Major Sherry McWhorter, volunteer Lisa Melendez and her daughter, Jenni Ragland and Major Nila Fankhauser at the Pride Festival 2015.

Alaska Division turns heads at PrideFest

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The Salvation Army reaches local LGBT community at Anchorage Pride Festival.

By Sonya Senkowsky – 

For the second consecutive year, Salvation Army representatives reserved an information booth at Alaska Pride Festival, the annual event for Anchorage’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community.

Staffed by Divisional Headquarters officers, volunteers and Community Relations and Development staff, the booth offered information, cold water and and freebies. And just like last year, the plain white booth amid a sea of rainbows was greeted with more curiosity than concern—for the most part.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” said one of the day’s first visitors. “How would The Salvation Army respond to someone who is LGBT seeking social services?” she challenged. And: “Would you hire someone who’s gay?”

The Salvation Army is a church that will not compromise its theology. However, it will and does hire LGBT employees, she was told. And, just as Jesus would, it serves all, without discrimination.

By the time she left the booth, the conversation had taken a new turn. The woman shared that she worked for a local healthcare provider for cancer patients. She had previously not been referring LGBT clients to The Salvation Army. Now, she would consider it an option. “And I’ll probably feel like I can drop things off at the store now, too,” her partner added.

Most conversations were more routine, centering on the materials available on volunteering and emergency preparedness, as well as The Salvation Army’s social services, homelessness prevention, Meals on Wheels, and Emergency Disaster Services. Free beaded earrings made by a volunteer served as a popular conversation-starter, drawing in those who might not otherwise have stopped. At least a couple dozen people signed up to volunteer or receive information.

“That’s success,” said Jenni Ragland, director of service extension and Emergency Disaster Services. “In another year or two, I’m hoping it’ll move on from wondering why we’re there to people looking for us.”

Comments 1

  1. So encouraging to see this, and similar initiaves that are becoming more frequent.

    This “Salvation Army and the LGBT Community” page is also one of many baby steps The Salvation Army is taking, and I think should be pretty much mandatory viewing/reading for all English-speaking Salvationists – and translations provided for all who are not English-speaking

    http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/nodiscrimination

    Not so much because it’s genuinely representative of the views of all Salvationists yet, nor a completely accurate picture of how we behave as a Movement or as individuals today – but rather as an aspirational guide to where we should be rapidly headed – very rapidly

    Sometimes we don’t get it right. In fact, sometimes we get it wrong – very wrong

    Now is the time we did.

    REALLY did

    It’s not just about who we serve, our who we employ, or those who support us. It’s also about our worshipping communities, our members, our friends – and that includes those Salvationsts who also are LGBT.

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