Tag Archives: Christmas

How does this make you feel?

I posed a question on our Facebook page about seeing the bell-ringers this time of year. There are several feelings that come about when you talk about Salvation Army bell-ringers–I’ve heard people say “Oh great, here they are again…” “STOP RINGING, that is so annoying” “Aww it makes me feel like Christmas is here!”… and on, and on. So I thought I would get some unedited Facebook commentary about how our dedicated volunteer army of fundraisers is being perceived. One comment summed it all up:

facebook comment

 

For the 350,000 people we serve each year, that bell and kettle means something special. It means a warm meal, and a safe place; it means the lights stay on, Christmas for your kids is not forgotten, and the opportunity to go to camp in the summertime. It means the chance to grow up healthy, to shed old habits, and to receive the help to build a path to a better future.

Most people don’t come to The Salvation Army when their lives are in perfect order. And just like you need to be prepared for a crisis BEFORE it happens, we prepare 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of people who need some extra help.

The Tree of Lights campaign is in full swing; we are raising the needed dollars it takes to keep the doors open year ’round and all of the money stays local. So whether you can ring the bell proudly, host your own (virtual) kettle, or drop some change in to support our programs, you are helping us keep the mission going.

Because we want to be there for you, too, should you ever find yourself on our doorstep. And we will welcome you–every single one of you–with open arms.

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With toys in hand, our community saved Christmas

Yesterday, we had to turn away hundreds of families after they stood outside in the cold because we ran out of toys. Because of the goodness that lies in this community, that changed. Here the article showing how you helped save Christmas:

 

Shortly after The Salvation Army announced it had run out of toys for “Toy Town” yesterday, the donations started. More than 24 hours later, they have yet to stop.

All day and night, a steady line of cars were lined around the block full of action figures, sports equipment, stuffed animals, and more, all from generous community members who heard The Salvation Army’s call for help.

“We couldn’t even move around inside the building there were so many toys,” said Social Services Director Kim Beck. “We were able to provide toys for every child who came through our doors today.”

Yesterday, the first walk-in day for “Toy Town,” The Salvation Army experienced an overwhelming surge of need. More than 300 families – almost four times the turnout of previous years – braved the cold to participate, depleting the Army’s reserve of toys.

Beck estimated more than 5,000 toys were donated today.

“We were expecting an even larger turnout today, and that’s exactly what we saw,” Beck said. “We were able to serve 337 families, each of them averaging 3-4 children. And we had so many left over, we were able to help others, too.”

Because of the community’s support, The Salvation Army was able to provide 300 toys to the West End Neighborhood Council; 25 toys to Preferred Family Health Care; and 50 to the King of Kings Church in Berkley.

“I’m still floored by the generosity of our community,” Beck said. “To those of you who answered our call for help, we love you more than words can say and couldn’t have done this without you. Staff members were crying because we were so touched by your generosity. Thank you for believing in what we do.”

I find myself tearing up as I write this post. We had some wonderful volunteers and staff that made a huge difference as well, as shared by an employee, Beverly Logan:

Jonathan Moore, the firstborn of Captain Adam and Deannie, Corps Officers, saw a young boy trembling from the cold conditions. He instinctively took off HIS winter jacket wrapped him in it and tied the arms of the over-sized jacket to create a warm cocoon for him.

Susan and Genevieve (college students on Christmas break)  volunteered to screen applications and with minimal supervision created a system to facilitate the process .  Their father, Mike Greathouse, is a driver for the Corps.  Their sisterly bond brought a calming effect that enabled the client process to run efficiently.

You have humbled us with your generosity, and we see Christ’s love shine through each and every one of you.

 

May you have a blessed Christmas.

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:

Kroc

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 www.stlsalvationarmy.org, click on “Ways to Give” and then select Volunteer. For more information contact Sheila Davis at sheila_r_davis@usc.salvationarmy.org or 314-646-3166 or Larry Pliemann at uscmidvolunteer@usc.salvationarmy.org or 314-646-3188.Salvation Army Temple Corps (South City), 2740 Arsenal St., 63118.

