A woman in her 30’s has just been released from a small company who had to close it’s doors after 40 years in business. The economy proved to be too much for this mom and pop operation so reluctantly but out of necessity, they had to share the news with their small staff, that this week was going to be their last. There were hugs and tears, yet for this single mother of 3, fear and uncertainty began to spread within her as she made her way to the car not knowing what her next step would be. She’d been with this company over 5 years, fielding phone calls and now every waking moment would be spent combing thru want ads in search of employment that would help to provide for her family. Throughout the summer, this mom diligently applied for job after job, while attending various job fairs. The phone wasn’t ringing, offers weren’t coming. She’d snag some houses to clean so she could make rent but she soon realized she’d have to apply for food stamps so they could eat, something she’d never had to do. She stood in line for 2 hours while her little ones chased each other around the waiting room. She began to pray as random names were being called over the intercom. She simply asked God for help.
As she poured over the Sunday paper, circling employment opportunities, she realized Christmas was just 3 months away and already her children were giggling with excitement about what could possibly be under that tree as images of toys danced across their television screens. She then came across a note from her daughters school that had info about The Salvation Army Angel Tree program. She scanned thru the items she needed to bring to qualify and the dates in which to register. She’d always been able to provide and to admit that she couldn’t now was a bitter pill to swallow. She set aside her pride and made plans to be there at the warehouse bright and early the next morning.
She pulled into the parking lot and was greeted by several hundred parked cars and a line that stretched the length of the warehouse. She grabbed her two babies and made her way to the line. After a few minutes the doors opened and they were greeted by staff who handed each person a number and directed them to a section of chairs. Numbers were called out and the next one was hers. She got up, 2 little ones in tow and sat down in front of the employee. They smiled and asked for her info, in which she provided and within minutes the registration was complete which included requests for diapers, clothes, shoes and winter jackets along with a few toys her girls had mentioned liking. After they were done, the staff person looked at her and asked if she would like prayer. The mom broke down as tears poured down her cheeks but her daughter quickly wiped them from her face. The employee took her hand and softly began to pray “in the name of Jesus” for favor and provision for this family. When she was through, the mom hugged her and felt hopeful for the first time in months.
3 years later, this mom entered our warehouse as a volunteer. She was there with her fellow co-workers from a local company to sort through the gifts that had come in and prepare them to be distributed to families. Upon entering the warehouse and seeing the vast rows of silver and red bags full of gifts for families, she stopped and wept. The Volunteer Director walked up to her and asked if she was alright. she replied, “yes.” “This just took my breath away because 3 years ago, one of these bags was for my family.” She was so grateful for her amazing job and the ability to provide once again as well as give back to the organization that had provided her with hope and prayer!
Christmas assistance via our Angel Tree program or with the ringing of bells at our Red Kettles is more than the collection of gifts or change for programming. It’s designed to be a beacon of hope and light, love and encouragement. It’s there to lift up the crushed in spirit and help them rise to who God has called them to be. Yes there are gifts in the bags we present to families but when it’s opened they feel the love and hope contained within. Strangers who spent their hard earned money on someone they never met, to help lift their spirits, let them know they are not alone and that someone cares. Others, that’s what it’s all about here at The Salvation Army as this week we continue to shine the light on our Angel Tree and Red Kettle program.