Tag Archives: homeless

Paying for garbage? Absolutely! (Especially if it benefits homeless services)



Want a way to start your August off with a bang? Well The Salvation Army knows exactly how to do that with our upcoming Garbage Bag Gala on August 2. The Garbage Bag Gala is a fashion show that benefits The Salvation Army’s homeless services and emergency social services.  The evening’s highlights include models in creations made of garbage bags and duct tape and an after-party on the roof of the Moonrise Hotel. We already have the models, the designs, and yes, the garbage bags. But we’re missing just one ingredient to make this night perfect and that’s you!

Tickets are discounted right now and the tickets range from $25 for admission to the show to $50 for admission to the show and after-party access. Just ONE day left to get these half-off prices to the Garbage Bag Gala.

Grab your tickets now while prices are still discounted until July 19at midnight. Hope to see you at the Moonrise Hotel on August 2 from 7-11 p.m.

An Earth Day view

This post is written by Dana Biermann, Digital Marketing and Communication Manager at the Divisional Headquarters for the Midland Division. She likes social media, and giving people huge hugs. Also, SPRINGTIME!

We have so much to be thankful for when it comes to our world.

We have been given a GORGEOUS earth filled with fantastic things for our amusement and appreciation. Just here in St. Louis we have some of the most wonderful green spaces and sites filled with beauty for our enjoyment. I remember driving through St. Louis as a young adult from Ohio and crossing over the mighty Mississippi in awe of the most massive river I have ever seen in person. I’d keep my face pressed to the window just looking at how huge that thing is. And when I moved here, I wanted to high-five the city of St. Louis for making a space such as Forest Park a priority and ensuring free activities within it, and the county for protecting parks for our quality of life.

Then again, I come from a place of privilege. I can leave the comfort of my home and break out of there to tap into these options. No, I’m not wealthy… I’m barely middle class. I live in an apartment with my new husband and have student loan debts and car payments, but we get by. And we can utilize these spaces when we know we can’t spend much for the rest of the week. And that’s just fine by us.

But enjoying the outdoors comes quickly into perspective when you work with people who call the outdoors the place where they sleep. It no longer is a place of retreat, it’s a place of survival; finding food out of the garbage from festivals, or trying to find an overpass under which you can sleep.

The Salvation Army wants everyone to get to a place where we can enjoy the good stuff, including faith. I’m paraphrasing, but our founder William Booth said that no one ever found God when they had a toothache–and the same goes for a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, feeling loved in our whole being and knowing that we are valued.

But we cannot get everyone to this place without you. More needs to be done to get the outdoors to be a place of refuge instead of a place of last resort.


The perfect recipe for comfort


This article is written by Ashley Kuenstler, Content Specialist for The Salvation Army Midland Division.


When you step foot inside the O’Fallon Worship and Community Center, the first thing you will notice is the smell.

If you allow your nose to guide you, you’ll weave your way through tiled hallways until you find the source. And on this particular day, it was roasted chicken, homemade mashed potatoes, and freshly baked bread.

“It’s almost intoxicating,” said O’Fallon Shelter Manager Peggy Sherwin. “It’s a host of smells that take me back to when I was a kid in the South, playing on the sidewalk and smelling the chicken from inside my grandmother’s house.”

These are the types of reactions Ayla Rashad wAyla orks every day to provide to the families of the O’Fallon shelter. Through some kitchen appliances, cooking utensils, and a variety of ingredients, Rashad has been serving up comfort to shelter residents for five years.

“Her food gives a sense of comfortability, security, and warmth that are so important to our shelter families,” said Sherwin. “Those aromas remind them of home and of better times; a perfect environment to get their lives back on track.”

Rashad creates home-cooked meals twice a day for approximately 30 people. Each meal consists of a meat, vegetable, starch, bread, and dessert – all from scratch. And on Fridays, she works double-time and prepares meals for the entire weekend. If you ask her to talk about this seemingly stressful job, she will illuminate the room.

“This isn’t a job, it’s me doing what I love every day of my life,” said Rashad. “Cooking is just what I’m meant to do; it’s my purpose. The only part that makes it a chore is the dishes.”

Rashad is passionate for not just her food – but the shelter residents as well. She enjoys getting creative in the kitchen to keep residents on their toes and ensure they enjoy every meal.

“One time a family of six was staying in the shelter and they were all vegetarian,” she said. “I had never cooked with tofu before, so I went into my kitchen and didn’t come out until I could cook meals they could eat, too. I think they were shocked to be in a shelter and have someone cater to them.”

Employees and clients alike agree that Rashad is the facility’s cornerstone, bringing people together around a dinner table for fellowship on a daily basis. When it comes to her cooking, there are only two things she won’t do: make boxed meals or use a microwave.

“I just can’t use it,” she said with a laugh. “I tried cooking minute rice in the microwave before, and it came out inedible. I couldn’t do it right. You want some rice? Give me a pot and some boiling water and I’ll make you some rice.”

During her tenure with the shelter, Rashad said her role was put into perspective when a neighbor from her childhood was a resident there.

“When I saw her in the shelter, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I mean, I knew this girl growing up; I knew her entire family. And I realized I could help her. I could help take care of her with the food I was making.”

