Category Archives: Homeless Shelter

Pictures of Garbage

The Garbage Bag Gala was great success, and we raised almost $13,000 for our hunger and homeless services! So may we now present to you… Pictures of Garbage (fabulously designed, of course)!


Aaron Perlut gets into character in June Grieg's design

Aaron Perlut gets into character in June Grieg’s design


Erin Willmann and Bryanna Hampton model their garbage bag designs with a new Fiat from our sponsor, Lou Fusz

Erin Willmann and Bryanna Hampton model their garbage bag designs with a new Fiat from our sponsor, Lou Fusz

This lovely model sports Project Runway Season 8 star AJ Thouvenot's Garbage creation
This lovely model sports Project Runway Season 8 star AJ Thouvenot’s Garbage creation


For all other pictures, check out our Flickr page.



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.

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

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.

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.

Shelter Director Awarded For Efforts

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

Shocked, emotional and finally humbled – Toni Wells experienced all the following emotions and so much more when presented with an award for her work at the Booth House. Her selfless dedication has not gone unnoticed by her co-workers and the veterans who find refuge in Toni at the Booth House. This is why she received the award from the Veterans Assistance Commission of Madison County for her hard work in providing emergency shelter services.

Bradley Lavite, Superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Madison County, awarded her this honor April 19 at the Madison County Continuum of Care annual meeting.

“She was very excited and a little caught off guard that she was actually thought of,” says Lavite. “Her husband was a service member, so that brought it home for her that someone would recognize her as well. I think it pulled some heart strings for her.”

Toni says she responded exactly how Lavite described.

“I was very, very shocked,” describes Toni. “I mean, totally taken aback. I had no idea that they would be honoring me in such a way,” she laughs as she finishes her thought. “They got me pretty good.”

Toni seemed to be so surprised because being partners with Lavite means she does not get singled out for her work.

“We’ve been working pretty close together,” says Toni of Lavite. “I’m always making room for somebody Brad’s got. It’s not all me, I really appreciate that he recognized me, but it’s a team effort.”

Toni Wells is the Shelter Director of the Booth House in Madison County of Alton, Ill., which provides shelter and support for homeless veterans. As shelter director of the Booth House, she acts as the link between veterans in need and the Salvation Army. When a homeless veteran seeks her out, Toni immediately gets them on a path back to success. She examines each case for whatever services the homeless veterans necessitate, and finds support from the community.

Lavite explained veterans have to go through a program that helps them find work and various other life key markers. When veterans enter the program they have to agree to hit milestones of success, and Toni makes sure they follow through with this commitment.

The Booth House is just like any other Salvation Army homeless shelter. It is used as a safe haven specifically for homeless veterans, and a place for them to get their lives back on track.

“We use The Salvation Army as a bridge to get them to immediate housing and get them to work in the community,” says Lavite. “And Toni is always very active in providing that.”

Toni Wells takes this job very seriously, and views it on a personal level. She takes it upon herself to find opportunities for success and more permanent housing for these homeless veterans.

Toni remarked on how the work of the Booth House is so touching.

“My father and my husband are both veterans,” explains Wells. “When the veterans have someone advocating on their behalf…they fought for this country, and now they get benefits that are due to them. It’s remarkable when you see the miracle happen. We make one or two phone calls and everything happens for them, and that’s the beauty of it all.”

Not only is she a hard worker, but she also achieves all of this with the utmost positivity.

“She has a very friendly, personal demeanor,” says Lavite. “She makes it a very easy process. She is very well liked in the veteran population. Toni always goes out of her way to those that are in need of housing.”

It seems these veterans in need could not have asked for a better person to direct them. This is the only kind of shelter that is available in Madison County, and so they work very hard to meet these lost veteran’s wishes. Because of the high demand of this shelter, the Booth House is very fortunate to have such a dedicated director as Toni Wells.

Give a Night, Get a Night

Special Room Package at Moonrise Hotel for Garbage Bag Gala

By: Elizabeth Koch, Midland Divison

Booking a room at the Moonrise Hotel for the night of Garbage Bag Gala on July 27 not only provides guests with a place to crash after the event, but also a donation to The Salvation Army’s shelter program thanks to the Give a Night, Get a Night promotion.

