Author Archives: Salvation Army Midland Division - St. Louis

Homelessness Survivor Remains Positive About Life

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

Despite her mother passing away, losing her home and living with strangers in a homeless shelter, Ruth Ann Bonnell is endearing and positive above all else. Ruth moved into the Alton Salvation Army Homeless Shelter on April 7, 2011.

“I came in on a Friday night, and I was so scared I just cried all night,” admits Ruth Ann. But if Ruth Ann has one strength, it’s the ability to pick herself up and look toward better days.

She took advantage of the shelter’s life skills and job skills classes in which she learned how to eat healthy and how to find a job. Ruth Ann made it clear The Salvation Army not only taught her how to find a job, but also how to pursue one. She explained the process.

“Fill out the online application. Fill out the paper application. Go into the establishment and find an HR Representative and say, ‘Hi, my name is so-and-so, and I want to work here.’”

This exactly is how Ruth Ann obtained her job at Schnucks.

“I nagged them, that’s how I got my job,” she claims. “Be persistent. Stay the course. Be annoying!”

Ruth Ann has loved her job at Schnucks ever since she was hired. She has been trained in almost every department, starting out at the food bar, then to fruit cutting, produce, liquor, cashier training and she now is working in the deli. Ruth Ann’s diverse training goes to show her dedication and hard work since leaving the shelter.

“Is it a perfect job? No. But it’s a job! I like the people I work with. I like what I do,” says Ruth Ann, which proves she can spin any situation to appear positive.

She is especially proud to claim she recently celebrated her one-year anniversary of working at Schnucks on June 7. She declares she wants to continue working at Schnucks, “because the longer you work here, the better it gets!” she says with an upbeat voice.

Ruth Ann not only chooses to view her situation in a positive light, but also uses it as a learning experience. Her time in the homeless shelter made her realize how much she, as well as the rest of America, takes for granted.

“Everything we think is important in this world is really not,” says Ruth Ann. “How many wooden spoons do you need in your life?”

Anyone who has ever witnessed poverty would say Ruth Ann is correct. Homelessness takes away more than a home, but diminishes every day pleasures as well. Living in the shelter also taught Ruth Ann to appreciate simple satisfactions such as privacy and a space to call your own.

“If you sleep in a room with four people you don’t know, it’s a waking experience,” says Ruth Ann. “It builds tolerance. You learn their quirks.”

After being back in the real world, Ruth Ann has a new admiration for every aspect of her life.

“It totally reevaluated my life,” she explains. “For the past six to eight months I had a stove. I could bake a chicken! It’s the little things. You got a blanket, you got pillows, you got food in the fridge. It’s all good!”

If there was only one thing Ruth Ann could tell the public regarding homelessness, she would remind the world to not criticize homeless people. In this trying economy, everyone is at risk for poverty. Homeless people are not always brought down by drugs and addiction, which is the general stereotype.

Ruth Ann explains it simply.

“A lot of Americans out there are one or two paychecks away from being homeless. You are hanging on by a thread. You can’t judge them.”

Ruth Ann might have received these hypercritical stares or disapproving remarks, which is a shame since her personality and optimistic demeanor do not fit the stereotype to which she is being subjected.

“I was a normal person,” says Ruth Ann. “I made a couple bad decisions that affected my whole entire life. It just happens.”

She hopes the public views her the way she views herself, as a hard working woman who is recreating a solid life for herself.

“I’m a very positive person. It will all get better,” she says affirmatively.

One thing is for certain: our society needs more personalities like Ruth Ann Bonnell’s.

New Experiences for Different Discovery Campers

By: Bethany Williams, Midland Division

Campers from all ages and places gathered at Camp Mihaska’s Discovery Camp and benefitted from stepping out of the box and doing something new.

Clarisha
After hearing about Camp Mihaska’s Discovery camp from friends at The Salvation Army in East St. Louis, Clarisha was excited and somewhat nervous to go to camp since she is rather shy. At the age of 14, Clarisha is a soft spoken young girl, but has found it easy to make friends at Discovery Camp because of a variety of team building activities.