“She loves engaging with the residents and genuinely cares about they want and need,” Sherwin continued. “You will find so much when you visit her kitchen: amazing food, plenty of laughs, fellowship, and that feeling of comfort; you’ll just never find any leftovers.”

To learn about how you can help cook at our Worship and Community Centers, please visit our Volunteer page. 

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 https://donate.salvationarmyusa.org/midland/yesfund.

12 Months of Giving

We were inspired by a great idea from Jenni Ragland, Associate Director of the Community Relations Department at The Salvation Army Alaska Divisional Headquarters. She created a 12 Months of Giving calendar which listed a new way to give back to Alaska communities each month of the year.

“It’s received a very positive response here! A local TV station prompted the idea by asking about how people could keep the spirit of giving alive through the year”, she said. “One of our Board members that owns a print shop is printing buck slips for each month that we can have to mail or hand out.”

Want to check it out? Click Here for Jenni’s Calendar!

We liked her idea so much, we decided to create a 12 Months of Giving calendar that can be used by anyone. Keep the Christmas spirit alive all year long and check it out (thanks again, Jenni!):

January: The Salvation Army loves re-gifting! As you clean out to make room for gifts received at Christmas, remember The Salvation Army Family Stores need your gently used clothing, household goods or cars to support the Adult Rehabilitation Program, as well as other Salvation Army services.

February: The coldest month of the year means those without coats are those with the most need. Consider sorting through your coat closet and parting with the unworn – somebody will be very thankful for your donation! With more than 12 sites in metro St. Louis, The Salvation Army can certainly find someone in need. Call us to see where you can deliver your donation at (314) 646-3018 or visit http://www.stlsalvationarmy.org to find your nearest location.

March: Adult residents in Salvation Army Transitional Housing have a variety of needs based on their circumstances. Your in-kind donations certainly help them through this tough time. Common donations include: toiletries, bedding, pillows, gift certificates for food, plates, silverware, clothing and toys.

April: April showers bring…well, flooding! We pray that natural disasters don’t happen, but if they do, The Salvation Army is almost always among the first to respond. By visiting our “Ways to Give” section on our website, you can designate your donation to a specific disaster campaign, helping those who are struggling in the aftermath of natural disasters.

May: Give back in small ways during National Salvation Army week, May 7-13! Click here for a number of ideas as to how you can “Do the Most Good” for everyone in your life during this week and beyond.

June: Send a kid to camp! Salvation Army summer camps offer fresh air, exercise and new friendships to children from low-income families. By donating $175, you can ensure a fun-filled week of sports, camping, arts & crafts, music development and many more adventures, for someone who would otherwise miss out.

July: Donate food! With school out for the summer, we see an increased number of families that need food assistance at Salvation Army food pantries. Help stock our shelves by organizing a canned food drive.

August: It’s back-to-school time! Help disadvantaged children in your community return to school with the right tools for success and confidence in the classroom. Donations include school supplies, backpacks and clothes. Find out what your local Salvation Army needs and then hit up the store to help out a local family in need!

September: School has officially started and Salvation Army afterschool programs will be looking for tutors and volunteers! Lend a couple hours after school, an ear and a helping hand to a child in need.

October: There are many homeless families enrolled in Salvation Army Family Service programs and who reside in temporary or long-term housing because of financial struggles. Consider lifting their spirits through gifts or basic necessities.

November: Ensure a disadvantaged child or senior experiences Christmas joy by adopting an angel through The Salvation Army’s Angel Giving Tree program.

December: Donate your spare change and say Merry Christmas to your local Red Kettle bell ringer! Interested in volunteering your time? Sign up as a volunteer bell ringer through your local Salvation Army unit.

Happy Giving, Everyone!

Reposted from Salvation Army USA blog.

New Year, New Hope, New Challenges


By: Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division

The bellringers who usher in the Christmas season so brightly with the jingle of their bell have put away their kettles for another year, but the Tree of Lights campaign continues through the end of January, and the work we do will continue for as long as there is support.

365 days a year, The Salvation Army provides homeless services, food pantry assistance, rent and utility supplements, youth programming, senior services, emergency disaster response, ministry and more. 82 cents of every dollar we receive from our donors goes directly into programming that changes lives in the St. Louis area.

Because the facts and figures for 2011 aren’t quite in yet, let’s take a look at the work of The Salvation Army in 2010.

In 2010, The Salvation Army’s Midland Division (Missouri and Southern Illinois):

  • Provided recreation opportunities at local community centers for 115,000 individuals, primarily low-income youth.
  • Assisted 170 individuals with more than 5,000 nights of transitional housing.
  • Distributed more than 39,000 toys at Christmas to children and families in need.
  • Served more than 50,000 people through feeding programs such as our community center soup kitchens located throughout the division.
  • Provided more than 170 individuals with access to affordable workforce housing in the Downtown St. Louis area through our Railton apartments.
  • Served 4,503 individuals at our Harbor Light facility which provides housing and rehabilitation services to veterans and homeless men.
  • Visited with and ministered to shut-ins, patients in hospitals, nursing homes and infirmaries. Distributed more than 27,000 gifts and publications to these individuals.
  • Gave more than 1,200 backpacks filled with school supplies to needy children who would otherwise have had to go to school without supplies.

