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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