“Don’t be scared about going, just be yourself,” advises Clarisha with a big smile and a giggle.

The main reason for her boost of self-confidence is thanks to the counselors that have encouraged her to break out of her shell.

“I ask my counselors every year how old I have to be to work with them,” says Clarisha. “I love all of the counselors and I want to be one someday too.”

Counselors at the Discovery Camp typically are young adults above the age of 18 that are primarily college students. Besides interacting with other kids, Clarisha has learned how to act and speak appropriately toward adults.

Clarisha’s favorite memories of camp include paintballing and “ga-ga ball” because each activity required team interaction and hard work. From her experience at Discovery Camp, Clarisha believes that she has become a friendlier person and is looking forward to coming back next year.

Raven
At the age of 13, Raven Lawrence also is a reserved teenage girl, but has found Discovery Camp as a way to branch out and try new things.

Raven volunteers to play the drums at The Salvation Army in East St. Louis and heard about the summer camps at Camp Mihaska from other volunteers. While this is Raven’s fourth summer at camp, every year she pushes herself to try something new.

This year at Discovery Camp, Raven faced her fear of heights by climbing up the 30-foot rock wall and zip lining across the open fields to a platform below. From this adventure, Raven says she has learned to place trust in her counselors and friends.

From the various bible classes, Raven has found trust in God.

“I know that the Lord has everything I need,” says Raven. “When I leave camp, I am a different person. I listen and I care about others.”

After watching the guest performer David Cain’s juggling act, Raven felt inspired by his faith in the Lord to do such amazing and dangerous acts. Raven looks forward to coming back to Camp Mihaska.

Evander
As a high school student, Evander Hargrove at first did not want to come to Discovery Camp because he thought he was too old for summer camps. As a 16 year-old from Euclid, Evander said he would rather spend his time wrestling and playing football in order to prepare for his high school season.

However, his younger cousin, who attended Discovery Camp last year, convinced Evander that he would have a blast and make many new friends. So, Evander decided to give Discovery Camp a chance.

A few days into the camp, Evander  made several friends and loves playing “ga-ga ball”. Most importantly, Evander feels that he has been enlightened by the people at camp that introduced him to the Bible. He hopes to continue learning more about God and His teachings.

Overcoming Temptations and Hardships

A Woman’s Journey to follow the Straight and Narrow Path

By: Bethany Williams, Midland Division

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

From a young age, Ashley Berigan (pictured right) has endured many hardships that have influenced who she is today. Her father died when she was only 14, and by the time she was 17, Ashley was surrounded with negative influences.

Partying constantly and abusing drugs and alcohol, Ashley found herself pregnant and homeless when she was just 19 years old. After her mother kicked her out of their house, Ashley was terrified and alone. She ended up finding comfort and shelter at The Salvation Army in Alton, Illinois.

“That was the first time I’ve ever been homeless,” says Ashley. “It was scary.” Living at the shelter, she went to counseling once a month and received hope from the people at The Salvation Army. Ashley soon realized that she personally was not in a good position to take care of a child, and ultimately decided to give her son up for adoption after he was born. After making this tough decision, Ashley realized that she needed to change.

“Life can get pretty scary,” says Ashley, “so I wanted to follow the straight and narrow path.”

Today, Ashley is 26 and has a variety of new positive interests that include watching scary movies, listening to music, taking pictures and creating artwork for her family. Ashley has completed an art course at Lewis and Clark Community College and will be taking a photography class in the fall. One of her favorite paintings she has created is featured on the left.

Staying sober and away from drugs, Ashley looks toward the future in hopes of getting married and starting a family.

“God is trying to tell me something. All of the people who have helped me have come into my life for a reason.”

Because of this, Ashley has found a desire to give back and help others by sharing the importance of surrounding themselves with positive people.

“I am grateful for what I have, ” says Ashley, “and I thank God everyday because I am lucky to be alive.”

