Bremerton, Wash. Corps helps military families
Kids go to camp and moms join Home League.
by James Baker –
Majors Jim and Marcia Baker, corps officers in Bremerton, Wash., serve in the beautiful Puget Sound region of western Washington that is home to many Navy bases. Bremerton is the largest city in Kitsap County, where five bases are located.
A few months after the attacks of September 11, 2001 the Lilly Foundation gave The Salvation Army a large grant to help the families of military personnel involved in Middle East combat. The Bremerton Corps received a portion of the grant, which it used to help make mortgage, utility and car payments. The Bakers soon discovered that there were major needs among low-paid young Navy families.
Major Marcia set about to find ways to help them. She began by asking a Navy chaplain who sits on the Bremerton Advisory Board about sending Navy children to Camp Arnold. The response was enthusiastic, with at least 20 children going to camp.
That winter she asked if any sailors would be interested in helping put together donated bicycles. The seamen were eager to help, and many of those bikes were then given to low-income Navy families.
In 2003 and 2004 she followed the same pattern with even bigger and better results. With every encounter she made more and more friends and developed more and more avenues through which the U.S. Navy and The Salvation Army could help each other.
This past summer Major Marcia sent 40 Navy kids to summer camp, including the older daughter of Mike and Patty Elam. The Elams had been struggling ever since 2002 when Mike was discharged from the Navy. They and their three children began coming to the Army on weekdays for meals.
Major Marcia then invited them to enroll their children in vacation Bible school (VBS). When they came to pick up their children, one of the women helping with VBS invited Patti to join the Home League. Then they were invited to attend family camp and jumped at the chance.
Patti enjoyed the Home League immensely, and soon invited her good friend Sharon to attend. Sharon is a Navy wife and a certified fitness trainer, so when the Home League decided to focus on fitness, Sharon enthusiastically agreed to lead the women in learning about fitness.
Both Patti and Sharon love the Lord and have brought an added vitality to the Home League. The Lord has brought several other women to the women’s program this year, and a real bond of love and fellowship has blossomed. Many of them are now also attending Monday evening women’s Bible study, and shortly several will be warranted as women’s ministries local officers.