A wholly holistic Army


by Sue Schumann Warner – 

Krista Williams spends time with two youngsters from Sally’s House

Spokane, it’s said, has always been “a tough assignment.”
In 1891, a band of three female Salvationists—Ensign McAbee, Captain Long, Lieutenant Tilden, and an unnamed male—marched into downtown Spokane and “opened fire” with a meeting on the corner of Howard and Riverside.

Two years later, the shooting death of Captain Ida Bennett, “The Martyr of Spokane,” didn’t seem to dampen the Army’s growth. That same year, a rented house on the south side of town was opened and named, “The Salvation Army Home for Women & Maternity Hospital”; it was designed to help “rescue cases, women court parolees, unmarried mothers and boarding children.”

Today in this regional center and city of 200,000—the second largest in the state—the Army provides vital assistance to those in need, a growing number of which are homeless or destitute families.

“In the past four years, Spokane has lost over 12,000 living wage jobs,” said Regional Officer Major Benton Markham. “That affects 50,000 people directly, and thousands of others indirectly due to lost services.”

Through its holistic approach to ministry, The Salvation Army is making a difference in the community.

Currently, the Army provides a “continuum of care” in different locations throughout Spokane through its social services, S.A.F.E. center (emergency housing); transitional housing; Sally’s House (foster care receiving program); and corps community center.

Plans are underway to combine those services in one location at a Family Resource Campus adjacent to the corps community center.

As part of the campus resources, the Intercollegiate School of Nursing will run a full service medical clinic on site for low-income families (with a staff of two doctors, two nurse practitioners, three RNs plus nursing students from Whitworth College, Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, and Washington State University); and the Eastern Washington University School of Social Work will establish a satellite program on the campus, enabling masters’ degree students to participate in “hands on” learning through involvement in Army programs.

In addition, an educational component will include job training, skills development, and computer training.

Of the $11.65 million needed to build the project, $8.1 million has been raised. Groundbreaking took place in August and completion of the first phase–the transitional housing—is scheduled for June 2004. The whole campus is slated for completion by 2005.

“We are in the process of repositioning The Salvation Army for where it will be for the next 20 years,” said Markham. “We are finding the place in our community where we can provide the most effective service.”

Social Services

Debbie Emery, social services administrator and Spokane Corps soldier, traces her involvement with the Army back to 1981, when she was living in Bellingham, Wash. She needed day care for her twin daughters and when the Army built a corps with a day care center in her neighborhood, she signed up for the program. That led to the girls’ involvement in Sunbeams and Debbie’s involvement in the Army’s ministry. She holds a number of degrees, including RN and M.S.W., and she has been with the Army in Spokane for 15 years.

She sees the Army’s ministry as a holistic approach to need. “If we don’t do something with this generation of children, we will have a real problem. They are our hope for the future,” Emery said. “We have to stop the bleeding somehow, and we have to do that with the kids; if you want to help the kids, you have to help the family. We do that by wrapping our services around them, helping them to change their lives—we don’t just give a food box or pay rent.”

Fifteen years ago, she recalls, the Army was primarily helping indigent males. Now, the need is to assist the working poor, homeless families, and families with substance abuse problems.

She gives an example of one client whose life was changed through the Army’s continuum of care: The woman, 26, was scheduled to be incarcerated due to a drug conviction; her three young children had previously been taken from her and put into the custody of other family members.

Instead of going to jail, however, the judge sent her to The Salvation Army. She was in detox for the first 60 days, and spent the next 90 days at the S.A.F.E. center; the Army then helped her transition into permanent housing. She attended the corps while living in Spokane.

“We provided her with wrap around service, including drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs,” said Emery. “We helped her get funding for school, find an apartment, learn to budget, and obtain clothing and furniture. She has now earned a BA in psychology, with a minor in chemical dependency. She once again has custody of all of her children. She is a stable, productive member of the community, earning a good salary. It wasn’t an easy road, but she made it.” The woman now works at Moses Lake Juvenile Detention Center as a counselor—and works with the prosecuting attorney who prosecuted her five years ago. She continues to attend church in Moses Lake.

Another element of Spokane’s social service ministry takes place just over an hour north of Spokane, where a $1.5 million endowment is enabling the Army to assist with needs in the Chewelah Valley and surrounding area. According to Paul J. Wolkersdorfer, social service manager for Chewelah, George and Gladys Olson left the money to the Army to use in that location. “The Olsons had no known connection to the Army,” Wolkersdorfer said, “but Mr. Olson had investigated other charities and decided the Army was tops. They wanted the money to be used here locally.” The area, Paul explained, is very poor.

The Salvation Army started using the gift in the spring of 2002; it has a food bank and assists with rent, utilities, drug/alcohol treatment programs, clothing, and scholarships to Camp Gifford. Currently, between 100-140 families are served each month.

Paul asks clients if they attend church. If not, he gives them the gospel of John and a flier for the Spokane Corps. He hopes to start a Bible study in the area.

S.A.F.E. Shelter

The Salvation Army Family Emergency Shelter (S.A.F.E.)—the largest provider of emergency shelter for homeless families in Spokane County— has been in existence for 18 years and is currently located in a building constructed as a railroad boarding house in 1910. Nestled on a tree-lined street just down from the county courthouse, the shelter has room for 15 families and up to 56 residents.

Here, homeless single and two parent families with children can stay for up to 90 days in a clean and secure environment while they get their lives back on track. Residents receive three meals daily; children attend neighborhood schools and are given help with lessons in the shelter’s Sunshine Room Homework Center.