To make a donation to The Salvation Army and support people like Ashley, please visit https://donate.salvationarmyusa.org/midland/yesfund.

Dynamic Duo Volunteers Make a Difference

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

Scott and Dan are more than just coworkers – they are best friends.

As volunteer maintenance workers for The Salvation Army-Harbor Light Center this dynamic duo always is on the move. They do just about everything from plumbing, electrical work, painting, organizing warehouses, fixing trucks and trailers, and disaster relief – always performing these tasks as a partnership.

Both men began their volunteering journey with The Salvation Army by performing construction at the Harbor Light Center. Realizing the poor condition of this location, their hearts were moved to help all St. Louis-area Salvation Army locations in any way possible. They have been working as an unstoppable team ever since.

Their previous projects include fixing up a playground at the Temple Corps, picking up supplies Boy Scouts collected, fixing up the Emergency Disaster Services warehouse where all the disaster relief supplies are stored, fixing up the social services warehouse where furniture for The Salvation Army is stored, among a myriad of others.

Scott (pictured left) and Dan (pictured right) saw what unfortunate condition these warehouses previously were in, so say they knew there was no other choice but to reorganize them.

In fact, upon arrival at the Emergency Disaster Services warehouse, Scott sat down and immediately wrote a list of everything that needed to be fixed. His list grew to six pages.

Following Scott’s new guidelines, every last box and machine was taken out of the warehouse, supplies were sorted through and the warehouse was reorganized in only two weeks, showing his passionate dedication.

“When we get on a job site, we don’t waste time,” says Dan proudly.

Scott and Dan’s biggest undertakings have been disaster relief projects. This unparalleled duo has helped after the tornado of New Year’s 2011, the Good Friday tornado of 2011, the Harrisburg tornadoes and the Joplin tornadoes. These two have had countless opportunities to touch lives.

“…Cleaning front yards from tornados, it’s simple stuff that really touched people,” explains Dan.

But both Scott and Dan realize while this work is rewarding, it is challenging as well.

“I’ve seen a lot of hurt people,” says Dan as he continues to briefly tell a story about a man in Joplin who didn’t even know his house had been hit by the tornado until he saw The Salvation Army volunteers working on his broken home.

They have definitely seen it all. Dan also explains about a tree that had been picked up by a tornado and planted back down, smack dab in the middle of someone’s house.

“It looked like a flower pot!” says Dan with a hearty laugh.

There is nothing they can’t tackle as long as they are together.

“[The most challenging part of volunteering is] explaining to other people how to do a job other than just doing it yourself,” says Dan. “Others don’t have the sense of immediacy that [Scott and I] do.”

While it might be difficult to take a step back and let others join in when you are as talented as these two, Dan sums up the most rewarding part of volunteering for The Salvation Army in a few words.

“Getting away from yourself,” he says as Scott silently nods in approval with a solemn smile on his face.

In addition to being a volunteer maintenance man, Scott has been pursuing his Ph.D. and heading a research project to cure sepsis. Scott previously served in the Army for 34 years, starting in Vietnam and finishing in Afghanistan. He worked as a special forces medic for the last 31 years of his army career.

Since his army days, he has received a Masters degree in microbiology and a Masters degree in public health. Currently, he teaches graduate students at Washington University Medical School while working toward his Ph.D. and continuing his research. In the fall, he will begin teaching full time and will receive his Ph.D. in December.

“At his age, what else has he got to do?!”  Dan jokes with him.

All jokes aside, however, these men inspire people with their big actions and even bigger hearts.

“We’re the only two they have like us,” says Dan “We’re floaters.”

This couldn’t be a more true testimony, as these two are a one-of-a-kind pair. People might hesitate separating them if they want a job done right. They have been working together for only two-and-a-half years and they are already finishing each other’s sentences, helping each other remember details when recalling past projects and laughing about inside jokes.

