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90: Pathway of Hope: Why we need community with Trina Crawford

This season, we’re exploring The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope—a national initiative to provide individualized services to families with children, addressing their immediate material needs and providing long-term engagement to stop the cycle of poverty.

Last week, we heard from an expert at the Urban Institute on the state of poverty in the U.S., what it means for families and the strategies that point to a way out.  

So what does that kind of support look like day-to-day?

Maybe that axiom is correct: It takes a village. 

You’ve heard that one before, right? It takes a village to raise a child. But what if the same is true for all of us, child or not? 

Perhaps we need each other. We need community.

That’s what Trina Crawford will tell you. 

As the Director of The Salvation Army Service Center in Havre, Montana, Trina becomes part of that village for those in the Pathway of Hope. She becomes a daily fixture in their lives, checking in with them, providing tangible help and resources, directing them toward community and reminding them of the hope that exists in Christ.

How does she do it? Why does she do it? And what impact has she seen through the years? 

(And stay tuned later in this episode for a special guest appearance…)

Show highlights include:

  • A picture of life in Havre, Montana.
  • Trina’s experience being born and raised on the Wind River Indian Reservation, her upbringing and what led her to pursue a career in social services.
  • What the Pathway of Hope, and the approach Trina has taken for many years, entails for participants.
  • Trina’s personal mission—why she does this work.
  • One story that has stuck with her through the years.
  • After many years advocating for and supporting clients, what Trina has learned along the way.
  • Why Trina believes this kind of program works with a long-term commitment to an individual and their future. 
  • The power of hope.
  • Why faith and getting plugged into a faith community is an important aspect of the Pathway of Hope. 
  • What Trina would want you to know about hope and how to find more of it in your life. 

Listen and subscribe to the Do Gooders Podcast now. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

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Christin Thieme: Well, Trina, welcome to the Do Gooders Podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. 

Trina Crawford: My pleasure. 

Christin Thieme: Can you tell us a little bit about life in Havre, Montana? Paint a picture for us of what it’s like in your town.

Trina Crawford: So, Havre, Montana, is north-central Montana. We are 20 miles from the Canadian border. So we’re very north and are between two reservations. We have the Rocky Boys Reservation that is 16 miles from the town of Havre on the west side of us. And we have the Fort Belknap Reservation that is 40 miles away from us on the east side of Havre, right on Highway 2. We are a small town. We’re less than 10,000 people. And we don’t have a lot of resources in our community. We are very rural and, the biggest towns, the biggest areas that are closest to us are Great Falls, which is two hours, about two hours away, Billings, which is three hours away. And then you get into some of the others that are more hours away. So we’re just kind of stuck in the middle of just a little, lots of rural, lots of farmland and those kinds of things.

Christin Thieme: Okay. Small town. I like it, less than 10,000 people. You must know a lot of your neighbors.

Trina Crawford: You know, it’s okay. So what’s funny. Yeah. So yes, in the community of Havre where, you know each other, you get to know each other and that’s definitely sometimes part of the challenge for people, for sure. But it’s also great to be able to know that your neighbor might know that you’re in need and they might be willing to help you. And so, you know, that happens a little bit more too.

Christin Thieme: You mentioned the local reservations. I know you’ve told me that you were born and raised on a reservation. Can you share a little bit more about your own upbringing and maybe what led you to pursue a career in social services?

Trina Crawford: Sure. So I was born and raised on the Wind River Indian Reservation out of Wyoming and born and raised there until I think I left there when I was 20, 21 years old. Pursued college and did a little bit of college. And then when that didn’t work out for me, I ended up going to work and moved out on my own at that point. And so being on the reservation, again, very rural, very small community, having grown up and being around—my playmates were Native Americans—being around them so much, I just naturally kind of have a love for Native American anything and just Native American culture in general. And, and so in my career, I was offered a job and once we moved to Montana, my husband and I, and my three kids moved to Montana, I was involved with a Headstart, cause one of my youngest sons was in Headstart.

