Category Archives: Harbor Light

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.

A Physical and Spiritual Transformation

By: Bethany Williams, Midland Division

Today, Tommy Windom, who doctors once said would never be able to walk again, believes that it is by the healing power of God he is mobile and leading a better life dedicated to service. At the age of 45, Tommy, a retired chef, has faced many physical and spiritual feats, but has found hope and faith thanks to The Salvation Army.

In December of 2010, Tommy started experiencing problems with his hand, which ultimately led to a decline in his mobility and paralysis in his right hand. This was trigged by a closed fluid line in his spinal chord and compressed discs in his back. With this diagnosis, Tommy was convinced that he was never going to be able to walk or use his hand again.

After three weeks of physical therapy in the hospital, Tommy was released, but faced the harsh reality of not having a safe place to live. With a dampened spirit and weakened quality of health, Tommy felt lost and alone. His family had relocated to other portions of the country, leaving Tommy without a support base to rely on.

Tommy’s case manager referred him to the Harbor Light Center and enrolled Tommy into the Respite Care program, specifically for homeless people with disabilities. The first Friday night he was at Harbor Light, Tommy prayed to God. Tommy asked God “What do you want me to do?” and questioned why God had blessed him with a roof over his head, food to eat and people genuinely care for him.

The following Sunday, Tommy attended the service at the chapel in the Harbor Light Center. Captain Moore asked the congregation, “Is God calling you to do anything?” It was this moment that Tommy realized doors started opening in his life.

“As soon as I said yes to God, everything else fell in line,” says Tommy. “Everybody has a purpose and their own free will. My will is to serve the Lord now.”

Tommy began to develop a closer relationship with God due to the ministry and The Salvation Army captains.

While living at Harbor Light, Tommy applied for disability coverage that would allow him to receive payments because of his inability to work. His request was approved. Two weeks later, Tommy also was granted social security benefits. Additionally, he was able to reconnect with family members, who had moved away from the St. Louis area.

Due to all of these blessings, Tommy felt a desire to help others that were in places of hardship and loneliness and to call them to seek refuge in the Lord.

“The more I gave, the more the Lord was giving to me,” says Tommy. “I spread God’s mission by challenging others to give their burdens to the Lord because He is always there, even during the hard times. The Salvation Army changed my life. The Lord showed me how he wanted me to serve and opened my eyes to my spiritual gifts.”

Recently, Tommy has completed his training to become a Salvation Army soldier and enjoys his time as a member of the Praise Team gospel choir.

“Joining as a soldier, I can give back and I can help,” explains Tommy. “The Salvation Army truly cares about people in all that they do. There is no better place to serve the Lord and people who cannot help themselves. This place has opened my eyes to have compassion and to be a free-giver. The love and good news he has given me is my duty to spread.”

Unexpected Freedom

Rowland Garner arrived in St. Louis in February 2011 expecting to be locked away in federal prison. In the days prior to his long bus ride from Detroit, Rowland said farewell to friends and family, sold all of his belongings and gave away what remained. With courage and conviction, he arrived at the Federal Marshall’s office to turn himself in.

Upon searching through federal records and databases, federal marshals informed Mr. Garner that he was a free man, that there was nothing on his record in Missouri, and that there were no other charges for which he could be extradited on his record.

“I should have been happy,” recalls Rowland, “but I was in shock, numb.”

Rowland started walking, thinking about what had gotten him to this point. “I’d been working in Michigan helping others with substance abuse counseling, when a member of my church came to me and asked me to minister to her son who was arrested in Missouri. I knew I couldn’t help him, because of unresolved legal matters, and that feeling of helplessness drove me to clear up the matter once and for all. “

Rowland had tied up all of his life’s loose ends, and headed to Missouri for incarceration. Now that he was a “free man,” he found himself homeless with only $30 in his pocket. As he walked, he found himself at 18th Street & Washington Avenue, where he sat at a bus stop to rest. When a gentleman heard his story, he gave him a bus transfer and asked the bus to take him to The Salvation Army, further down Washington Avenue.

