COVID-19 Salvation Army command updates: May 8

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Western Territorial Commander Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder held the 23rd teleconference meeting regarding The Salvation Army’s response to COVID-19 May 8 with members of the Territorial Executive Council, divisional leaders and key staff, who joined in via Zoom from throughout the West. 

Today’s meeting consisted of updates from Intermountain, Northwest, Southwest, the Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARC) Command, the College for Officer Training (CFOT) at Crestmont and Silvercrest.

After a roll call of command heads, Hodder shared several announcements, beginning with guidelines for officer furlough, with a goal of ensuring furloughs do not run into the next calendar year. Hodder said he expected applause when he made the next announcement: “Corps reviews for this year are canceled; you need not feel any obligation to do corps reviews for this year.”

With a gift from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), food distributions will take place next week in most commands; however, Hawaii will hold its event May 9 in the parking lot of the Polynesian Cultural Center, located on Oahu’s North Shore. Food boxes and gift cards will be distributed, along with flowers and candy in honor of Mother’s Day. The next event will take place in the Intermountain Division on May 12 at the Aurora Shopping Center.

Hodder commented on the tremendous support The Salvation Army is receiving from the public and from corporate sponsors. Toyota USA donated just over $1 million to the Army’s COVID-19 effort. Distributions will occur through local dealerships, and additional funds will be given nationwide along with 5,000 face shields. The UPS Foundation gave over $500,000 both domestically and for international projects through SAWSO. AT&T is providing additional funds to support childcare for first responders at the Salem, San Diego and Suisun Kroc Centers.

Finally, “Giving Tuesday Now” digitally raised $116,000. Since March, the Western Territory has raised $2.8 million for the COVID-19 effort. Hodder expressed thanks to Maria Todaro, Debbie Rossi and the territorial CRD team and to all the development teams in every command for their diligence and hard work in obtaining this significant support.

Intermountain Divisional Commander Major Mike Dickinson reported that the third all-day phone bank telethon took place May 5 with media partners. The event included 15 live interviews of about three minutes each. The media partners have asked to do another event with them. This is the first time they have done three telethons for the same cause. They are committed to helping the Army reach $500,000; so far the campaign has brought in $443,818.

The divisional development department has raised over $1 million for the COVID-19 response.

Media partners will cover Tuesday’s LDS drive-through food distribution with two live hits per hour from from 6 a.m.–11 a.m. The two main anchors for the 5 p.m. news both taped stories last week: one on the Broomfield Corps ministry to the Silvercrest and the other on a Red Shield family.

Montana corps will begin in-person Sunday worship this week; Wyoming and Utah will start next week; Colorado will begin at the end of May.

To date, the division has provided 201,474 prepared meals, 31,366 food boxes, 97,451 nights of lodging, and rent assistance to 566 families. In addition, 11,559 emotional/spiritual care contacts have been made and 9,749 spiritual formation items (such as a Bible, War Cry, etc.) have been distributed.

In the Northwest Division, Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Bill Dickinson reported that the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center reopened for Sunday worship May 3, with 40 people in attendance. The chapel can normally hold 400 people, but with social distancing it can accommodate up to 60. The service was streamed and he said the online presence was strong. The center has received good local media coverage.

Montana Corps will reopen for Sunday services May 10 with safety precaution protocols in place and will also continue online services. Next Sunday, Idaho will do the same. Washington State is still several weeks away from this step. Dickinson encouraged divisions to begin discussing a plan and preparing officers for a reopening—some officers in the Northwest Division struggled with concerns about reopening. 

Leaders have made a shift in assessing officers’ wellbeing. Similar to the doctor’s office when describing pain, a 1–10 scale is offered, with the hope this will provide more accurate information. (For example, “on a scale from 1–10 do you feel safe?”  “On a scale from 1–10 are you afraid?”)

The division has had trouble getting enough food for the LDS distribution. Food items are being secured from multiple sources. With this in mind, the distribution is now scheduled for the week of May 18.

Hodder commented that the spectrum technique “was a very wise measure” to take in assessing officers’ well-being. He said THQ is looking at some resources that might be useful in that regard.

Southwest Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Kelly Pontsler began her report by noting that she is unexpectedly sheltering in place at home today—her garage door is stuck, with her car parked inside. 

Pontsler said she is really proud of the Southwest officers and their consistent “boots on the ground” activity. She mentioned great media coverage, especially in Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Tucson.

Chandler Corps Office Captain Jeff Williams knew a local makeup producer who had contacts with a bottling company that can handle hazmat quality goods. Through this contact, eight 55-gallon drums of hand sanitizer were broken down into one-gallon containers for distribution. In addition, these partners have provided hundreds of four-ounce containers. Pontsler noted the interesting chain of connections that came together to serve thousands of individuals in the end.

In the last two weeks, the division has experienced eight days of excessive heat and temperatures continue to run about 15 degrees above normal. “We’re hoping it will get back down to the 90s this weekend and let us catch our breath a bit,” Pontsler said.

Salad and Go partnered with the Army to prepare another 1,500 salads for distribution and has scheduled two more packing days (for a total of five).  The value of this high quality produce if sold in their stores is approximately $45,000.

The division is formulating plans for corps and store reopenings. Arizona retail reopens next Friday; therefore, thrift stores in Prescott and Bullhead City will likely be the first two to open again, followed by stores in New Mexico. For now, they are planning to worship online everywhere through May.

