Category Archives: Gateway

The Wonders of Christmas Through a Child

The following is a guest post by Sheila Davis, Volunteer Coordinator for Divisional Headquarters here in St. Louis.

Beyond the gift buying and trying to think of something new and exciting for friends and family, adults can come to discover the deeper meaning of Christmas. But for a child the biggest wonder of Christmas is the anticipation of what might be under the tree on Christmas morning. And a parent’s greatest joy is watching their child tear into that gaily wrapped gift with abandon and exclaim, “It’s exactly what I wished for!”

But sadly, the struggle with larger issues like keeping a roof over the family’s head and the possible of not having enough food to get through the week make it impossible for some parents to provide even a simple toy at Christmas.  Too many children in our community don’t experience the wonder of Christmas that many of us take for granted.  Some wish, not for toys and games, but for a coat, warm clothes or even a bed that their parents simply can’t provide.

You can help provide the wonder of Christmas to thousands of children in our community this year by volunteering for one or two of our upcoming events.  Join us this Saturday for the Walmart Fill the Truck toy drive.  All stores are participating.  Volunteers are needed to hand out flyers at the store’s entrances explaining the program with customers and help with the collection of the donated new toys and coats. We have volunteer 2-hour shifts for volunteers available starting at 9am until 5pm.  This is great service opportunity for a small family or group or students needing to complete service hours.

The toys collected at this drive will be distributed at our Toy Town Christmas Assistance Program the week of December 17th at several Salvation Army locations. Volunteers are needed to help sort and bag toys and gifts and help distribute the gifts to our pre-screened clients.  We are recruiting volunteers for the following locations:


Salvation Army Family Haven CIP – 10740 West Page Avenue, 63132

Salvation Army Gateway Corps (South County) – 824 Union Road, 63123

Salvation Army Euclid Corps (North), 2618 N. Euclid Ave 63113

Please take a few hours out of your busy schedule this holiday season and help a child experience the wonders of Christmas.  To sign up for a shift for Walmart Fill the Truck or Toy Town visit, click on “Ways to Give” and then select Volunteer. For more information contact Sheila Davis at or 314-646-3166 or Larry Pliemann at or 314-646-3188.Salvation Army Temple Corps (South City), 2740 Arsenal St., 63118.




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.

Full Circle

By: Danni R. Eickenhorst, Midland Division

Marlene Brugere is finally back to work after more than three years of unemployment, following her layoff from Western Union in 2008.

“When I was first laid off,” recalls Brugere, “the interviews I had went well, and I would go home thinking ‘I got this one,’ but I’d never hear back from the employers. When the economy went belly up a few months later, the search became even harder. Suddenly, there were way more applicants than there were jobs…. I saw jobs that I was qualified for drop in pay steadily. Every 6 months, the jobs I was looking at would drop two dollars per hour and in time, I had to start considering jobs at minimum wage.”

Marlene and her son were given advance notice of their impending job losses, chose to stay at Western Union through the end of their term to take advantage of the various incentives offered by their employer for staying through until the transition was made. Given their previous job search experiences, Brugere and her son thought they would have significant enough savings to survive until they were able to find new employment.

“We prepared for a storm,” she says, “but not a hurricane.”

As the economy continued to worsen, so too did Marlene’s job prospects. “I went from September of 2010 to the summer of 2011 without getting a return call from any employer.”

In time, Marlene found that she had needs that her severance package and savings were unable to meet, and she reached out to the Salvation Army’s Gateway Worship and Community Center in South St. Louis. “When you’re in a situation like this for the first time, it’s scary to go in and ask for help. You feel like a bit of a loser, but the people I interacted with were helpful and supportive. They treated me with respect.”

As Marlene worked with social worker Mary Justvig to address her needs, she found that The Salvation Army would be able to assist her with both food and utility assistance. “Mary was able to assist me in paying for utilities. That first day, she also gave me groceries to take home also.”

In 2009, Marlene received a notice of impending disconnection from the gas company, and returned to The Salvation Army once more for help. “Mary was able to pay a portion of my balance due, and after that was arranged, I was able to make payment arrangements for the remaining balance. With that assistance, we were able to stretch what funds we had just a little bit longer. When you’re in a crisis like this, and you don’t know when it might end, it is pretty scary.”

The end of her saga finally came in September, when Marlene was offered a customer service job at the local office of a global corporation. “I feel like I won the lottery,” she says, “to have a job with potential, working for a company that can offer stability, I’m so thankful.”

Upon getting her first paycheck, Marlene vowed to give back to those who helped her. “When you go through a crisis like this, you wonder why God would let you go through something like this and it can become a crisis of faith, but organizations like The Salvation Army make the suffering bearable, showing God’s love in their work. The people I dealt with were supportive, encouraging and caring and I can’t say enough about what their help did for me.”

Upon receiving her first paycheck in September, Marlene returned to the Gateway Citadel once more, for what she hoped would be her final appointment with Mary. She brought a thank you card and a cash donation for The Salvation. “I know there are people less fortunate that are still working, and I  also knew that The Salvation Army would know who to give my donation to.”

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