled each weekday from 10:30 (a.m.) to 12:30, but all the food is usually gone by 11:30,” Major Bush said.

The only difference between what was begun last summer and what is currently happening during the COVID crisis is that the meals are served outside at present.

“Two nutrition specialists are with us every day, provided by the county school system. Also, every day at least one of our advisory board members are on hand to volunteer with the feeding.”

There is a second front of COVID-related service which derives from work done in 2019. Food boxes left over from Christmas distribution are now given to seniors who are either shut-in or self-quarantining. That resource has dwindled, and Major Bush and his staff are finding new ways to keep up with the needed demand.

But it isn’t easy.

“In the first full week of the crisis, I went to Walmart to buy supplies (for distribution) and there were no dairy products, no meats, and very few other necessities we normally include in a food box.”

Throughout these last few weeks, his staff has had to shop early in the day to get what they need. By afternoon, there’s not much left on the shelves for certain items.

The major said that most seniors have other health issues, such as diabetes or heart disease – so his staff is adjusting to carefully meet the needs of the individual by packing healthy items, including fish, chicken and fresh produce.

Out of necessity, the Army in Washington is addressing the colossal need while figuring out how to pay for all of this later.

“We have no large foundations in our six counties (Beaufort, Hyde, Tyrrell, Washington, Martin, Bertie) where we could apply for a financial grant,” he says, “and we struggle to get help from outside organizations.

“Right now, our expenses are far outweighing our income. So, we’re pretty much dependent on local support – which is coming in, but it doesn’t feel like its soon enough!”


Tell Me Something Good

Tell Me Something Good

By: Meagan Hofer

I think we can all agree how now, more than ever, coming across a good story is welcomed with open arms and grateful hearts.

Here are just a few pieces of good news that have made me smile, and I hope they do the same for you!

  • Families of the six newest graduates of The Salvation Army Dallas’ Adult Rehabilitation 180-day program showing their support and love with the rules of social distancing.
  • The new Mission Moving Women series, with the most recent episode featuring Captain Monica Seiler sharing how she is finding ways to create community during these crazy times.
  • The Salvation Army of Central Maryland is delivering 10,000 meals a day to vulnerable seniors!
  • transMission released a new single Unfailing God.
  • Inman Coffee in Cleveland, Tennessee delivering a whole latte love to healthcare workers.
  • YouthDownSouth has started Will & Cate Wednesday for our Junior Soldiers!

Be encouraged friends! This is hard, but you are not alone. God’s got us.


Baltimore Ravens boost 10,000 meals a day initiative

Baltimore Ravens boost 10,000 meals a day initiative

By: David Ibata

With the COVID-19 outbreak, The Salvation Army of Central Maryland in March saw its food warehouse – typically stocked to last for a month – depleted in two days. It became evident a large-scale need for meal assistance was imminent.

As part of the Food Insecurity Council of Baltimore City, the Central Maryland Area Command became aware of the most underserved group: homebound older adults.

The Baltimore City Department of Aging agreed and, having exhausted its own resources during this crisis, delegated to The Salvation Army the task of feeding 5,000 senior citizens— vulnerable and quarantined persons who are physically unable to venture out.

The area command, with the help of Captain Jonathan Howell acting as the director of operations for the Divisional Incident Command, put together a collaborative plan to lead what has become its biggest feeding operation to date.

Given the effort’s scope and complexity, The Salvation Army turned to local partners to maximize the impact value of its work.

The Baltimore Ravens were among the first to step up and the most generous to date: The football team gave the Army $100,000 for its feeding initiative. They brought into the conversation the Maryland Stadium Authority, which made Parking Lot “C” of the Camden Yards Sports Complex available for staging; there, two refrigerated trucks donated by Perdue Farms store meals prior to delivery.

The Army partnered with ROUGE Fine Catering to prepare up to 10,000 meals a day – 5,000 cold lunches and 5,000 microwaveable dinners to be delivered Monday through Friday.