“God is good and God provides,” Pontsler said, noting that not including gifts-in-kind, THQ EDS funds or LDS allocations, the division’s COVID-19 donations are almost at the $2 million mark. And not directly related to COVID-19 but still remarkable, the division’s estate income for this fiscal year has surpassed all of last year’s income by about $1 million.

ARC Commander Major Henry Graciani shared beneficiary testimonies from Denver and Anaheim. In Denver, Mikora came to the women’s program because of her drinking. A well-educated CPA, she had worked out of her home, where she had isolated herself and spent much of her time drinking. She completed the program May 6, and said she had learned the importance of leaning on her sisters in the program and allowing them to lean on her. She claims Christ as her savior.

Eight of the women in the Denver program were dispatched to Intermountain Divisional Headquarters to assist in the call center, where their eyes were opened to the scope of The Salvation Army. Comments included: “This one lady phoned in and we could not help her, but I was able to pray with her; that was so different, I would have never done that before.”  “I never knew that The Salvation Army was so big…do you know how much we do…it’s crazy!”

Beneficiary Randall completed the ARC program in Anaheim (California) this week. It was his second time through. This time, Randall said he took everything more seriously. He said one of his goals was to say “yes” every time he had an opportunity to serve. He started singing with the worship team and he helped clear out two thrift stores to be used as shelters. Randall has fully surrendered to the Lord and never wants to look back again.

Two of five Raley’s donation sites opened in Stockton (California) May 7, providing an opportunity for donors to drop off clothing and household items while shopping for groceries. The ARCC looks forward to building on this model to minimize the cost of securing donated goods. Graciani thanked Del Oro Divisional Commander Major Ivan Wild for connecting the ARC with Raley’s.

“It’s always a delight to see that there’s never a shortage of stories of salvation and redemption coming out of the ARC,” Hodder said. “That has not paused for a moment in the course of this.”

CFOT Principal Major Nigel Cross reported that the college has reached the halfway point in the quarter. The Messengers of the Kingdom have had their final review, as well as seminars on transitioning to the field. Next week, their U-Haul pods will arrive and they begin packing. Plans for Commissioning have been solidified and filming of the doctrines, special music and other components of the service are all scheduled, and the cadets are ready to prepare for the covenant service. Cadets remain positive and have adjusted to the online format. With continued use, the interaction via Microsoft Teams is improving.

Worship services and assemblies have been adjusted and with better technology the worship is coming across a lot better.

The first-year cadets received their summer assignments May 4. Personnel Secretary Lt. Colonel Stephen Smith led the chapel. CFOT is thankful for the corps and divisions who will train the cadets in the summer.

On May 1, new International Orders and Regulations for Training and Developing Officers was received. CFOT has been assimilating the material and plans on implementing some new ideas and restructuring courses for compliance as well as for better effectiveness.  Hodder asked Cross to send a copy of the new O & R to command heads.

The Board of Governance will hold its spring meeting May 11 via Zoom.

Silvercrest Executive Director Susan Lawrence was happy to report that there have been no more COVID-19 cases in the residences.

The Daily Word of Peace devotion has been expanded to a territorial program. The toll-free number, 855-697-4570, was circulated to the command leadership and published in a New Frontier Chronicle article.

Care Calls continue to grow. Maria Todaro assisted with connecting Silvercrest residents to AT&T volunteers who are starting to reach out to those residents who signed consent forms.

Lawrence said Silvercrest residents continue to get “unbelievable” support from the corps.

At the Puyallup Silvercrest, the corps shared a donation of fresh crab legs with the residents. Each resident received two or three bags of crab legs.

Typically, this time of year, Silvercrests are celebrating Mother’s Day. While this year is different, some celebrations are planned. The Portland Silvercrest has arranged for Chinese food to be delivered to the Silvercrest on Mother’s Day; and at the Chula Vista Silvercrest, staff and volunteers are hosting a Mother’s Day hallway tea party. Residents are encouraged to dress up and open their front doors. The party includes music, mini-sandwiches, pastries and berries. Social distancing and protective gear will be required.

Although various states are lifting the stay at home orders, seniors are still required to stay home. As a result, residents are being encouraged to remain home and support continues for them while they do so.

Hodder commented on the Daily Word of Peace, recommending it as a good source for daily encouragement, and he noted the “tremendous creativity” of the hallway tea party.

A time of discussion followed—quite a lively one with many questions raised—on temperature screenings at Salvation Army facilities. Chief Secretary Colonel Doug Riley said that after consultation with internal/external counsel, it was recommended that the best practice of the Army going forward would be to only require temperature checks where mandated by officials. There are extensive protocols/forms required to accomplish this and failure to comply could cause serious consequences.  He noted that Human Resources would distribute the guidelines today for review.

Hodder then read 2 Timothy 1:3–7: I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Before he closed in prayer, Hodder shared that his home is filled with boxes, and the realization has come that the process of packing is a process of discovery that generates memories. As reports are shared, he said he is constantly reminded of all that is being accomplished on the field in the name of Christ. “I want to leave you this morning with that same reminder,” he said, “the reminder that we have a spirit of power, and of love and of self-discipline, and it will continue to bear fruit in the days to come.” 


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