A Magnet in Modesto
The Modesto Red Shield engages the community for Christ.
by Paula Wild, Captain –
It was not that long ago that we got our assignment to the Red Shield in Modesto, California…I can remember my first conversation there. A young boy walked up to me and said, “Do you know who I am?”
“No, should I?” I replied, and he began to tell me his story.
“My name is David, David Smallwood,” he said. “I was the 12-year-old boy that was shot right outside by the Red Shield.”
I wasn’t quite sure how to react. He lifted his shirt to show me his scar that began at the top of his chest and went down to his belly button.
“I’m lucky to be alive,” he said.
He was shot because he was wearing a red t-shirt; red is the rival gang color in the neighborhood.
Impressed by his boldness, I asked if his parents were scared to let him be outside in the neighborhood now.
“Yeah, I live with my mom; she works most of the day so she is scared when I am alone,” he replied. “She only lets me come to the Red Shield because she knows that I will be safe here.”
It was at that moment that I knew God had already been working through the Red Shield. I felt honored to join in its work.
Motivated to serve
The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Center is located in South Modesto, not a picturesque area of town. There are no sidewalks and the streets often flood when it rains. Rarely does a day go by without a pack of stray dogs wandering around. Graffiti is a big problem, especially on the backside of our building by the canal.
Yet, knowing that there are many children that must walk through trashed alleys, drug-filled street corners and gang activity to make it to our front doors is motivation enough.
The ministry team is passionate about the young people in our area and is eager to provide a safe, fun and loving environment for them.
Using energy wisely
Sports make a significant impression on kids.
Junior, 12, made an impression on us.
When we first arrived, we learned Junior’s name quickly. He was frequently in trouble and very rambunctious. His face is charming—his smile forces its way through the old scars of a dog attack. When Junior’s grandmother was taken to the emergency room, a neighbor had Junior and his brother join her children in attending the Red Shield. Now, he greets me every afternoon.
The Red Shield Sports Coordinator, Tracy Barries, took an interest in Junior and instructed him to use his energy wisely—to get involved in sports.
Soon after, Junior became a member of our basketball team and his talent was clear right away. Basketball kept Junior out of trouble and when baseball season began, he joined that team as well.
Not only did Junior’s attitude change, but his ability to focus also changed.
He arrived one day with a beaming smile. “I have something for you to see,” he said and handed me a certificate that declared in bold letters, “Student of the Month.”
To help keep teenage boys from getting involved with the gangs, a new traveling basketball team now participates in tournaments outside Modesto.
One at a time
Not long ago, at a Rotary meeting, Captain Roy Wild mentioned that he was looking to start a soccer league. He received a call the same day from Doctor’s Medical Center offering $5,000 to sponsor the league. The Red Shield now has 12 teams with 102 children registered to play.
At the end of the season awards banquet, one mother said to me, “I didn’t even know the Red Shield was here and I’ve lived here for 10 years. My boys love playing soccer but I could never afford the league costs. This was a great opportunity for my children to play.”
My new motto for the Red Shield is: “Making a difference, one child at a time.”
Our other sports programs include baseball and swimming. There are four baseball teams that are registered in the city league to play surrounding schools. The Red Shield baseball team made it to the semi-finals and came in second place in the league. The Red Shield has the only Olympic-size swimming pool in the area open to the public; we offer water aerobics for seniors and women, swimming lessons and a junior lifeguard program.
Filling a void
One of the newest attractions at the Red Shield is a much-needed tutoring program. Many children in the area have parents who only speak Spanish and cannot help them with homework.
I recently met with Mrs. Herrerra, the principal of a local school, to see how we could help bridge the gap between home and the classroom. Herrerra, along with Council Member Marjean Miller, formed a committee of retired teachers; together with our Women’s Auxiliary, they instituted after-school tutoring at our center. There are now 14 volunteers that regularly help students with homework needs. Herrerra is now a member of our Advisory Council.
The center also offers free computer classes for adults, run by Stanislaus County, every Thursday morning.
A vivacious family
The corps is just as vibrant at drawing kids in as the after-school programs are.
Our troop program includes Sunbeams, Girl Guards, Adventure Corps and Moonbeams. This year, all of our troops took first place in the rally for uniform inspection.
The teen group recently held a pancake breakfast fundraiser to help pay for youth councils. Their interest in leadership roles at the corps has greatly increased. The teens started a Young People’s League and are preparing for a new Corps Cadet class.
Each week, Kidz Praise gives kids the opportunity to share in worship. During the summer, we enjoy praising God outside by the pool. We always have a great time with songs, Scripture, lucky seats and object lessons. It’s an important opportunity to share the gospel.
Not everything is for kids, however. Each Wednesday, women from the corps meet for Bible study followed by a Home League meeting. Thursday night is bingo night at the corps.
Working for him
The Red Shield Corps Community Center is a safe haven for at-risk children. We are proud of what we do and are thankful that God has blessed us with an amazing building to serve in and people to serve with.
Modesto is alive.