And so, the Headstart program is a program where they ask for a lot of parental involvement. And so I was very, very active and very involved in the Headstart program, just as a parent with my youngest son being in it. And, eventually they offered me a position to become a family advocate to Headstart. So I was looking for a job at the time. And so I was like, okay, cool, I’ll take this. And so they trained, they trained me up and started me in lots of good training through the Headstart program of, into the family, being a family advocate. 

And it’s just morphed into more, more and more social service type work. I started to work for a program that was a government, federal government program in, that would be in the 90s, that was called Family Partnership. And we’d go into the homes of people and help assess needs and help break down barriers and help them maybe step over the things that were causing them to not be able to succeed. And so that just kind of fit naturally and without social service part of it. And so, then I had a grandchild born in that program and so I got to stay home for about three years and raise my grandbaby while her mom was going to college. And eventually, I ended up going back to work. And at that time, as I was seeking jobs, it seemed like every time everywhere I was turning, every job I was applying for, that there was just no jobs happening for me. And I happened to do a little bit of a wedding consultation and I was at a wedding for my pastor and his wife, their 25-year vow renewal, and the corps officers, Ralph and Peggy Guthries, they were at the time Envoys.

Ralph and Peggy Guthrie were the officials at that wedding. And so they had known me through me working through Headstart in that kind of thing here in the community of Havre. And so they asked me what I was doing, and I just told them I was looking for a job and I’ll never forget the looks that were on their face. And they kept looking at each other and I was like, what are they doing? What’s going, and, and it was just kind of funny. And anyway, so I was finishing up the wedding stuff and getting those things taken care of and doing that. And so before we got ready to leave, we were cleaning up from the wedding and I was getting ready to leave or whatever. And so Ralph was like, Trina can I talk to you for a minute? And I’m like, oh, okay.

So they come over, and he goes, do you want a job? And I’m like, what do you mean to do I want a job? He says, well, do you want a job? He says, we need somebody. And we’ve been trying to get you. And you know, it’s not worked out since before this time. So do you want a job? And I’m like, I guess we’ll have to come and talk about it. So that’s what started my career in 2005 with The Salvation Army. And so that’s kind of what has happened that got me into the social service part of it.

Christin Thieme: Led right into it. So today, you are the director of The Salvation Army Service Center in Havre, and you run out of the center, the Pathway of Hope, which is The Salvation Army’s approach to providing enhanced services to families and trying to get families out of this cycle of intergenerational poverty. So you have taken this approach for years in your work, and I know you’ve even taken it a step further. You’ve previously called the same type of approach, the Reintegration Into Society Program. So can you share more about your work today, how you help families in this way, what this program is and what it entails for those who are a part of it?

Trina Crawford: Sure. And so just a little bit more backstory is in the program or in the career that I had that got me started in social services, one of the programs, or I guess the approaches that I saw as being most effective was a preventive approach. And that was again, the helping break down barriers because sometimes the barriers become so big that, that we go backward instead of forward. And so helping people break those barriers down is really huge. And so I’ve always had that mindset. And so even in my just normal social services through The Salvation Army, I’ve kind of always had that mindset about what can we do to prevent this from happening? So I’ll help you this week, month, but what are you going to do and how can we help you prevent it next month from happening or, or whatever the case may be.

And so I’ve always kind of had that approach. And so we, in our community, we’re recognizing and realizing that there was a big gap of services for people that were coming out of jail and or prison that had legal issues. It seemed like in a small community, the size of Havre, because we do not have a shelter, we don’t have any of those resources that people would get out of jail, go back to the same home that they offended and re-offend, and it became a vicious cycle. And so through the prayers of some local pastors—I’m a part of the ministerial association here in Havre—we were seeing this and we just didn’t know what the answer was. And so for about two years, we, as a group of pastors and myself, we were praying about what God wanted to do with that.

And that’s where the RISP program came into line—the Reintegration Into Society Program. And so we were able to pilot that program in 2016 and it was very successful. We were helping about 12 people a year. And out of those 12, there’s about four that even to this day, I still have contact with and they’re still doing well. They’ve had a few bumps here and there, but they’re able to use the tools that they learned and they’re able to get back on their, you know, on a faster track to getting better, versus going down that line that we have a tendency to go down when we don’t have that support. And so, we’ve been doing that for, since 2016. And so when Pathway of Hope, when it was introduced into The Salvation Army, I was like, wow, I’m already doing that because the Pathway of Hope, again, is kind of a preventive program.