To continue the theme of raising awareness about homelessness, The Moonrise Hotel, the venue for Garbage Bag Gala, will donate the equivalent of what a one-night stay in a Salvation Army shelter would cost to The Salvation Army Shelter program. This rounds out to $53, or about a quarter of the overall cost of a one-night stay at The Moonrise.

“Give a Night, Get a Night” only applies on the day of Garbage Bag Gala, July 27, and capacity is limited, so hotel guests are encouraged to make reservations as quickly as possible.

The luxury boutique Moonrise Hotel is unlike any other hotel in St. Louis, with a modern one-of-a-kind design. Guests have much to see and explore at the Moonrise Hotel including a color-changing wall and staircase in the main lobby that lead to the lunar-themed artistic displays at Eclipse Restaurant. Guests also can travel up to the eighth floor to the Rooftop Terrace Bar and enjoy the breathtaking view of The Delmar Loop under the world’s largest man-made moon.

To do your part and raise awareness about homelessness in St. Louis, purchase a ticket for Garbage Bag Gala on July 27 and reserve a room for that evening at the Moonrise Hotel before it’s too late.

An Inside Look at the O’Fallon Family Shelter

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

The O’Fallon Community Center is a
beautiful location of five acres complete with food pantry, shelter, chapel, playground, multipurpose room, nursery, garden and even a trail in the woods where residents can enjoy “prayer walks” with Captain Paul. On Tuesday, May 15, this community center hosted an open house and tours for the public to view its wonderful facilities. While along one of these tours, I learned that this community center is not simply a shelter, but a home where lost souls can piece their lives back together and revive themselves.

Captain Paul made it apparent that people seeking out the O’Fallon Community Center are not so different from our own family members.

“We are seeing more and more of our neighbors,” says Captain Paul as he began the tour. “Things are tight, and these are people you wouldn’t expect.”

Homelessness can strike anyone, especially in this tough economy. Of course, The Salvation Army does not discriminate against anyone who seeks their help.

“We are first and foremost a church,” Captain Paul claims. “Jesus took care of people, and so we do the same. Jesus didn’t ask where you’re from.”

All who come to the O’Fallon Community Center will receive help in some way, whether it is a shopping cart full of food, a safe place to live or assistance in finding a job.

This shelter wants to see its residents get back on track and return as active members in the community. As soon as a family or a single person checks into the shelter, a specified plan for their recovery is arranged in accordance to each family’s individual needs. A pathway to employment is set in place, and residents are required to attend classes at the shelter, which remind them how to properly participate in society again. These include classes on cooking, decorating, how to shop, how to keep the home neat, among many others. In addition to classes, both Captain AmyJo and Captain Paul mention the commendable relationship this particular shelter has with local school districts. Both Captains made the same comment: “The buses pick our kids up first and drop them off last, so no one has to know they are shelter kids.”

With help from classes and school districts, it is clear the shelter wants to see residents regain their place in society, but the shelter also wants to rebuild them a place in their own families. To help with this phase, there is a spacey dining room in which families are encouraged to eat together, and the children often set the table like in a traditional family. A warm and homey common room is great for families to watch television, play games, or read together. This facility runs a wonderful operation that focuses on keeping traditions alive and learning how to be a family again.

“Homelessness does not happen overnight,” remarks Captain AmyJo. “Sometimes families see months or years of crisis before they come here, and so the family system itself has blown apart.”

The O’Fallon Community Center is committed to rebuilding this family dynamic.

The residents of this facility have been through tragedies, and so they are offered a place to land where people love them and where they can make a life for themselves.

“We want the community atmosphere,” states Captain AmyJo.

That’s why the O’Fallon Community Center offers classes, a youth program that hosts activities Wednesday evenings, chapel services and so much more. This beautiful facility provides an environment where families can enjoy each other, enjoy a sense of togetherness and even take the time to enjoy nature!

It’s apparent the O’Fallon Community Center is more than meets the eye. Captain AmyJo comments on the trustworthiness of this facility.

“This is a system to get better, not just a place to crash,” she says. “We take people from homelessness to part of the economy. We’re not a shelter, we’re a program.”