It’s apparent they like their job best if they can work together. They work as a team to improve the shelters so the shelters can improve the lives of the homeless. Their impressive skill level allows them to be useful throughout The Salvation Army’s Midland Division.

To put it simply, they can truly go anywhere and do anything. These two absolutely love what they do and they are moved by God every day to fulfill His work.

Passionate Participant of Camp Mihaska Through Generations of Change

Larry helps a camper identify leaf species in his Tree Hugger class.

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

Larry Nolan is incredibly passionate about Camp Mihaska, and this summer he let it show at Kids Camp.

He enjoyed teaching classes, leading campers in devotions and activities, and bonding with his fellow camp staff members. Larry is an active member in The Salvation Army Gateway Citadel Corps, but each summer he takes a week of vacation from his duties to enjoy the beautiful Camp Mihaska.

“It’s a retreat from normal life,” says Larry with a gentle laugh.

His greatest joy at this year’s Kids Camp was teaching a Tree Hugger class to young campers, which was particularly special since his grandson was in the class. The Tree Hugger class allowed children to discover different tree species, types of leaves, parts of trees and the diverse uses of trees.

The class involved sitting in a classroom and learning from Larry and his helper Mike Rangel. Other class periods involved inspecting the many trees and leaves around the campsite, allowing kids to see for themselves what they learned about in the classroom.

Besides tree identification, the class incorporated lessons on forest fires and photosynthesis, and the most significant lesson was the importance of not cutting down trees. Even Larry was thrilled about the class content and admitted he gained knowledge from the class too.

“This class is about why you would want to save trees and what we use them for besides shade,” he explains.

Larry was especially excited about his discovery that trees are used to make Twinkies! Trees are used to make an astounding amount of products, and this was a true eye opener for the campers and teachers alike. The children were eager to tell Larry and Mike all the uses of trees they had learned.

“Oxygen! Pencils! Baseball bats! Maple syrup!” they shouted with their hands enthusiastically raised for their teachers.

It brought joy to Larry when he saw his campers learning and asking questions about trees.

Incorporating his interest for the Tree Hugger class, Larry also described his love for the picturesque infrastructure of the camp’s dining hall, which has built-in live tree trunks. The tree trunks were placed on the site, and the dining hall was built around them to create an outdoorsy, forest-like atmosphere in the building.

Larry is impressed by the extraordinary building and excited that it will last for future generations to enjoy as much as he does today.

He has a passion for more than just the camp’s trees, however. He could have sat down for hours and revealed the camp’s hidden treasures and stories. He spoke about the many renovations this camp has undergone.

Larry has seen three previous dining halls, but his favorite by far is the current dining hall with the built-in natural trees. He also spoke of the new cabins, apartments, swimming pool and many other attractions that have been built since Larry has been involved with Camp Mihaska. The most impressive new attraction that Larry has seen is the bottomless pond, which is completely natural.

Apart from Kids camp, Larry has attended many camps in the past as a participant instead of a teacher. A smile lit up his face when describing a Men’s Camp he had attended as memories of paintballing with fellow camp-goers came flooding back to him.

Larry has watched his children and grandchildren enjoy the camp as much as he does.

Camp Mihaska is filled with his memories, and it will continue to bring joy to Larry, his family and future generations to come.

Redefining Dedication

By: Bethany Williams, Midland Division

At 72 years old, Margie Duff (pictured left) definitely does not look her age as she gleams with dedication in her eyes and love in her heart. Her relationship with The Salvation Army goes back roughly 25 years, starting as a patron of her local Salvation Army store in East St. Louis. Purchasing clothes and toys, Margie was able to provide her large family with basic needs. Finding refuge and faith in The Salvation Army, she decided to send each of her seven children to Sunday Bible School at the center.

“My children would not have turned out to do the amazing things they do today without the Christian upbringing they received from The Salvation Army,” says Margie.