And I really, that’s what I really appreciate about the Pathway of Hope is that it’s about let’s, you know, let’s just help them a little bit more. So that is just so they can break down those barriers that are stopping them. And I feel like that it’s very, very helpful in, again, you know, my record is, and it’s not my record, the RISP program’s record, more politely, it would be God’s record because God’s the one that’s the middle of all of this, is that, you know, we are helping about four people a year that is totally radically changing their lives. And they’re actually giving back to the community where before they used to take away from the community. And so, you know, the way that we work is we just, we really work on whatever it is that’s stopping them from succeeding in whatever area. A lot of times it’s just nothing more than a resource to an outside agency or another agency. Sometimes it’s working with the other agencies so that we can help people get through this because it takes more than just like our program. 

And so we, sometimes we have to, you know, use those outside agencies, but ultimately we are a supportive service that just comes up alongside the people and kind of just surrounds them on the front-end with a healthier community so that they can get better. And then, we encourage that they seek a healthier community. And because we don’t have a church in The Salvation Army here, we encourage them to go to other churches within the community, which is why it’s vital that I’m a part of the ministerial association in town, because I can then send people to the churches of their choice by me letting them meet the pastors and letting them meet people in their church.

So that that’s an easier transition for them to get into it because ultimately the goal isn’t for them to break away from The Salvation Army, but to get into a healthier community. And in my opinion, the healthier communities—I say healthier, because I know that churches aren’t all healthy, but we are healthier for the most part—that they just need to be in a healthier community. And so we really encourage that. And, and once they get into that healthier community, it just seems like they do really well. And so that’s just kind of the cycle of what we do and, and how we do it here in Havre.

Christin Thieme: And I know you offer help and resources, but you also ask these individuals to step up in many ways. So why is it structured this way, where you involve therapy and volunteering and one-on-one meetings and this community element—why does it involve all of those different aspects?

Trina Crawford: So in the program, a participant has to do 30 hours of activities. That 30 hours of activities would include treatment. They have to be an outpatient treatment because most of them are coming out of an addiction issue of some sort. So 30 hours of activities, including whatever that outpatient treatment has been advised through the screenings and stuff that other agencies do, because we are not an outpatient treatment per se so we don’t do that, but we’ve increased that to be a part of it. We also encourage, again, that healthy mentorship. We love to set them up with mentors within the churches that will be able to come alongside and help them understand the Bible and maybe, hopefully, eventually get them into their churches. And, so we’ve learned, you know, over the years that doing nothing gets us in trouble.

I know that for myself, if I sit around and do nothing, pretty soon, my mind is going and doing things that are going places that I shouldn’t even be thinking about going. And that’s where most people get in trouble is there. They get lonely. They start seeking—and a lot of times, it’s easy to seek out—those that are addicted because they’re everywhere and they’ll accept you just the way you are. And so it’s very easy to end up getting into trouble, as you will, because we’re looking for something to fill that void and that loneliness. And so the 30 hours of activities, it does include a volunteer element and we’ve got several sites in the community, non-profit sites that we’ll take on our volunteers and allow them to come and do volunteer work for them.

And that’s giving back. When we give back to someone else, it’s so empowering, it is so fulfilling to see somebody and help somebody and to do it not expecting something back from them. And so, definitely the 30 hours a week is just to get them out of their house, get them out of the walls so that depression can set in. And so that they don’t become their worst enemy because their brain’s going crazy. And so that’s, that’s kind of how we have that. It’s the whole picture, it’s the holistic approach, full body, mind and spirit now that we’re focusing on here. And I think that’s what’s really important. A lot of the world’s, issues and especially where addictions that are concerned and even the low income too, to some extent, is because of the spiritual part that’s missing.

And so we are very, you know, we try really hard to make sure that we bring the spiritual part along with the rest of it, for the mind, body and soul, uh, that the whole holistic approach demands are, you know, it’s, I guess it does good. And so that’s a lot of why we do, because it teaches them. It also teaches them when they get in there doing the 30 hours, it helps start to prepare them for getting a job. Uh, we really, our emphasis when they first start, especially, is to show up, if you say, you’re going to show up at 11 o’clock that you show up at 11 o’clock and getting them prepared for them to be able to take on a job once they get through, get to the point where the addiction isn’t so strong and they can move into that next phase.

