The Salvation Army has been providing “Soup, Soap and Salvation” since 1865 and we are all over the world; currently in 117 countries serving those in need with a hot meal and love!
Here in Nashville, we have two incredible feeding programs that are designed to provide a hot meal, but alongside that; provide the opportunity for volunteers and staff to get to know those we are serving. Hear their stories, check on their day, share in their hopes and dreams and encourage them as they cope with let downs and obstacles. The Salvation Army is here to feed the body and the soul but honestly you can’t have one without the other, eventually you’re hungry and need that emptiness filled.
On Tuesday mornings since 2004, The Salvation Army has hosted a Breakfast Brigade on board our 16 foot canteen. Volunteers help prepare sausage, eggs, toast and hot coffee for many of Nashville’s homeless and we do this feeding on Main Street right in front of the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry. I have been a part of this program since 2005 and have savored the friendships I have established over the years with the folks who call the street home. There are many who truly do not want to be disturbed and you respect that accordingly, but there are many who feel so all alone and are yearning for some conversation that may provide them with hope or guide them in the right direction so they may possibly transition out of homelessness and into independence and functioning in society once again.
On Friday nights, since 2006, The Soup Wagon has headed out under the Jefferson Street bridge to hand out sandwiches, soups or stews (sometimes some fantastic chili, thanks Dani!), salads, breads, sweet tea, water and coffee. Our numbers are usually higher in the evening and many new faces each and every time. Many of these folks reside under the bridge. They have their tent with everything they own nestled in the brush that is close to the river front. When they hear the canteen, they scramble up the embankment, grab a plate and sometimes head back, but majority of the time; enjoy hanging out with people they know or chatting with the volunteers or staff. For the longest time we featured “The Red Shield Sessions” which consisted of area musicians who played familiar tunes as folks enjoyed their meal. These musicians even had the homeless get up and sing a few songs and this always made their day. So many were incredibly talented too, belting out some Merle Haggard, George Jones or even Bon Jovi! It was a great experience and we are currently trying to round up some more musicians…so if you or someone you know would be interested, let me know.
I encourage all of you to consider checking out one or both of these programs. We have individuals, church, corporate and civic groups and families participating every week and it’s neat to watch how involved they get, so much so that people prepare muffins, cupcakes and cookies to bring the next time they go and some volunteers track who’s going to have a birthday and they make them a special cake in honor of it. It’s all small stuff but means so much to those who think no one cares.