This last statement wholly sums up the work of The O’Fallon Community Center. This is truly a place where compassionate, understanding and giving workers of The Salvation Army carry out God’s work.

Visit to Shelter Inspires Students to Learn About Homelessness

By: Bethany Williams, Midland Division

The staff at Family Haven felt
“blessed” to have eighth graders from St. Joseph’s Day School in Imperial, Mo. provide hours of service for the shelter on April 12th.

The group of students cleaned the Family Haven Child Center, a high-traffic playroom in the family shelter which serves up to 50 kids daily. Additionally, the students dug in and assisted the shelter with picking up the grounds, and deep-cleaning the dining area and administrative floor.

“Our group realized that what we accomplished in two hours would have taken the single groundsman days,” says 8th grade teacher Debbie Thomas.

After taking a tour of the facility, Mrs. Thomas challenged the students to imagine their family living in a small space without their daily pleasure such as iPhones or televisions.

“This experience has allowed my students to realize just how fortunate they are,” says Mrs. Thomas.

The experience at the shelter inspired Thomas and her group to take on the shelter as an ongoing project. During their tour, they learned more about the needs of the shelter, and Mrs. Thomas is hoping to work with her class next year to host a drive to meet those needs, collecting items such as stuffed animals, blow dryers, toiletries and books to provide comfort to the residents at Family Haven.

The group has spent much of the year doing extensive work and study on the issue of homelessness, and their volunteer service with The Salvation Army’s Family Haven shelter rounded out a year of exploring the important topic. Thomas says the trip to Family Haven reinforced an appreciation among the students for what they have, and a desire to help those who are less fortunate.

Family Haven’s staff warmly expressed their gratitude for the service provided by the students of St. Joseph Imperial,“The students are dedicated to the aspect of their religion that addresses serving their fellow man.”

Family Haven is a Community in Partnership program serving the homeless population in St. Louis. The program lasts 120 days where each resident is assigned a case manager and counselor to help them obtain a job and housing.

Their mission is to empower St. Louis residents to come to a place of self-sufficiency. Click here for more information on The Salvation Army’s homeless services.

A Partner in Parenting Today’s Homeless Youth

In recognition of National Homeless Youth Month, we are featuring the work of Shalonda Haynes, Educational Coordinator for our Family Haven Shelter.

By: Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division

The Salvation Army’s Family Haven shelter houses between 40 and 50 homeless children at any given time. “Most of our families have been doubled up with another family, couch surfing as long as people are willing to put them up, and then they reach the end of the line with nowhere to go,” says Shalonda Haynes, Educational Coordinator for Family Haven.

“My job is to help our clients regain self-sufficiency, while looking out for their children,” she explains. Shalonda ensures that children that enter the shelter are enrolled in school within 24 to 48 hours of entry. “By law, these children are allowed to remain in their home school district, or they can transfer to Pattonville, our district. I assist the parents in making certain that they can get their children enrolled, and serve as the family’s advocate in the education process.”

At Family Haven, Haynes serves as an advocate for resident children in disciplinary processes, working to coordinate cooperative solutions between her families and schools, and ensuring that the rights of all parties are recognized throughout the process. Children who may have educational diagnoses or development delays are assessed by Haynes, and referred to the school district or Parents as Teachers for further analysis. Shalonda remains as involved as the parents’ wishes dictate throughout diagnoses and implementation of a formal education plan.

The typical stay for a family at Family Haven is less than 5 months, but Haynes continues to work with children and families long after they have left the shelter. “By helping the children, I am also helping the parents to parent better. I continue to be involved with these families for as long as they need me, to ensure that their needs are being met by schools, parents and the like.”

“Many of my parents are dealing with [the Department of Family Services]. I work with them to establish visitation, to strengthen their parenting skills through our mandatory parenting classes, and I accompany them to their court and administrative hearings to make sure they have someone who can explain their rights to them throughout the process,” she says, “These parents come into our shelter with a lot on their plate, and sometimes their children’s education takes a back seat. They are still wrapping their brains around being homeless, and we have to throw a lot of stuff at them upon arrival – tasks that need to be completed in a timely fashion in order to get them on their feet again. They need a partner to step in when they just cannot do it all.”

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