“Sure enough,” he remembers, “the bus doors opened up and there was The Salvation Army.”

Rowland is a recovering addict and had suffered a lapse in sobriety at his farewell party. Because of this lapse in sobriety, the intake counselor at Harbor Light recommended that he reenter treatment to prevent the lapse from becoming a full relapse that might totally jeopardize his long-term sobriety. Rowland entered the Harbor Light’s sobriety program and stayed from February to the end of August 2011. Due to his experience as a substance abuse counselor in Michigan and his commitment to sobriety, he was invited to lead and facilitate some groups during his stay, including “Recovery with Jesus.”

 “I was living a life that was not totally pleasing in the eyes of God. This journey was a catalyst for change,” he says as he looks back on 2011 and the journey he took in obedience to God, “the staff and program here at the Harbor Light reinforced my sobriety, answered my homelessness need, provided needed resources and helped me to address medical issues.”

Embracing his unexpected freedom and the new path set before him, Rowland thrived in the Harbor Light program and now lives nearby in his own apartment and has established a new life in St. Louis, his one-time childhood home. Garner feels he still has much to offer, having a firm hold on his sobriety and faith, along with the necessary credentials, experience and passion to continue his substance abuse counseling career in St. Louis.

“Get out of His Way”: A Story of Addiction & Obedience

By: Danielle Eickenhorst, Midland Division, Communications Specialist

Brian Gordon, 46, was abandoned by his mother as a child, and given, along with his three siblings, to a grandmother who was charged with raising him. “It wasn’t a good experience,” he recalls, “My grandmother was raising me and my three siblings and she had 11 of her own children to care for.”

Lost in the shuffle, Gordon recalls that his first dalliance with alcohol came at the tender age of five. “My grandmother would set aside sips of her beer and sometimes put back some for us kids. She never knew we’d get addicted.”

At the age of nine, an aunt introduced Brian to marijuana, which he continued to use until he reached junior high school. In junior high, Brian made the very adult decision to stop using alcohol and drugs because the people in his life weren’t using and he wanted to be more like them, but growing up in a community of addicts and drug dealers, Brian still frequently found himself in trouble with the law, and once he reached high school, he began to deal drugs and returned to substance abuse, using speed and PCP.

Unbelievably, at the age of 16 Brian was convicted of fire-bombing a house in retaliation for an outstanding drug debt. “They tried to give me life in prison,” he recalls, “but the judge said he saw something in me and sent me to a boys group home instead.” Around this same time, Brian had another brush with death that would lead him to a life-changing decision. In another drug-related scheme, a man seeking to kill Brian mistakenly killed many of Brian’s friends.

“I knew God had something planned for me,” he recalls, “I’d escaped with my life and had almost gotten life in prison,” but he didn’t. Instead, while in juvenile hall, Brian came in contact with a pastor who helped him make the decision to turn his life over to Christ, a decision that would make all the difference for him 30 years later.

Despite his faith, Brian continued to struggle once he returned home. From the age of 18 to the age of 24, Brian became hooked on crack cocaine, saw two marriages fail and even attempted suicide. “I would go in for rehabilitation or treatment, but would always fail when I went back out, because I was going for external reasons – to keep a job, to make my wife happy…” he says, “It wasn’t until I got sick that it all came together.”

In May of 2011, after undergoing surgery for severe bleeding in his stomach, Brian came to The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light for respite care. The staff at Harbor Light helped him through the recovery, ensuring that he followed the necessary steps to heal, and making certain that he took all necessary medications. Through his 3-month involvement with The Salvation Army’s respite program, Brian was able to find sobriety, to reconnect with and develop a closer relationship with God and to ultimately, find an apartment of his own. He will celebrate six months of sobriety next month.

“My son even lets me keep my four grandkids now,” he remarks with a smile.