And so it’s so important that they start kind of get that training. Sometimes, for some of them, it’s just learning to do some of the stuff, even in the nonprofit area, in the non-profit places. Just doing some of that stuff that through the addiction, they have forgotten how to do those. And so it’s just honing their skills. It’s just helping them sharpen those skills, assist, helping them be able to maybe even step out of what they’re used to doing and give them another option of what maybe they could do. And so just to give them confidence, to give them the ability to see that or to show that they can hold down a job, that they can provide for themselves, that they can take care of themselves, which breaks that cycle.

Christin Thieme: I think it’s safe to say that this is more than a job for you. I mean, you have people checking in with you every day. So can you share more about what is your personal mission? Why do you do what you do?

Trina Crawford: So the reason why I do what I do is because of my love for God. God took me out of a really dark place. He took me out and there’s a song out there that says something, it’s a song called “Something Beautiful,” and the song says, “something beautiful, something good, in all my confusion, he understood. And all I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life” and that is my life. And so I know that part of the mission through the Christian life is that we are to give back and help others. And so I have a passion because I got the help as I needed it through Christ. And so I want to be Christ to those that I’m helping. So they can see that God is good, that he loves us, that we are important to him, and that we are more than our decisions.

Christin Thieme: You’ve done that for a lot of people through the years. And I know you’ve even said that a lot of them have become like your own kids. Can you share one story that maybe has really stuck with you?

Trina Crawford: I’ll tell you what, some of the ones that I am still closest to from prior years, I feel like that their age, they are the age of my own kids. So it’s, you know, just can’t help, but when you see them making strides in even the hard times, I’m going through the hard times, but you’re there with them and maybe crying with them, maybe, you know, whatever it looks like that you just become connected because you see the struggles and you understand those struggles and, and having them have somebody walk with them through those struggles is really important. Well, then you become friends because, you know, pretty soon it’s not just a job pretty soon as it’s we’re friends. And, you know, I have gentlemen that I, one of the very first ones, that there’s a couple of them that from the very beginning that I worked with that to this day, he will come in and he’ll just pop in here when he’s not out of town working and, come in and say, Hey, how are you doing?

Trina Crawford: Because he knows how much I do and what I, what I did, you know, and it’s not me, it’s God okay, that what we’ve done, but, you know, what we’ve tried to do for people. He knows, you know the burden that we carry here. And so he comes in and he just checks up on me and, you know, that’s just so cool because he’s given back in another way. And it’s just really neat to be able to see those people succeeding when they didn’t think that they were going to be able to get them to be able to move forward. You know, one gentleman shares this story all the time about how—he’s Native American—how when he needed help the most his own tribe wouldn’t step up to help him, but yet a white woman who he was told all of his life to stay away from because white people are evil and bad that a white woman came up and visited with him in the jails, accepted him into the program, guided him, directed him and helped him break down those barriers that were stopping him.

And through it all, he gave his life over to Christ. And it was just an exciting thing to see. And, you know, just being able to see that kind of thing happen and know that God is in the middle of it all. And he’s working it all. Is this totally amazing? And, and so that’s, yeah, that’s just one of those stories. That’s just super deep in my heart because I wasn’t trying to be a savior and I’m not a savior per se, but for this gentleman, it was somebody that he least expected, stepped up and said, Hey, I’m willing if you’re willing. And he was willing. And so we were able to reach a pretty good goal, and he’s, you know, in an amazing position. He’s got his kids in his life, he’s got a fantastic job. He loves his job and he just loves God. And, you know, when you talk to him, you know that he loves God. And so it was just, that’s just one of my, my really close to my heart ones. Yeah.

Christin Thieme: You get to watch these stories unfold over time and stick with all those people who’ve become like extended family. You’ve been doing this work for a long time, helping families and advocating for people. What have you learned along the way?