Twice as much food is prepared Thursday and Friday to ensure there’s enough to last through the weekend, said Melin Sotiriou-Droz, community relations manager. Meals go to vulnerable seniors living independently, as well as 145 senior living facilities and housing complexes referred through the Department of Aging’s LEAN Campaign and Maryland Access Point.

“In a crisis like this where everybody is affected, it can be tough to find people to help,” said Lieutenant Antiono Willis, site commander. “To have the Ravens just say, ‘This is totally on us. Just do it,’ that was blessing No. 1. Then to not only give us the parking lot, but to be part of the hope with the financial contribution, it put the icing on the cake.”

This community effort is fueled by volunteers who accompany the drivers in vehicles provided by the Baltimore City Department of Transportation. In addition to their generosity, the Ravens, joined by the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, Towson University, and others, put out a call for helpers through their social media channels.

The Salvation Army thanks the Ravens for leading the charge to support the program. Their “play by play” involvement during the preparation and execution of this operation, extending their infrastructure, agency contacts and financial support, and mobilizing their ‘Ravens Flock’ network of fans, help boost not only the community’s morale, but its well-being.

“The Ravens,” Lieutenant Willis said, “are our hometown heroes more than they can ever know.”


To Battle We Go: A cry for help that must be answered

To Battle We Go: A cry for help that must be answered

By: Dr. Steve Kellner

Medics (or corpsmen in the Navy and Marine Corps) are among the most revered and respected members of our military services. This might seem odd since they don’t typically carry weapons and, therefore, aren’t of much use in a fire fight. But combat troops know that if they are wounded a medic or corpsman will come to their aid, even under fire. When a wounded soldier shouts “Medic!”, he or she can be sure someone is coming to help. And many medics have been wounded or even killed attempting to assist their wounded comrades.

But this isn’t just a heartwarming example of brothers and sisters in arms caring for each other.  It’s also a matter of combat effectiveness. Military services have learned through experience that combat troops will not advance under fire unless they know someone will come to their aid when wounded.

Strangely, even the knowledge that their bodies will be recovered if they are killed somehow comforts soldiers and motivates them to fight. That’s why our military services all have special units still looking for the remains of those killed or missing going back as far as the Civil War, and when those remains are recovered, they are buried with full military honors.

In the same way, officers and soldiers cannot and will not fully engage in the demanding work of The Salvation Army if their spiritual and emotional needs are not adequately met within the corps family.

The Bible tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Our Army is engaged in real spiritual warfare, the kind of fight that produces casualties on a regular basis, and we must have our version of medics on hand to aid the wounded. Otherwise, our Salvationist combat troops will either pull out of the fight altogether (burnout) or just ineffectively go through the motions of fighting the war (zombification).

When Salvationists read the part of The Salvation Army Mission Statement that says that we will meet human need without discrimination, we usually think of those outside the Army. But often that need is within our own ranks.

Some Salvationists are particularly gifted in caring for other Salvationists in the fight, and we should identify those with that gift and resource them. But every officer, local officer and soldier must make it their business to identify and meet the needs of those fighting with them.    

The cry for help may be hard to hear above the noise and confusion of spiritual combat, but it can still be heard by those with ears to hear. Let’s all be listening for the cry of “Medic!” from our fellow Salvationists.


A helpful new Army service pops up in Jacksonville

A helpful new Army service pops up in Jacksonville

By: Brad Rowland

In February 2019, The Salvation Army of Jacksonville, Florida, assisted in the launch of an Urban Rest Stop location that aims to equip individuals in need by offering case management, substance abuse and employment referrals and aid with public assistance applications. In partnership with a pair of homeless service providers, Sulzbacher and Mental Health Resource Center (MHRC), a “pop-up” version of the already established center is now operational. The center launched on April 20 and is expected to be open for at least 90 days.