In 2008, Margie believed that a spirit led her to serve at The Salvation Army. She felt an urge to make a difference within her community and give back to the place that assisted her family through hard times. To her surprise, Wanda Carson (pictured right) opened the door the first day she came into volunteer. Wanda, a caseworker at the East St. Louis center, has known Margie her entire life and regards Margie as a mother figure. Because they had not seen each other in 15 years, both women believe that the Lord led them back to each other to share their time and talents through The Salvation Army.

During the past several years, Margie has come to consider The Salvation Army her second home. Wanda considers Margie as a “superwoman” as she dedicates herself in a variety of tasks from teaching nutrition and health classes, and cleaning the kitchen and play areas to supervising summer programs and tutoring children after school. Margie primarily works with the Women’s Ministry in the areas of planning and preparing lunch and serving as a speaker at meetings.

“Margie has been an asset to the center,” says Wanda. “She is talented in many areas and never has a problem taking on more responsibilities. She is concerned about the people here. You can feel it. You can see it through her works.”

When Margie’s husband of 50 years passed away from cancer a few years ago, she turned to The Salvation Army as a place where she could always go to if she ever needed anything or simply to have someone to talk to. Although Margie is an active member at another church, she dedicates her spare time to serving others.

“I always remind my grandchildren that it is better to give than to receive,” says Margie. “I always feel the need to help someone because you never know what situation you might need help with in the future. God blessed me, so I keep blessing other folks.”

While Margie is known for her dedication to volunteering, she also is famous for her cooking, especially her mostacholi dish and carrot cake. In her free time, Margie loves to travel to see her children and she has visited 38 states.

If you’d like to make a difference, see how on The Salvation Army website.

This Week: Garbage Bag Gala at Moonrise Hotel

By: Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division

Erin Kilfoy works on one of her Garbage Bag Gala creations with model Andreea Cojocariu.

We’ve been hard at work on this event for months now and this week, we get to see all of our hard work come to fruition.

This Friday night, 17 models and designers will feature their casual and formal creations made out of garbage bags and duct tape on the runway (grand staircase) at Moonrise Hotel! Some of the creations we’ve seen are absolutely awe-inspiring – from trash bag wedding dresses to mermaid-inspired creations.

These models and designers have been hard at work for the fun of it – and also because they believe in the cause – Salvation Army homeless shelters in the St. Louis region. Check out this blog from model Andreea Cojocariu for more on why she’s so supportive of this event and The Salvation Army in Missouri.

This week only there are several online specials for discounted tickets, but if you have it in your budget to purchase at full price, remember that the proceeds go to support our homeless shelters in O’Fallon, Alton and St. Louis. Come out and enjoy an amazing show, entertainment from Rob Cruse and DJ Epic and delicious eats from Eclipse Restaurant.

Lindsay Toler models one of her Garbage Bag Gala outfits. Lindsay is one of three models from Patch.com.

This event was made possible by incredible sponsors and partners such as Hardees, Moonrise Hotel, Eclipse Restaurant, Cruse Entertainment, Yelp and Patch.com.

Special room packages are available at the Moonrise Hotel for attendees. Their “Get a Night, Give A Night” promotion will donate $53 from your stay to The Salvation Army’s shelter program. Book now, they’re going fast!

Camper Stands Out From Peers at Kids Camp

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

Enthusiastic and definitely not shy, Robin talks a mile a minute when describing her adventures at Camp Mihaska Kids Camp. She is a member at The Salvation Army O’Fallon Corps, and it was here where she first learned of Camp Mihaska.

The captains that were serving when her family became members at the O’Fallon Community Center introduced Robin’s family to Camp Mihaska, and Robin hasn’t looked back since. Having attended a Music Camp and other Kids Camps in the past, Camp Mihaska’s wonders are very familiar to this passionate camper.

Robin seemed to be different from the other campers. When her cabin group stood in a line or huddled in a group, Robin always managed to stand out from her peers.

It might have been her knowledge of the camp, and her ability to communicate this knowledge to her fellow campers.

Not only could she share her understanding, but she also spoke about camp in a way that seemed to be wiser beyond her years. It was as if being at camp in the past had made her somewhat of an expert on Camp Mihaska and how to behave at Kids Camp.