 

 

 

‘Tis (almost) the Season

'Tis (almost) the Season

It’s that time of year where in a few weeks, volunteers just like you will be out in full swing at grocery stores, department stores and other hot spots ringing that bell and helping raise money for our community. But we want to know what you think of when you see our bell ringers. Christmas dinner shopping? Wrapping presents? Poverty? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

And if you want to be a bell ringer that makes our work possible, sign up here.

A Baptism of Forgiving Tears

By: Major Kris Wood, Maplewood Officer

On a bitter cold and windy December Saturday in the year 2010, a Salvation Army bell ringer named Derek was about three hours into an eight hour shift when the wind shifted and blasted the bone chilling cold into his face, followed by small projectiles of ice crystals that pelted him in the face and bounced to the concrete at his feet. Derek shivered, and pulled his collar tighter around his thick football player’s neck. A woman passed by the kettle without noticing either the bell or Derek. “Merry Christmas,” Derek said with a smile on his face. He did not feel merry at the moment. It had been a long and bitter bell ringing season and his body was reaching its limit of enduring the battering of the winter weather and the constant echoing of the bell in his right hand. Derek told himself that he could make it through another day; suffering through the cold was worth it when he thought of all the people he was helping by raising money for The Salvation Army. He pictured a little girl he had seen at The Salvation Army building standing half hidden behind her Mommy’s leg as they waited for a bag of groceries from the food pantry. He knew that his bell ringing was making a difference in that little girl’s life so he rang the bell with more energy and forced that smile to stay upon his face.

“You stupid, &$#@#$!” someone said, standing only inches to his left, shouting at the top of his lungs the most horrible of all racial slurs. “Shut that bell up and go home where you belong!” the angry man continued. Derek, a large and muscular man, felt his fists tighten at his sides; the deep anger that only an African American man can understand when someone degrades him once again in such a brutal manner; well up inside of him. Derek stepped back, ready to defend himself from the angry man’s assault. “You heard me, boy!” the man shouted, and then entered the store that Derek was assigned to stand beside for the day. Catching himself before saying or doing something in response, Derek called out to the man, “Sir, You have a Merry Christmas!” With that, the life changing confrontation ended. The man was gone and Derek was left alone standing outside the store, ringing the bell, enduring the cold. Inside Derek’s mind words bounced around, questions arose and his anger seethed throughout his body. Derek decided to do what his Grandmother had taught him to do when someone mocked him or made fun of him; he prayed.
“Dear Lord. Please help that man. He’s so angry. Forgive him and help me to forgive him. Amen.”
Derek finished the day with a vehement purpose to make eye contact with and smile upon every person coming in and out of the store. By the time the Salvation Army van pulled up, Derek had seen customers fill two kettles with money; his best day ever on the kettles. The officer driving the van asked sincerely, “How was your day, Derek?” He smiled and reached out his hand to shake Derek’s hand. Derek hesitated just a moment, and then looked his friend, the officer, in the eyes. He saw caring and acceptance from his friend and shook his hand in return, nearly breaking the bones in the officer’s hand.
“What’s wrong?” the officer asked, seeing the momentary pause in the greeting, so unusual for the usually jolly bell ringer.
“Nothing,” Derek muttered as he took his place seated with the other bell ringers. The officer and everyone else in the van knew that something was wrong as Derek stared silently out of the van window as they drove toward the next kettle location. Derek usually filled the van with his joyful laughter and casual joking with his fellow bell ringers. He was known for his strong pats on the back, loud outbursts of laughter and his huge smile. Everyone loved Derek because Derek freely gave from his loving heart to everyone he met, no matter who they were, where they were from or what they had done. This day, there had been a change in Derek and all the bell ringers rode in silence, disturbed by Derek’s distance from each of them as his eyes scanned the trees rushing past the window.