In 2011, The Salvation Army Midland Division continued to provide service daily in all of these areas and more, as needed, while facing significant shortages and reductions in government support through tax credits and other programs. Individuals who once supported The Salvation Army financially began coming to seek out their own assistance and donations began to diminish. Natural disasters came in large numbers and epic proportions, and we answered the call to serve every time.

In order to continue being good stewards of the gifts God and donors provide, The Salvation Army cannot spend money than it receives in donations. Because of the reduction in support and the increase in need, we have had to turn away more and more requests for assistance, and it breaks the hearts of our staff and officers to have to do so.

We are hopeful that in 2012 we will begin to see a groundswell of support, that as we share the stories of the work we do, hearts will be touched and support will be given so that we can continue to change lives throughout the New Year.

Exciting work is being done in the St. Louis area and we are proud to be doing it. Thank you for your support, whether it be in spirit, in time or in dollars given. We simply couldn’t do it without you.

To find out more about how you can get involved in helping us in 2012, please click here.

To learn more about The Salvation Army’s programs, click here.

Empty Kettles: When The Salvation Army can no long help

On this Christmas Eve and final day of kettle season, we wanted to share the story of Kimberly, a woman we met last week who we were unable to help due to our limited resources. Please give generously today and always. Visit http://www.stlsalvationarmy.org to make a donation online.

Health & Humanity: One volunteer client finds volunteerism to be the therapy she needs

By: Danni R. Eickenhorst, Midland Division

Carol Lee Carter, 55, was diagnosed with COPD in 2002. As a career CNA for more than 15 years, the diagnosis was devastating. “I’d worked in hospitals and nursing homes all my career, and now I couldn’t lift people. I was out of work, and I wasn’t sure what to do.”

Carol found herself struggling to make ends meet once she lost her job, and she reached out to The Salvation Army in Granite City for food pantry aid. “I came in 2002 to get help,” she says, her hands smoothing out her scrubs as she speaks, “and I ended up volunteering. I’ve been here two to three days a week ever since.”

Carol’s illness requires her to keep active to keep her lungs from deteriorating, but to limit her activity. The volunteer work gives her the activity she needs, while allowing her to help others.

“I greet people at the door who come in for help, I work in the food pantry filling orders. Wherever I’m needed, that’s where I go.”

Carol notes that her favorite time to give back is Christmas, The Salvation Army’s busiest time of year. She enjoys taking part in The Salvation Army Christmas basket program and giving a hand up to those who need it most during the holidays.

“The Salvation Army will help anyone that comes through the door. It doesn’t matter who you are. They are willing to help. You don’t find that everywhere.”

Too young to give up hope

By: Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division, Content Specialist

During the course of a 20-minute interview, John Holt answers the telephone at The Salvation Army’s Alton homeless shelter five times, each time having to turn away potential residents. “I’m sorry,” he said, “We’re full right now, but if you call back tomorrow, I’ll let you know if anything opens up.” Each time he hangs up the phone, John seems genuinely sorrowful and full of regret that he can’t do more for the individual on the other end of the line reaching out to him.

John has a unique perspective on homelessness. Four years ago, John moved into The Salvation Army shelter in Alton shortly after his release from Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois. He arrived at the prison with nowhere else to go. “I’d broken into cars when I was a teenager and had three felonies by the time I was 17,” he recalls, “It was actually a blessing to get caught when I did, because I was paroled at 20 and still had time to start my life over and turn it around.”

It was at The Salvation Army shelter that John got his new start on life. Within the first weeks of moving in, John had already secured employment at the local McDonalds and became determined to pursue an education. Within 2 months, John moved out into an apartment with a co-worker.

Shortly after moving out on his own, John suffered a seizure. He was taken to the hospital, where he learned that he had a brain tumor that was cancerous. What followed was a nearly two-year battle with the disease. As he endured treatments and surgeries, he also reconnected with his family, and was able to have the support he needed to recover, and today he is cancer-free.

“It didn’t take the cancer to reunite us, necessarily, but it has been nice having them there when I need them,” he says, as he fiddles with a bracelet on his wrists that reads “Too Young for this Cancer,” an ode to an organization that helped him navigate the sometimes overwhelming world of cancer treatment.

Even as he underwent sometimes debilitating treatments, John continued working and has been working as a part-time monitor at The Salvation Army’s homeless shelter for over a year. “I love working here, because I understand what it is to be homeless. I’ve slept in the streets. I understand what they’re going through, more than most. In this position, I can connect people with the resources they need and do what I can to help out.”

Looking forward, the future seems to hold an abundance of possibilities, no small miracle for such a young man with such a tumultuous past. John attends Lewis and Clark College, with the aim of pursuing a career in radio. He hosts a radio show on the local college radio station three days each week. His backup plan? “I would like to pursue a career in social work, maybe work with the homeless that have severe mental disorders. Everywhere you walk, you see homeless people and they all deserve the chance to start over. I’d like to be a part of that.”

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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