Robin seemed to know everything about this camp. She was often seen helping the girls in her cabin if they had questions about that night’s festivities. She knew to follow her counselor, and she knew the difference between the proper time to participate and the proper time to listen. She followed her counselor’s orders to put on bug spray, sunscreen and clean up after herself. She is a careful camper, but she is not afraid to have fun.

This lively camper also was striking because of her immense enthusiasm for camp life. One could pick Robin out of the entire camp’s crowd because of her loud cheering or loud voice asking to participate in an activity.

As evidence to her enthusiasm, she had four beads on her necklace by the second day of camp, and was determined to gain more. These beads meant that Robin had completed more tasks than other campers by the second day.

Robin was always ready to move to the next activity, as she is a spry young camper prepared to tackle the next adventure Camp Mihaska could throw her way.

Robin volunteered for activities, to be a helper for a camp staff member and to tell a story about camp. At one of the campfire ceremonies when the leader of the games asked for volunteers, Robin was on her feet, hand raised as high as she could manage, and eager to participate. Her zeal was so evident, that she was indeed chosen for the game. She truly wanted to grab at every opportunity that Kids Camp could give her.

One special moment that really stuck out in her mind at camp, was about her counselors and how they have helped her love Jesus while at camp.

Besides finding a new love for Jesus, being at camp also means making new friends for Robin. She claimed she made a lot of close friendships especially this year.

Just by observing Robin’s passion, one could immediately tell Camp Mihaska was like a second home to this young camper, and she will no doubt be back for more Camp Mihaska next year.

The Importance of Literacy in Preventing Poverty

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

The culture of today’s society puts a heavy emphasis on literacy. If one wishes to be successful in said society, a formal education is almost considered a requirement. America has shifted from a farming-heavy culture to a technology-heavy culture.

Muscle and brawn are no longer desirable attributes for high-paying jobs. Education now is more focused on embracing technology and instructing students on computer programs, calculator functions and the like. English classes are geared toward teaching students to interpret and analyze literature to learn critical thinking skills that can be transferred to future careers. This means all education leads to the real world where employers require a background of education.

To be literate is to be successful in this world.

Literacy and formal education are so important for a successful career – therefore literacy is essential to preventing poverty. An education teaches students how to be responsible and driven, such personality attributes that are essential for real-world jobs.

Preparing work for a teacher is direct training for preparing work for an employer. If goals are presented to students, then they have something to work toward and rewards to look forward to. Having an education will keep kids focused on success and off the streets. It will keep their eye on the future, and a thriving future at that.

When reading is not seen as a daunting task, students are more likely to pursue an education. This is why The St. Louis County Library’s Summer Reading Program is so wonderful.

This program is partnering with The Salvation Army Day Camp and encouraging children to read during the summer, which will prevent the brain hiatus that often happens in the absence of school. Young participants of the Summer Reading Program are told to log their reading hours, and prizes can be won for those who achieve honorable levels of logged hours. Such a method makes reading enjoyable for children, and it maintains their education in the summer months.

When reading and learning are seen as fun, then children are more likely to finish high school and advance to college. If children get used to reading, then high school and college will be a piece of cake!

While college and graduate school are not required for all jobs in today’s world, if you want a specific career be prepared to work through an education to achieve your goal. This could mean trade school or a four-year university and beyond, but high levels of literacy are needed to complete all types of education.

Although education is hard work and sometimes daunting, it can be enjoyable. Long hours of reading, writing and studying lead to great rewards!

It also is important for children to see reading as a relaxing and gratifying activity. When one is among the hustle and bustle of the real world, having downtime to enjoy a good book is a gift, and this mentality starts during childhood.

For most students, school is where they find themselves. They discover whether they are interested in music, theater, math, biology, etc. They discover whether they want to work with people or computers.

Without the ability to read and analyze, along with having a desire to learn, children might never find their true identities. This is why we must encourage our children to keep reading. Strengthening children’s love for learning will allow them to excel with flying colors into the real world.