After all the other bell ringers had left for home, Derek pulled his Salvation Army officer friend aside and told him about the angry man and the disturbing confrontation earlier in the day. The officer was upset and shaken by the entire event. He promised Derek that he would never have to go back to that location again. He promised that all people in the world did not look at others through bigoted eyes, scarred by prejudice and rage, but that most people were caring and kind and would never hate someone because of their race. Derek knew that it was all just a weak attempt to make him feel better but it was not working. “Major,” Derek interrupted. “That man, he ain’t so different from most others. I seen it all before. People do hate people cuz of their skin. It aint nothin’ new to me. Black men learn to accept it as just the way things are in the world.” The major was silent, embarrassed that his words had rung empty, the reality of the world crashing them to the ground.
“I’m sorry, Derek,” he said, unsure of what else to say.
“It’s all good, Major,” Derek said. “I look at it this way. That man needed to hear my Merry Christmas more than anyone else I have ever seen on the kettle. If he didn’t like me then that’s his problem. My job was to tell him to have a Merry Christmas and I did my job. I’ve got to let it go now or it will make me angry just like him, so I’m letting it go.” Derek waved his hands from side to side above his head as if releasing responsibility, stress and shame. Derek smiled and bear hugged the officer. “Put me back there tomorrow, Major,” he demanded.
“You sure, Derek?” the officer asked.
Derek smiled and said, “If I don’t go back and raise the money for the kids then that man and evil people like him win and I aint gonna let him win!”

One year later the wind was warm and blowing across the same parking lot moving spring like air into Derek’s face. What a difference a year makes. Sunshine was blinding his eyes and he rang the bell in his shirt sleeves, wearing no jacket. He was smiling and ringing the bell wishing everyone that past a Merry Christmas. A little old lady, so typical of little old ladies; small, hunched over, wearing a wool winter coat topped by a red scarf, glasses perched on the tip of her nose; smiled at Derek and said, “You are a jolly elf aren’t you?” Derek smiled and said thank you to the kind woman who put her money into the kettle. “I remember you from last year,” she said. “You have such a sweet smile.” Derek smiled his broadest smile.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” he said. “Merry Christmas to you.” The little old lady shuffled away behind her shopping cart, waving at Derek as she left. Derek looked forward to those moments when someone shared a kind moment with him, as if they brought hope back into a world that seemed to be getting harder to live in and in which to make a living.
“I’ve been looking for you,” a familiar voice said, once again catching Derek by surprise as he stood inches from his face off to the left of the kettle stand. The voice was THE voice of the man from the year before. Derek felt his heart start to beat rapidly; fear made his palms sweat and the hair stand up on the back of his neck.
“You didn’t listen to me, did you?” the man asked. Derek turned to look into the gray sunken eyes of the man. He looked older than Derek remembered, stress lines edging his eyes and dark shadows hanging beneath them.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Derek said. “But, I had to stay here and ring my bell so that we can help the little kids that need help. I wasn’t about to let you make me leave. You can hate me as much as you want, but I ring for the kids.” The man hesitated and stared into Derek’s eyes. Derek kept ringing the bell and met the empty stare with his own filled with kindness.
“I’ve hated you every day for the past year,” the man said. Derek was silent.
“I’ve hated you every day because of what you said,” the man continued. He looked down at the tops of his brown leather shoes and dug his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. Derek kept watching and ringing the bell.
“I have hated you because you told me to have a Merry Christmas after I looked you in the eye and called you the most horrible thing I could think of calling you.” Derek smiled in response. The man began to cry. Long streams of tears rolled down his wrinkled cheeks and his shoulders began to shake. He tried to continue telling Derek his story. “I’ve hated you because,…” He paused to wipe the tears from his cheeks. “Because when I was so horrible to you, you showed me kindness. I, I, … I didn’t deserve kindness, I deserved for you to hit me, to yell at me, to do something to hurt me back, but you didn’t. You didn’t and every single day of this year I have thought about that. Every day I have thought about why you didn’t yell back at me or punch me in the mouth, but every day I keep seeing you smile and tell me to have a Merry Christmas.”
The man began to sob again, this time turning his back to Derek to hide his shame. Derek put his large paw of a right hand on the man’s shoulder and said, “It’s alright, sir.” The man turned and buried his face into Derek’s shoulder and reached his arms awkwardly around Derek’s back. “I’m so, sorry,” he said. “I’m so, so sorry.” He cried out loud, sounding like a small child in Derek’s strong embrace. “It’s okay, sir,” Derek repeated.
“No, it’s not okay,” the man said. “It will never be okay. I shouldn’t have done that, I shouldn’t have…. Will you ever be able to forgive me?” he asked looking up at Derek as he continued crying against his shoulder. Derek gently moved the man away from himself and said, “I already forgave you last year when I told you, Merry Christmas.”
The man looked at Derek; bewildered, unsure, not trusting. It was too much to believe, too much to handle.
“You forgave me?” he asked Derek.

