Doing the Most Good in Cascade

CASCADE DIVISION: Doing the most good by ‘being the Army’

by Sue Schumann Warner – 

(L-R) Mothers and children enjoy aquatics classes at the Southwest Community Center.

Throughout the Cascade Division, The Salvation Army’s caring ministry is touching countless lives. Dr. Mihaela Pepel is one whose life was transformed through The Salvation Army’s West Women’s and Children’s Shelter in Portland, Ore.

When Mihaela, a practicing physician, came from Romania as a newlywed in 2001, she anticipated a happy future with her husband. Before long, however, life became a nightmare as he became increasingly controlling and abusive.

“After we came to America, he changed,” explained Pepel. With no relatives in the U.S. and no one nearby to turn to, her doctor stepped in and phoned the West Women’s shelter for her. Mihaela spoke to a staff member but wasn’t ready to leave her husband. It took a number of months—and increasing abuse—for her to admit she had to find a safe place to stay.

Finally, one morning at 6—after her husband left for work—Mihaela went to the shelter. While staying there she went back to school to become accredited in the U.S. as a naturopathic doctor. “It was more difficult than I expected,” she recalls. “It was made possible by living at West Women’s.”

Today, she is on her own and has started her medical practice. “I know I’m going to be successful,” she says with a smile.

The Salvation Army West Women’s and Children’s Shelter is one of many programs where doing the most good is a compassionate reflection of the Army’s mission and ministry.

A culture of caring
Throughout the division lives are changed as Salvation Army officers, employees, and soldiers “do the most good”—reaching out to those in need, creating a culture of caring.

“We have 24 corps and 98 other service units, so The Salvation Army is well represented across the division,” said Divisional Commander Major Bob Rudd. “You can’t go anywhere in this state and the lower half of Idaho without running into the Army or Army volunteers.”

Major Mariam Rudd, divisional director of women’s ministries and officer development secretary, serves with her husband at divisional headquarters.

Doing the most good in Gresham
Gresham, Ore., is one example of active ministry. “They’re doing the Army there,” said Divisional Secretary Major Gary Kyle. “They have good social service programs and an excellent youth outreach. On Saturday night they have the Church of Rock, which is a ska band, as well as Bible study activities.” The band, started by a small group of youths, has grown to 14 members.

Music plays a key role in the corps’ outreach: Due to budget cuts that eliminated music programs in local schools, the schools have started referring youth to the corps for lessons in brass instruments, piano, and guitar.

Now in the midst of a capital campaign, the Gresham Corps will move to nearby Rockwood when their new building is completed. “It’s a gang-infested, inner-city type of community,” said Rudd. “The mayor of Gresham and the folks there [Rockwood] are looking forward to the Army’s arrival.”

On-going challenges
While The Salvation Army is easily recognized and fondly remembered by the World War II generation, younger people aren’t always familiar with its uniforms and red shield. “One of the challenges I see in the territory and the division is that we’re not able to figure out how to get to the younger demographics,” said Rudd. “We haven’t decided it’s important, so we haven’t come up with strategies in our fundraising campaigns to reach the 30- or 40-year-olds…we haven’t done a good job in branding the image of the Army. It’s a huge challenge.”

Another concern for the Army is how to do fewer things better. “I think one of the challenges is recognizing where we fit in the continuum of service in various communities and being willing to partner and establish alliances and collaborations,” Rudd stated. “People still expect the Army to do the 101 things they’ve known us to do; we may not be able to do all of them. It may require us to link arms with other people.”

While the division is fiscally healthy, maintaining that positive status is another challenge, according to Executive Director of Development John Sebby. “I see one of our major challenges as maintaining our programs—and growing them—without going into debt.”

Obtaining stable, sustainable revenue sources to ensure continued programming is a concern to Scott Milam, executive director of Portland Metro. “God graced us with an incredible gift the last two years that allowed us to get out from underneath significant long term debt. This did not, however, solve our issues with decreasing funding from all levels [federal, state and local] of government entities.”

Holistic means building relationships
One corps with a strong holistic ministry is the Salem Corps, where soldiers are involved on a weekly basis at the corps’ shelter. There, they develop friendships with the residents and encourage them to participate in corps programs. “You can see the evidence in those who are being enrolled as soldiers and in the testimonies of those attending church on Sunday morning,” said Kyle. “They’re doing a very good job of linking people from the social service programs to the corps.”

Medford is another example. A capital campaign is being held to construct a new campus that will locate the corps onsite with the shelter. Consequently, holistic opportunities for growth will arise since the church members will mix directly with those coming to the Army for assistance. “Majors Marv and Carol Samuelson are doing a great job,” noted Rudd. “They are already making people sensitive to their obligations to their brothers and sisters.”

One Army
The move to decentralize programs in the Portland Metro area has strengthened the image of “one Army” there. “The Salvation Army is not a particular unit,” said Rudd. “It’s one Army and there are different aspects to it.”
Previously, divisional headquarters (DHQ) operated all of the social services in the area, resulting in a separation between the corps and social service ministries. “By turning it over to each corps, there is more of a neighborhood connection,” observed Kyle. “They see people coming in for assistance, and the clients see the corps and chapel, which they weren’t seeing before.”