Staff includes volunteers from AARP, Career Path Services, Salvation Army board and soldiers, all making sure each family is served with respect and dignity.

Administrator Geriann Armstrong notes two changing dynamics of the homeless population: an increase in single dads with children, and seniors with adult children as caregivers.

“Ours is one of only two in Spokane County that provides shelter to single dads with children. Also, there is a huge rise in the senior population whose adult children are caring for them. We recently had an 80-year-old mother with her 60-year-old son, and also gave shelter to a 90-year-old man whose 68-year-old daughter was caring for him.”

Clients are given the opportunity to join in corps activities, and to use the pool and gymnasium at the corps community center. A van is available to take the families to church. “There is a link between the corps and the families who stay with us,” said Armstrong. The shelter has a chaplain as well.

She explained the shelter’s “all in one concept,” which provides lifestyle classes on money, time and stress management, preparing for job interviews and other topics; all are open to the corps as well as to the residents.

Armstrong clearly sees her role as one of ministry, not just employment. “This is where I’m called to be,” she said. “It’s a nice fit.” Since coming to the S.A.F.E. Shelter, she and her husband, Dave, have become soldiers. They previously attended another church in town but, she says, “We tried the Army, and we liked it.” Her sister and her family now also attend the corps.

Sally’s House

In a unique collaboration with the Army and the Washington State Department of Children & Family Services, Sally’s House provides an emergency foster care receiving program for children up to the age of 12.

“Sally’s House is a pilot program—the only one of its kind in the state—and if it proves successful, the state wants to do more [of these programs] with The Salvation Army,” said Director Krista Williams. It is licensed by the state and is totally state-funded.

The program opened its doors in April 2002, serving up to 18 children at a time who have come from a number of backgrounds and situations, including: children of parents arrested in methamphetamine busts, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Other placements are voluntary or due to parent’s mental illnesses, custody issues, and respite. Children are often brought to Sally’s House in the middle of the night after a drug bust at their home or after some other traumatic event.

In fact, all of the children have probably experienced more trauma in their short lives than many adults have in a lifetime. “One mom was working and left her three young boys with her boyfriend,” recalled Major Ben Markham. “The boyfriend was watching TV and the youngest boy started crying; the boyfriend hit him on the head and killed him. The two surviving sons—who witnessed the incident—were placed in Sally’s House.

“When the mother came to visit her boys at Sally’s House, one of our employees took advantage of the opportunity to minister to her, and during the conversation invited her to church; she attended for several weeks.”

While children can stay up to 30 days, the average is 20 days. During this time, caseworkers conduct medical and psychological evaluation and assessments, enabling the best match to be made with foster care. “We have a continuum of service here,” said Williams. “Children often start at Sally’s House, are reunited with their parents and stay at the S.A.F.E. Shelter, and receive support from family services.” Since opening its doors, Sally’s House has cared for more than 260 children.

Transportation to local schools is provided by the school district, enabling children to continue schooling uninterrupted. At Sally’s House, they have access to the community center gym, pool, game room, computer learning room, and playground. Bedrooms are bright, clean, and cheerful—providing a peaceful haven for young lives that have experienced far too few joys in childhood.

Often, children attend the corps for Sunday school and church. While the state mandates that religious education must be provided when the parents request it, many children attend because of their relationship with the staff. “Because we have a good staff, who connect well with the kids, there is a spiritual impact on the kids. Ninety percent of our staff are Christians, and the majority of those are connected with the corps.” When children are reunited with their families, the children will bring their families to church.

“Last Sunday, the boy who led the action chorus was a former Sally’s House kid,” recalled Markham. “He’s in a foster home now and has told his foster parents he wants to be in church on Sunday.”

Corps Community Center

The Spokane Corps enjoys a wide variety of ministry and outreach programs, from the five small group Bible studies that meet in different parts of the community, to the men’s monthly breakfast and the men’s fellowship designed around dinner and Monday night football at the corps.

Youth enjoy the “SA Café,” a Friday night social time that includes a youth praise band, small group meetings, and activities such as swimming in the corps’ indoor pool or playing basketball in the gymnasium. “Teens attend who wouldn’t normally come through these doors,” notes Corps Officer Major JoAnn Markham, regional coordinator for program. “It’s a great outreach.

“We have a group of kids from the corps who volunteer at Camp Gifford; they meet kids at camp, and invite them to church; a number of the teens have been living with their families at the S.A.F.E. Shelter.”

“First Place,” a Bible-based weight loss program is starting to provide a link to the community. “People come to lose weight and find spiritual growth far beyond weight loss,” said Markham.

“People from the community and from other
churches are starting to come.”
In the five years the Markhams have been in Spokane, Sunday attendance has jumped from 50 to around 200. “We’re becoming more of a family,” JoAnn said. “The corps has a sense of community and a growing sensitivity to one another’s needs.”
Ben and JoAnn are invested in Spokane for the long haul—and see longevity here as a key element to successful ministry. “People come when you start to build relationships,” said Ben. “Relationships come with longevity. If we—The Salvation Army—are serious about church being part of what we do, we have to leave officers in place so they can build relationships and establish trust and connections and all the things you need from people.”
“I’d spend the rest of my career here,” said JoAnn. “I want to be around when some of the kids in church get married, and be able to say during the ceremony, ‘I remember when you came to the Lord.’ I long to have an intimate relationship with people like that.”
“This will sound naive,” said Ben Markham, “but I’m an officers’ kid. I grew up believing all that stuff [ministry that the Army does]. I have a sense of purpose, a vision of what we can do and the difference we can make. Those things keep me going.”

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Camp Gifford links youth with corps

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