Derek gave his big, kind smile and said, “A year ago, sir. I forgave you a year ago.” The man backed away from Derek and prepared to walk away. Then, he stopped and turned back to face Derek and said, “You keep ringing that bell to help the kids and you have a Merry Christmas.”

Derek felt the healing of tears well up in his eyes and they flowed freely down his cheeks cleansing him of the past, freeing him from the pain; a baptism of forgiving. “Merry Christmas!” Derek yelled out to the parking lot in the man’s direction. The man turned and smiled at Derek and waved his hand high in return. Indeed, it was a Merry Christmas.

Observations of a bell ringer

By: Pastor Mark Stehlin of Bethesda Evangelical Church in South County

Many “Merry Christmas” wishes… a couple of “Happy Holidays”… smiles… kids… and a few looks that screamed, “Bah, Humbug!”

Last week a group of teens and adults from my church spent a couple of hours as bell-ringers for the Salvation Army.  It was a little chilly, but not too cold.  It felt good to be helping others.  There is also a sense of joy which comes in wishing someone a “Merry Christmas.”

Most people smiled and returned the “Merry Christmas.”  A few others returned a “Happy Holidays.”  I was a little surprised at the number of people who didn’t look happy or merry at all.  I’m not sure if they were on a mission to get their shopping done or if the whole season brought them down.

One little girl caught my attention.  She walked out of the store bouncing happily along with her mom.  We wished them a Merry Christmas.  The mom replied the same, but the little girl shot back the generic “Happy Holidays.”  The two walked a few steps further and then stopped to talk.  A moment later the little girl raced back to us, dropped a dollar or two in the bucket, and chirped, “Merry Christmas!” with the biggest smile I have ever seen.

Christmas brings out a variety of responses in people.  For some, it is a reason to party or spend lots of money on gifts.  Others take part in the celebration, but do so in open protest.  And then, there are those who embrace the season for all the right reasons.

I love Christmas!  I cherish the time with friends and family.  I get jazzed by the decorations.  I have even been known to sit under the Christmas tree with all the room lights out just staring in wonder.  I also enjoy standing in the front yard with our dogs looking at the lights on other people’s houses.  It is such a beautiful time of the year.  I still enjoy, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and “The Santa Clause.”  The thing is though, without Jesus it’s all meaningless.

Not only is Jesus’ birth the reason for the season,  His birth gives light to life.  He is the creator with the Father.  He is the author of salvation.  He is the King, the Redeemer, our sacrifice, Emmanuel, the Lamb who was slain, the Lion of Judah, the Covenant Mediator, the Prophet, the babe in the manger… and most importantly God who came in the flesh.    Jesus came because God loves us.  Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with each of us.  To think that the Creator of the universe is interested in a relationship with us is mind-boggling.  But, that is the message of Christmas – God come to earth to save us from our sins!  I never tire of hearing it!

My prayer is this Christmas finds you with family and friends celebrating the birth of our Savior!

Mark

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

Every time a bell rings…

By: Valerie Murray, Estate Coordinator, Midland Division

Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

That’s the phrase ZuZu says at the end of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

Bells are ringing all over right now. Church bells, jingle bells, concerts, and of course, Salvation Army bells. The bell ringers are out in full force. If what ZuZu said is true, many angels have been promoted to Angel 1st Class this season.