Brian is slated to become a soldier of The Salvation Army when he completes classes and graduates in December. He will ring bells through the holiday season to assist in The Salvation Army’s Tree of Lights fundraising initiative. He continues to look for work in the hospitality industry – either cooking or performing janitorial work.

Brian hopes that his decades-long struggle and the success that he has had through The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light center will be an inspiration to those in his family and circle who still struggle with substance abuse.

For those struggling with sobriety or other issues, Brian simply says, “I would tell them to put their faith in God. Let God to what he has to do and get out of His way. We must be obedient. I following him because I know God didn’t lead me this far to leave me.”

A Miracle in Me…

By: Danni Eickenhorst, Content Specialist, Midland Division

Odean Savage, 49, was born and raised in St. Louis, living out his youth as an active member of a devoutly Christian family. “My mother did everything right,” he recalls, but in November of 2009, Odean found himself at The Salvation

Odean has hope for the first time in more than 30 years.

Army’s Harbor Light facility on Washington Avenue, searching for direction.

After a 30-year self-described “tailspin” of addiction, Odean found himself homeless and hopelessly addicted. “I had nowhere else to go. I thought life was over for me. I had wasted the prime of my life in drugs, addiction and jail. I had lost a 10 year marriage. I got to a point where I wondered what I would do with the next 20 years I got left.”

At the age of 13, Odean found himself dabbling in alcohol and marijuana with cousins and friends. Through high school, he began using PCP and cocaine. He was able to finish two years of college and to hold down a number of lucrative jobs, but his addiction held ultimate control over his life.

“The types of jobs I had, I should have been able to retire on that income, but I could never hold down one for long.”

Odean tried several recovery programs over the years, but nothing seemed to “click,” and really help him make a lasting change. “I thought I would die in it, my addiction. I thought there was no way out for me,” he says.

Even when he arrived at the Harbor Light facility in November of 2009, he wasn’t certain he would be able to make the change. “I didn’t know if I would make it,” he remembers, “but I was open and accepting to it, and in the end, it was the spiritual component that really made the difference this time.”

Odean entered the Harbor Light’s recovery program and became active in the “Recovery with Jesus” program. “I saw everything I’d done in my life reflected in the bible,” said Odean, “and I started to read the bible and learn more about God. It made me want more of God, and more of God’s will. This is really recovery/spirituality.”

Savage began attending discipleship classes and became a soldier of The Salvation Army on Easter Sunday in 2010. He will celebrate two years of sobriety this November, and now lives a stable life on his own. Despite his incredible success, sobriety has been no easy task for Odean.

“Sometime it’s lonely,” he says, noting that in order to protect his sobriety he has had to cut out all of the people who were once in his life, “but I know that God will put the right people in my life at the right time, and for now I have all of my friends at The Salvation Army.”

The defense of his sobriety and spirit are foremost in Odean’s mind. “It took me a long time to get here. I wasn’t ready for a long time. I knew God, but had to come to Him in my own time. I now protect myself in ways I didn’t before,” he says, recalling that when he first left the program, he came to the Harbor Light every day of the week, just as if he never left, until he was able to feel safe being on his own. Now he comes a few days a week, but is able to enjoy independence, knowing that he is firmly rooted in his temperance.

 “I would walk down the street with no money in my pocket, so that if I wanted a drink, it would be a process to obtain the funds to get that drink. Now I know that I can have money in my pocket. I can go out to lunch from time to time. I can do these things and go on with my life.”

Odean has found happiness in a way of life he never imagined would provide such joy. “I now live on about [25%] of what I used to make, but I have my bills covered, and all of my life is devoted to giving back to God. I have such happiness, such peace of mind. I can relax and just focus on loving God… He promised to provide and he does.”

His goals for the future are modest. “It’s the simple things I want,” he says, “I hope to find a wife, a spiritual woman, and to keep living life in the Lord. I’m not expecting miracles, because God has already performed a miracle in me.”

Savage attends church several times weekly, volunteers for Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services, and shares his story with all who are willing to listen, in the hope that he can inspire others to find their path.

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