When Hurricane Matthew neared the Georgia coast I posted a small note on Facebook. That note has been forwarded now about 500 times and for that I am very thankful. My small reminder was that if persons felt inclined to give money to a charity for assistance to the storm victims, to please give that money to the Salvation Army instead of to the Red Cross or anyone else. I did that because I know the work of the SA personally. My admiration for that organization goes all the way back to my childhood.
My father was a volunteer in the U.S. Army in World War One. He rode a train from Texas to an open field in New Jersey, before being shipped overseas to France. I remember him telling me that when they waited in their tents in that muddy NJ field, they really had nothing. The Salvation Army came through and gave the soldiers coffee and sandwiches, and a bar of soap, a razor and a wash cloth and a towel. From then on my dad was an outspoken fan of the SA. Also, if you’re interested, I was born right in the Great Depression of the 1930s. My dad was a hard working man –but there were NO jobs. He did what he could often picking up jobs that paid 50 cents a day. One of my earliest memories is of a man in a Salvation Army uniform bringing a box of food into our two room home.
Fast forward to 1980. Atlanta had been good to me and I was doing well in my career. I wanted to pay back some of that generosity. So one day I just called the Salvation Army office and said I wanted to volunteer for them. I offered to do anything including “mowing their lawn” if that was what they wanted me to do. I never had to mow their lawn, but I did volunteer work for them for fifteen years. We were instrumental in starting the program that helps people who can’t afford it, to pay their electric bills, and to build up the food bank supplies. The money collected by the SA was later matched by the Georgia Power Company and later by local EMCs and that program now functions in every county in our state. At Christmas time they allow parents to come in and pick out “Santa” for their children who otherwise would have nothing.
As I said in my Facebook note, 90 cents out of every dollar you give to the Salvation Army goes to the people. At that time (the 1990s), a man and his wife, with children, who worked full time as SA employees had an annual salary of $7,000, below the poverty level, but none of them were food stamp recipients. I’m sure that their salary has gone up now, but I’m also sure it is still below what the government calls “poverty.”
I have never met such a group of unselfish people in my life. I learned to respect and love them for their work. There were a number of young people in their 20s who had devoted their lives to work for the SA. I never heard even one of them “preaching” or trying to convert anyone to Christianity or to accept God or Jesus. They don’t do that, no matter how devout they are in their personal lives. Other than their black uniforms, around me they were just like everyone else. Except, there is a look of “peace” on their faces that you don’t see on others. Their motto is “Heart to God, Hand to Man” and that is what they are all about.
Goodwill was started as a scam. A man collected clothes from people and then sold them to make money. The Red Cross has a public relations firm that often precedes them into any disaster area. You don’t hear much about the Salvation Army, because they are not into self promotion. They are here to do God’s work and they go about it without fanfare. Please keep them in mind anytime you wish to give your hard earned money to a real charity.