However, our bell ringers aren’t out there for the celestial angels. They are ringing for the angels we can see, hear, and touch: They are there for the little children hoping that Santa doesn’t forget them this year. They are there for the mother who needs help feeding her children and the veteran who finds himself without a home. They are there for an elderly man who visits the adult day care center while his son is at work; and don’t forget the camping programs for children who may have no other access to exploring and enjoying the outdoors. They are there for tornado victims, overwhelmed by the destruction around them.

Our angels don’t get wings. What they get is our love, care, understanding, and prayers. They get our promise that we will be there when needed, not just at Christmas, but also all year round.

When you pass a bell ringer this season, give him or her a knowing nod of your head and a smile. You know what they are doing when they wave that bell back and forth. They are helping our angels.

Letter from a Volunteer

Sheila Davis received this report from a volunteer who recently manned our Angel Tree station. collecting gifts and distributing tags with her daughter. These words touched out heart and we wanted to share. We are so thankful for our volunteers! To review and sign up for volunteer opportunities, click here.

“Lindsey and I have a GREAT time yesterday! We got there around 1:30 – got it opened by security – and waited for a couple who brought some gifts by around 4:15 – then had security close us down.  Overall we had 12 tags taken and 4 gifts returned.  It was a great joy to see my girl understand that those four gifts meant that four children were going to have a present under their tree this year… She danced to try to get peoples attention to take a tag…

When the people showed up with gifts – she looked at me and said “I understand mama – these are going to make children very happy Christmas morning!” 

Sheila – I had to go behind the black curtain to “get more tags” just so I could wipe the tears from my eyes.  It was nice to see her realize at 9 that what she did for a simple 3 hours made a difference in four peoples lives yesterday!  We look very forward to doing this again on the 12/10 from 10-12.  I am not sure if you have her/us assigned for that date/time yet but please do b/c it was very rewarding!  
 
Looking forward to help with the can food drive at Wehrenberg (I think Lindsey has about 20 of her friends families coming up!) as well as being and “angel” again on the 10th! “

A tip of the cap from Scrooge…

by Tom Kovach, Major Gifts Director

In the Sunday’s Business edition of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the headline reads: Worthy charities earn Scrooge’s nod. It was written by Jim Gallagher, a well respected columnist for the newspaper.  Mr. Gallagher starts the article off by saying the older he gets, the more like Scrooge he becomes. He takes this approach to charity for 11 months of the year. 

Then after Thanksgiving, a strange malady overcomes him and Mr. Gallagher writes: “A warm and giddy feeling (a fever, perhaps?) grips me, and before I regain my senses, I write a bunch of checks. The Salvation Army, the St. Louis Area Foodbank, a couple of homeless shelters……” He goes on to pen that “we sufferers from Seasonal Charity Disorder need professional help.”  Mr. Gallagher is open and humorous with how he feels about giving to charity but the most important point the article made was: “When that warm and giddy check-writing impulses grips you, be sure you’re giving to charities that really do what they promise.”

Our promise to you is to continue to be accountable and transparent.  Eighty two cents on the dollars is distributed to programs and services in the St. Louis area and The Salvation Army takes a tremendous amount of care with your investment.  For example, the area that I specialize is major gifts and they come in all sizes from corporations to individuals and the best way to describe the collage of our donors was at the recent Tree of Lights kickoff luncheon.  A potpourri of donors were present- Edward Jones, St. Louis Design Alliance, St. Louis Equity Fund, AT&T, Albert Arno Heating and Cooling just to name a few.  New and current Salvation Army Midland Division board members mingled with guests.   This event was a mixture of brand new investors to The Salvation Army and our dear friends who have supported The Salvation Army for many years.

Whether you are a first-time donor or you make your gift in December each year, I highly encourage you to open and read prior testimonies from our social media pages to actually see how we make a difference in people’s lives!  The Salvation Army is a charity that really does what we promise.  Read what we do from these moving stories written by our Contest Specialist Danni Eickenhorst, officers and staff members, then decide at what level you think we are worth—it can be $50, $100, a dollar a day ($365), $2,500, a gift of stock, IRA contribution or much more.

You will find and rest assured your donation to The Salvation Army – no matter at what level– to be a positive, uplifting return on investment for the St. Louis region.

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