Unprecedented demands challenge The Salvation Army’s creativity
By: Dan Childs
An old adage states that necessity is the mother of invention, and as the COVID-19 public health crisis in the U.S. imposes countless demands to meet unprecedented needs, The Salvation Army has been challenged in unprecedented ways. Commands across the nation have been responding to needs they have never encountered before, and out of necessity, many commands are taking innovative approaches to ministry.
The Hot Springs, Arkansas, Corps has been serving evening meals and has recently added a creative approach to outreach during these troubled times. The Devo and Donuts outreach provides breakfast to homeless people and other at-risk individuals to help meet physical needs and, in the best tradition of The Salvation Army, includes a brief devotional that provides encouragement and spiritual nourishment.
The Chattanooga, Tennessee, 614 Corps, meanwhile, is about to provide a service that no one could have envisioned even a few weeks ago. The corps has received funding from the city to function as and isolation and quarantine shelter for homeless people. The corps is being equipped with air filters, plastic barriers and other items. The shelter is scheduled to open April 10.
Older people have been identified as one of the prime at-risk groups in the coronavirus crisis, and in Baltimore, the Central Maryland Area Command is working with city officials to start up a feeding program for seniors, with funding for one month. Partnering with the Department of Aging and the Department of Transportation, the Army in Baltimore will help provide up to 20,000 meals for seniors. The meals will be prepared each day for seniors who are unable to cook for themselves.
In Virginia’s Tidewater area, the Hampton Roads Kroc Center had to cancel an event because of the coronavirus threat and was left with an abundance of snacks which were earmarked for the event. The Kroc Center staff decided to repurpose the snacks as “Happies for Helpers,” gifts bags full of treats that were made available to some of the heroes of this crisis – healthcare workers serving on the frontlines at Norfolk’s Sentara General Hospital. The nurses and other healthcare personnel who received the snack bags expressed their appreciation for being remembered in this way and were in turn reassured that they were in the prayers of the Hampton Roads Area Command.
The USA South’s focus during the pandemic is 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.
The territory’s Emotional and Spiritual Hotline (844-458-4673) is manned by 16 Salvation Army officers and employees from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week, with Spanish-language assistance available.