Funding for the pop-up is provided by the City of Jacksonville and, while the original Urban Rest Stop was located at Sulzbacher’s campus in downtown Jacksonville, the pop-up is located at 15 Church Street, the site formerly known as The Salvation Army’s Citadel Community Center in the area.

“We are so very grateful to The Salvation Army for offering up this wonderful space, it is at times like these that collaboration and teamwork are even more essential than usual and this partnership with MHRC, Sulzbacher and The Salvation Army is meeting a critical need for our most vulnerable neighbor during this COVID crisis,” said Cindy Funkhouser, CEO of Sulzbacher.

In addition to referrals and public assistance aid, the pop-up location provides a refuge, complete with social distancing guidelines, to people experiencing homelessness in the region. The pop-up location also features meal service, with access to showers, laundry facilities and available health care assistance.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Salvation Army of Northeast Florida has provided shelter for nearly 100 individuals, with more than 600 food boxes, 3000 lunch and dinner meals and 650 hygiene kits distributed in the community. Daily to-go lunch service is also operational, with dinner provided from a field kitchen outside The Salvation Army’s Towers Center of Hope, with hot, nourishing meals provided to approximately 70 individuals per day.

 “The Salvation Army is glad to be able to join with our fellow homeless service providers in providing this facility to serve the marginalized community in this time of crisis and practice mandated measures to flatten the curve using social distancing,” said Major Keath Biggers, area commander. “We believe, for such a time as this, this building which provided hope, comfort, Christian fellowship and love will now provide these and a safe haven for our brothers and sisters.”


Salvation Army assists workers fighting Chernobyl wildfires

Salvation Army assists workers fighting Chernobyl wildfires

Radiation levels 16 times higher than normal have posed a major threat for firefighters and other emergency personnel tackling wildfires that have rampaged through an exclusion zone surrounding the former nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine. More than 1,000 emergency personnel were deployed to prevent the blaze reaching the abandoned power station near the Ukraine-Belarus border. Their mission: to avert a further radiological disaster affecting the country and the wider region. Salvation Army personnel have been providing welfare support to the frontline teams.

The incident has been extremely challenging for first responders because of the scale of the fire and the hotspots of radiation that remain from the partial core meltdown that damaged one of the reactors at the power station 34 years ago. In that disaster, significant quantities of radioactive isotopes were released into the atmosphere and deposited contaminants across large areas of Europe. Locally, vehicles abandoned at that time remain in place, with some emanating radiation 1,500 times in excess of background levels. The plume of potentially hazardous smoke from the April 2020 wildfires drifted south towards the capital, Kiev, where residents were advised to remain in their homes with windows closed. An estimated 4.5 million people were, for a time, stranded in their houses while the wildfires raged.

With emergency responders using more than 300 vehicles – including helicopters and planes – to extinguish the wildfires, The Salvation Army in Ukraine has been providing bottled water, lantern batteries and disposable tableware to aid with refreshment breaks for the frontline workers.

“It was important for The Salvation Army to help firefighters in meeting their needs – particularly [drinking] water,” said Major Veaceslav Cotrutsa, Ukraine divisional commander.  “The purity of our air and the control of radiation in the air depends on them. We went there with our prayers and the hope that we would bring them not only some help, but also the encouragement and support of their spirit.’

Travelling to the limit of the exclusion zone from Kiev, Major Veaceslav was joined on the support mission by officers and volunteers from the capital’s Mayak Corps.

Although the fires have now been brought under control after an 18-day operation, The Salvation Army plans two further visits to the region, due to ongoing needs and the scale of the disaster.


Orange, Texas, Boys & Girls Club maintains close connection with members

Orange, Texas, Boys & Girls Club maintains close connection with members

Although the normal daily operation of The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Orange, Texas, has been put on pause, the club is maintaining a strong lifeline with its members.

The club closed since March 23 due to the COVID-19 crisis, but the staff is staying in touch with members at least once a week through program and food delivery. Members are receiving weekly program packets or care packages, specially delivered to their homes.

