Tag Archives: community center

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 .

By George, I think they’ve got it!

By: Sheila R. Davis, Volunteer Coordinator

“By George, I think they’ve got it!” That was my thought this past weekend.  We’ve been stressing to our kids how blessed we are and how we need to use our blessings to bless others.  Last week, my 4 year old twins pouted and moped when we gave to our church’s toy drive, “I need those toys.” said Lewis.  “No, you have more than enough, these are for who may not receive a Christmas gift,” said his father.   Lewis nodded, though I don’t think he was really convinced.  This Saturday, my ten year old son, Sam and I were out shopping and he saw a bellringer.  On his own he pulled out a dollar of his allowance and put in the kettle, usually I have to give him the money. Then he admonished me, “Uh Mom, where’s your dollar?” Last night Olivia saw me wrap a few presents for the Adopt-A-Family program and she said, “That’s not for us right, it’s for people don’t have Christmas.”  So she didn’t get it quite right, she’s beginning understand that there are many families who are in need right now.  In this “me, me, ME” society I sometimes wonder if my kids will learn to be grateful for their blessings and be giving in return. It is good see that the lessons are taking root.

Each year, we at The Salvation Army bear witness to families giving back. Whether it’s dropping a few dollars in the red kettles; volunteering to collect toys at one of our Angel Tree drives  or food at the annual Wehrenberg Cans Film Festival; or boxing food for needy families, parents are teaching their children that helping others is a natural thing to do.  Research shows that 81 percent of Americans who have volunteer experiences when they are young give to charitable organizations as adults.[i]  Once instilled as a child, giving becomes a lifelong tradition.

 We thank all the families who have helped The Salvation Army so far this year. It’s not too late to help this Christmas.  When you come across a bellringing, please donate. Better yet, a take a few hours out of your busy schedule and volunteer to ring as a family.  While you’re Christmas shopping, pick up one extra gift for a child in need and drop it off at your nearest Salvation Army Corps.  Your gift might be the only present a child receives this year.  More importantly the gift you’re giving your child is invaluable – the tradition of helping others.


[i]Young Volunteers: The Benefits of Community Service  http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/cd/2003/fs0323.pdf

…But what can I do?

We meet people every day that love the work we do in St. Louis, but are never quite sure where they fit in or how they can contribute to our mission and keep up with their own hectic schedules. Right now, we have a way that almost everyone can contribute and truly make a difference. Now through October 16th, you can go to www.STLGrown.com and search for “Salvation Army” and vote for us 100x every day. The top winners of the Monsanto Grown contest will receive a grant of $5K, $10K or $15K toward a program of their choice.

This year, we have chosen our job training program at our Temple Community Center, which has become critical for the unemployed in the city of St. Louis. Watch this blog over the next few weeks for profiles of the individuals we are helping through this program and others at our locations throghout St. Louis.

We thank you in advance for your vote and hope to announce our win in the coming weeks!

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