Trina Crawford: Well, I’ve learned that addictions do not meet any race. They do not choose a certain race. They don’t choose; Addictions are in every one of us that we all have to deal with some sort of an addiction. And it may not be anything big. But for some of us, I’m one of them—eating is one of my addictions—and because of that, you know, it’s an addiction and understanding and working with people and seeing that the struggle that they’ve had with drugs and alcohol are the same struggle that I’ve had with my eating is just, it’s kind of comforting, if that makes any sense, because we all feel the same shame and we all feel the same guilt when we have those addictions.

And so it’s so important for me, that I understand a little bit about them. While I’ve never really used drugs and never really been much into the drinking, I understand that the addiction is a very shameful and guilt-ridden thing. So I really learned a lot in that. I’ve also learned that there’s a lot of hurt that started, probably for most people, in childhood. A lot of hurt that just manifested itself through addiction through the years. You know, the majority of the people that I work with started anywhere from the age of 9 to the age of 13 using, and, you know, that’s a long life, a lifelong type of addiction. When you realize that I don’t usually get them in, they don’t usually come into my program until they’re either late 20s or early 30s or 40s, a long time. And so then having to break down those barriers and, and so, you know, for myself, it’s just been a great learning tool for me, just to understand how to relate to people better, but also to continue to show them God’s love. Even in that humanistic way that they can still see God through it all.  

Christin Thieme: Absolutely. And I mean, we’ve talked about it being this commitment to people—it’s so much more than offering a meal or helping meet somebody’s rent this month—this is a long-term commitment to somebody and to their future. What makes that type of program, like Pathway of Hope, what makes that work a success?

Trina Crawford: What makes it work is that God created all of us to be a part of a community. And if we don’t have some kind of community-mindedness and involvement in our programs, it doesn’t succeed very well. It’s very short term, but with the community-mindedness, you get the relationships involved and it gets back to the, hopefully the respect of trying to do better because this person that’s helping you out of respect. You want to do better. And that’s again, how God created us. That’s how he made us to be that way. Then he wants that with, he wants us to have that with him, that we have a reverend respect for him that will continue to help us in our lives. And so, you know, the longtermness of this is just that we, you know, that old saying it takes a village to raise a child? It’s very true. And in some ways, this is the village.  

Christin Thieme: I love that. What do you think? What is the power of hope?

Trina Crawford: The power of hope is that it’s always there. The power of hope is that there’s always something that I can strive for. Something that I can reach for, and I can keep trying. Hope is so important. It is. God put that in us and to have hope? He created us for that. What we have to get to is to fill ourselves with what we need to fill ourselves that will give us the fulfillment and satisfaction that only Christ can. Hope is, to me, kind of that God-shaped hole that’s in us. And then if we’re not putting God in it, it’s very hard to find that fulfillment. So to me, hope is just, it’s everything. If we don’t have hope, we have nothing.

Christin Thieme: Yeah, absolutely. Lastly, what would you want somebody listening to know about how to find more hope in their own life? What would be your advice?

Trina Crawford: So my advice to find hope in your own life is to find a Bible-preaching church and/or person who is going to preach the Word of God, not doctrine, but the Word of God. And that is willing to sit down with you and help you through the struggles that you have in life. And that you build some kind of a friendship and kinship with, somebody like that. Possibly a group, maybe a Bible study, maybe, you know, a group and I’ll even go so far as to say, even like a AA or Celebrate Recovery. Those are also very good communities, but to find somebody that can help you through this journey, because we are not an island, we absolutely are not an island. We have to have each other. And so in order to keep that hope going, we have to be around others and they have to be like-minded and they have to be people that are going to build us up, not tear us down. So that’s part of that community that we need to find. They have to build us up, not tear us down.  

Christin Thieme: I love it. Trina, thank you so much for sharing and thank you for the work that you’re doing.

Trina Crawford: Thank you so much. It was my pleasure. And just remember that, you know, no matter what, God loves you and he created you. He made you, he loves you, and he wants the very best for you.

Christin here, again, with that special appearance I mentioned. A member of Trina’s village agreed to come on the show to share a bit more about his own experience. And he did. Then, just days ago, days before this episode was to be published in September 2021, he died due to COVID-19. More than an inspiration for what it means to find and have hope, we’re now sharing this interview as a tribute to him and the hope he was filled with. So allow me to introduce to you today from Havre, Montana, and in memory of, Ronnie.