Staff members spent a week making phone calls and sending emails assessing the needs of members and then initiated continuance of the governmental after-school feeding program through the Texas Boys & Girls Club Alliance. Meals and snacks are being delivered to members each day.

“The amazing thing is that this program not just allows us to provide this food for our regular members but all other siblings younger than 18 within the home who may not attend the club regularly,” said Captain Frankie Zuniga, Orange corps officer.

“Right now, our kids are overwhelmed with online school and the loss of the club — and for many of them that was their place of security and home,” Captain Zuniga said. “Now more than ever, it’s evident the role The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Orange and its staff play within the lives of our club members. We’ve had many replies from parents who tell us one thing their child looks forward to each week is our visit. They wait expectantly for the club to stop by, and they can’t wait for that next packet. It continues to keep them connected to what many of them consider home.”

An example is a kindergarten-aged girl who eagerly waits for her counselor. “The first week she smiled from ear to ear as Mr. Joseph, her counselor, delivered her care package,” Captain Zuniga said. Another is a mother who has been so fearful of the virus, she keeps her three sons inside all day and never leaves to shop. “They have been barely making by, living on food she gets others to buy for her,” Captain Zuniga said. “It brought a moment of hope and joy this week as we dropped off food for her kids.” He added the staff wants mothers like her to know she hasn’t been forgotten in her fears.

“During this time of the pandemic — more than ever — our families need us, not for just physical needs, but also emotional. There have been many calls and texts as the parents help us understand what the kids need,” Captain Zuniga said. “They also have told us they’re glad they simply have someone there to listen and pray for them.”


Food, hygiene are The Salvation Army’s ammo against COVID-19

Food, hygiene are The Salvation Army’s ammo against COVID-19

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.

San Antonio, Texas: Magali Montanez (center, wearing black hat) spent her COVID-19 stimulus check on items for The Salvation Army’s emergency family shelter in San Antonio. She said that she has been blessed with a roof over her head and plenty of food. As a nurse, she knows some are living in shelters and are less fortunate. She challenged capable members of the community to contribute items such as diapers, paper tissues, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, shampoo, bar soap, books, crayons, socks, T-shirts and other items for those staying in Salvation Army shelters.

Louisville, Kentucky: The Salvation Army continues to support the unsheltered population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nutritious meals are served daily to up to 400 men and women at the “Healthy Shelter,” courtesy of staff, volunteers and officers. The shelter is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for homeless residents not exposed to, or showing symptoms of, the novel coronavirus. It is at Louisville Command headquarters in the former Louisville Male High School.

Bradenton, Florida: The Salvation Army is helping to maintain hygiene by constructing mobile handwashing stations in the Bradenton area. Though the Army’s weekly community dinner was temporarily suspended in its previous form, to-go packages are being distributed in an outdoor setting.

Conway, Arkansas: The Salvation Army’s coffee ministry is in place, with a case worker setting up service each morning that is available throughout the day. The coffee service is a hit, especially when combined with a friendly smile and a listening ear. Food distribution also continues.

Atlanta, Georgia: Passion City Church donated five pallets equaling 5,000 pounds of food and cleaning supplies to The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta’s Red Shield Shelter. The donation will make a positive difference in the lives of Red Shield Shelter consumers, help keep the facility clean and eliminate food insecurity for those in need.

Lewisville, Texas: The Salvation Army is partnering with Valley Creek Next Steps Center to deliver free lunches at several apartment complexes to children currently out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 200 children each day have grabbed lunch, and Friday’s sacks include food for the weekend.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky: The Salvation Army’s Shelia Croney packs hot to-go lunches for neighbors in need; the parking lot outside is marked off to help with social distancing as people wait in line for food. The corps thanked Douglas Autotec for its donation of paper goods. It has asked for foam plates, dessert plates and bowls; plastic utensils; napkins; paper towels, and toilet paper. “Little did we know when this donation drive was set up weeks ago how much more these items would be needed now in our present situation!” the corps said in Facebook posting.