A New Life Because of The Salvation Army

By: Elizabeth Koch, Midland Division and Wanda Carson, East St. Louis Salvation Army

When Kimberly Baker (pictured left) first started visiting the East
St. Louis Salvation Army almost daily, she claimed she lived in a home with heat and electricity. However, after further inquiry, Salvation Army employees discovered Baker’s harsh reality – living without running water in an uninhabitable home, and stealing from the community center. Now, four years later, Baker lives independently in a decent home and receives social security benefits – all possible through the help of The Salvation Army.

When Baker began frequenting the community center, Lieutenant Katie Harris-Smith took Baker under her wing and offered loving support and guidance despite Baker’s erratic behavior. Baker continued visiting The Salvation Army regularly, eventually becoming a part of the Women’s Ministry. The relationship between the employees and Baker began to blossom, building trust and companionship between them. Employees, especially Lt. Harris-Smith and caseworker Wanda Carson, devoted their time and efforts to seeking outside support to help Baker.

At first, employees were unsure of how to go about getting aid – she did not have identification, a birth certificate or a social security card. Luckily, she owned a medical card, which led employees to her physician. The clinic social worker informed them that an outside person was required to assist Baker in applying for disability. The Salvation Army employees took that role, making progress to help the woman they had come to know and care for.

Lt. Harris-Smith and Carson received the copy of Baker’s expired identification that was in her medical file. Even after acquiring the identification, employees were unsure of what steps to take next. Baker was grateful for their efforts, and the trust between her and the Salvation Army employees grew stronger, and in time, Baker stopped taking items that were not hers. The employees at the community center not only provided her with help to get back on her feet, but also with trustworthy people she could call friends.

Meanwhile, Baker’s dilapidated house was torn down, forcing her and her teenage children to move in with the children’s father. Baker’s pregnant daughter soon moved out of the apartment, and Baker took the role of caretaker for her sick husband. She was finally living in adequate shelter with running water and a sufficient food supply.

While Baker adjusted to her new role as caretaker, The Salvation Army community center employees continued to make progress in her case and found an agency willing to assist them obtain a birth certificate. After receiving the birth certificate, Baker could receive identification free of charge because of a document from her physician that explained her disability. Baker and the employees then went to the Social Security Administration to apply for a social security card and acquire an application to receive benefits. All phone calls and mail were intercepted through The Salvation Army East St. Louis community center, ensuring Baker responded to calls and mailings on time.

As time progressed, the father of Baker’s children grew sicker, and the community center provided Baker with in-home medical supplies to assist her as she took care of him. He eventually went to the hospital, and was diagnosed with cancer, dying just a few days later.

Kimberly found a beautiful dress in the community center pantry to wear to the funeral, and the center purchased panty hose and shoes to complete the outfit. Lt. Harris-Smith and caseworker Wanda Carson went to the funeral to offer their support for Baker, with whom they had developed a close relationship.

Mail from The Social Security Administration continued to be delivered to the community center office, though there was no word about whether Baker was eligible for benefits yet. Baker’s landlord was concerned of how she could stay in the apartment with no income. A week after the funeral, Baker moved in with her daughter and granddaughter, while her son moved in with other relatives.

Baker continued calling the East St. Louis community center to say hello and to inquire about her benefits. Recently, the center received a letter stating Baker needed to call the local social security office. When employees called on her behalf, they were informed Baker was approved to receive benefits. Employees were overjoyed, especially since the application was just submitted five months earlier. When Carson called Baker with the good news, Baker was elated. The process was finally at an end for The Salvation Army East St. Louis community center employees – not only because Baker was living independently and receiving benefits, but also because they created a bond that made a difference in someone’s life.

Those interested in supporting The Salvation Army East St. Louis s to help change lives of people such as Baker, contact caseworker Wanda Carson at 618-874-3139 or email wanda_carson@usc.salvationarmy.org .

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