Christin Thieme: Well, Ronnie, welcome to the Do Gooders Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Ronnie: Happy to be here.

Christin Thieme: Absolutely. So can you tell me about when you first met The Salvation Army?

Ronnie: Well, I met Salvation Army four or five months ago. Well, I have a hard time in life. I guess you came to that, got a number and got a hold of Trina at Salvation Army. She really, like, helped from day one to now just kind of guides you to the help you need, you know, and from there you got boosted up and just kept, kept going, doing positive things in life, finding an apartment to having a job now and keep getting better.

Christin Thieme: That’s amazing. I love it. Can you tell us a little bit about your story, what was going on in your life before you encountered Trina and The Salvation Army?

Ronnie: Well, I was unemployed at a time when me and my daughter had nowhere to go. It was time when we were living with my family couch to couch and whatever. And I was on a treatment court because I used to drink all the time. Then my counselor gave me, come to ask me what’s going on. And they didn’t really let it tell her, kind of knew what was going on. And she literally got on the phone and got a hold of Trina that’s where we’d be able to come about to see me struggling. And that’s where, I don’t know.

Christin Thieme: So you mentioned that Trina has helped support and guide you. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how have you been interacting with her?

Ronnie: Oh, I agree. I’ve been like the goal, like the goal of support when she’s there, she’s motivational and I’d like to, like when she runs classes and those classes are just enjoyable to go to, you know, and just be there for an hour, hour and a half of of your day. And I was just a good feeling guess. So even the good thought and hope for a better tomorrow. You know, I feel too that she’s a really good woman and she knows what she’s doing and is dependable when—I can go on, so many words to say about her. 

Christin Thieme: I love it. So you mentioned some classes—what’s been one of the most impactful aspects of working with Trina and The Salvation Army so far for you?

Ronnie: Well, there’s a lot of impacts, just like focuses to do better in life and just keep pushing and there’s always a task and I just don’t give up, but it’s pretty much the other classes, they kind of talk about, you know, strive to do good, to make a better tomorrow if you make a mistake. She does her classes to motivate you. And, like, everybody who attends the classes who attends, they have their, their life stories too, but it’ll help motivate everyone in the class and everybody’s motivated one another to do better.

Christin Thieme: What does it mean to you to have hope? You mentioned having hope for a better tomorrow? What does that mean?

Ronnie: Well, hope, for me, is just to do better, like for me is to find a better house for me and my daughter. We hope to find like a home, a house, actual house, and just for—my life is good, but I know with like this hope for even better, you know. I don’t like to stay one spot, I like to venture and make my life a lot better.

Christin Thieme: So what’s next for you then, Ronnie?

Ronnie: Next for me is to, I want to find a better paying job, for one. And I’ll be a better parent to my daughter. I’m raising us.

Christin Thieme: I love it. Well, thank you so much for sharing with us today and absolutely the best of wishes to you as you work with Trina. I’m so glad that you’ve connected with her and can’t wait to see what you do next.

I know you’ll agree it’s inspiring to hear from people like Trina and Ronnie about what it means to share and find hope.

But hope, as a concept, can be a little nebulous. We know what it is, mostly. 

So next week, we’ll sit down with a longtime psychologist, someone in the business of hope, to help us better understand hope and what it does psychologically and physiologically, plus how we can find more of it in our own lives.

Until then, keep on doing good.

Additional resources:

  • Subscribe and listen in this season to the Do Gooders Podcast with episodes 88-94 focused on exploring the Pathway of Hope.
  • You’ve probably seen the red kettles and thrift stores, and while we’re rightfully well known for both…The Salvation Army is so much more than red kettles and thrift stores. So who are we? What do we do? Where? Right this way for Salvation Army 101. 
  • Connect with The Salvation Army in Havre, Montana.
  • Are you best suited to join the Fight for Good in disaster relief? Mental health? Social justice? Take our What’s Your Cause quiz and discover where you can make the biggest impact today. 

Listen and subscribe to the Do Gooders Podcast now.

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