The Portland Tabernacle Corps, which had been housed at DHQ has recently moved across the street—as has the Rose Center with its seniors’ programs. Both are now closer to the Silvercrest housing facility. “DHQ doesn’t want to run the programs,” explained Rudd. “We want to assist the field in running the programs.”

Looking toward the future
“The challenge before us is to help equip our people—employees, program directors, and officers—on the joys, the privileges, and the responsibilities of living as blessed people. We’re fiscally healthy and we’re learning to become a resilient people,” said Rudd. “We can’t be a rigid 19th or 20th century organization. We have to keep learning, keep listening, and keep talking; we have to keep changing and growing. The promised land is right there in front of us. We have to seize it.”

The stories below reveal the many different ways the Cascade Division is carrying out the caring ministry of The Salvation Army.

Harbor Light: a beacon of hope
For the past 50 years, The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center has been a beacon for Portland’s homeless. With a smile, a hug, and warm and encouraging support, Administrators Lts. Ron and Frances Owens provide hope—and services—to meet critical needs through the Door of Hope Family Shelter, Veterans’ Emergency and Transitional Shelter, Pathway Single Women’s Program and the Female Emergency Shelter.

An innovative new Homeless Infirmary Program (HIP)—a joint pilot program developed by the Army and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)—provides home health care for the homeless. “Homeless people have no place to go when they are released from the hospital,” said Lt. Frances Owens. “We have 12 beds here where they can fully recover; this becomes their home.” In the past year, 60 people have been served in this way. Staffed by more than 25 OHSU volunteers and funded through donations, the Army provides the infirmary space, meals, and cleaning service.

West Women’s and Children’s Shelter
On a quiet, tree-lined street in Portland, the West Women’s and Children’s Shelter is the setting for everyday miracles: a safe place where women and their children can heal from emotional and physical abuse.
“Everything we do is about putting in place the healthy family system they may never have experienced,” said Director Pat Mohr.

The shelter provides transitional housing, life skills training, a therapeutic preschool program, and other valuable resources. “The need is huge. Now, we’re seeing a lot of political refugees and sexually trafficked women,” Mohr noted.

With a budget of $958,000 per year, which comes from city and county grants, private donors, and foundations, Mohr explains that they rely heavily on donors. “They go above and beyond with goods, effort, time and money. They give the women and children the message that they are worthy, valuable, creative members of society and that the community cares for them.”

White Shield Center
Tucked away in an elegant old neighborhood overlooking the city, Portland’s White Shield Center was built in 1914 as a Booth maternity home and hospital for young, unmarried girls. The center now serves the needs of pregnant and parenting girls between the ages of 12-18; approximately 140 clients are assisted each year, and about 40 of those are babies and toddlers.

“They are the most high risk kids in the state for parenting,” said Executive Director Robin Triest Carlson, who notes that the girls are referred to the programs by state social service agencies or the juvenile justice system.

The center’s three programs (Parenting, Early Intervention, and Wildflowers—a short-term, secure shelter) are designed to promote independence and prevent the ongoing cycle of abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquent behavior, and welfare dependency.

“Thank you for giving me a second chance to be a parent to my son,” said one young mom. “Before I came, I was messing my son’s life up bad; now I know how to parent my son the right way.”

Moore Street Corps
One of the busiest places in town is the Moore Street Corps. With a variety of youth and family programs serving this ethnically mixed neighborhood, there is something for everyone: sports, church, family services and a high-tech learning center.

At the Intel Computer Clubhouse, with its 18 computers and a recent gift of $75,000 for additional equipment and upgrades from Intel, kids are developing skills that can take them out of this troubled neighborhood. According to Sharetta Butcher, Clubhouse manager, the program is designed to take kids from “clubhouse to career/college.”

“This year three kids went to Boston to a summer program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” she said. “We’ve had quite a few kids go to college. One young man went to Clark Atlanta University in Georgia on a scholarship. Some of those participating in the Clubhouse are homeless and are raising themselves on the street,” she added.

Housing the clubhouse at the Moore Street Corps is a plus. “This provides a safe place—so they get lifestyle and spiritual information. It’s a holistic place—a Christian location along with technology,” says the corps officer.
In addition to Moore Street’s legendary basketball court, they are developing a health club—spurred on by a recent donation of $100,000 for equipment—and have turned the swimming pool into a wellness pool, providing water classes for young children and the elderly.

Rose Center
Between the Bible study, aerobics, bridge, travel presentations, movies, trips, art class, and more, seniors have plenty to keep them busy at the Rose Center. While anyone 55 or over is welcome, the average age is 80, Director Florence Schembs said with a smile. “We have three over 100 years old who come weekly.”

Edith Danley, 100, has come to the Rose Center regularly since she was a young 80 and used to volunteer as well. “They are so friendly here and so nice to me. You’re never too old for attention,” she explains.

The atmosphere inside the bright and cheerful building is positive and refreshing. Schembs credits their 62 volunteers for much of the success of the program. “They gave 17,000 hours last year. We couldn’t do it without them.”

The Rose Center is a ministry of the Portland Tabernacle Corps, under the leadership of Captains Chris and Christa Mitchell.

Sharing is caring!