Doing the Most Good in Intermountain – A mission of serving others

Doing the Most Good in Intermountain

by Sue Schumann Warner – 

Warm meals and friendship are enjoyed at the Denver, Colorado, Crossroads shelter. Up to 300 men are housed each night. Photo by Sue Warner.

For one young Boy Scout, just 11-years-old and intent on earning the badges that would one day enable him to become an Eagle Scout, living with his family in a Salvation Army transitional housing facility was no deterrent to achieving his goal.

In fact, one of his projects—an enormous bookcase, which he built by himself—stands in the family lounge in Denver, Colorado’s Lambuth Center, as a testimony to his—and the Army’s—unique ability to “do the most good.”

“After he built the bookcase, he went door to door to get books to fill it,” explained Major Neal Hogan, Denver Metro social services administrator.

The Lambuth facility is just one of scores of Salvation Army programs throughout the Intermountain Division that—day in and day out—provide an opportunity for lives to be transformed.

Takes many forms
“Doing the most good is the division’s mission,” says Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel (Dr.) Raymond Peacock, who, with his wife, Lt. Colonel Carolyn Peacock, divisional president of women’s ministries, serve as Intermountain’s divisional leaders.

According to Peacock, doing the most good takes many forms. “We serve the homeless, giving them food and rest for the night; that is doing the most good. People have spiritual needs; doing the most good can be as simple as listening to people—a corps officer listening to a soldier and aiding them on their life’s journey.”

It can even mean providing something as basic as school supplies. This fall, children throughout the division were aided in their return to the classroom as many corps, including Bozeman, Mont.; Casper, Wyo.; and Denver Metro gave hundreds of backpacks filled with supplies to the students—another practical example of the division’s mission. In addition, the Denver Childspree Women’s Auxiliary and Mervyns teamed up to give $26,000 to clothe children for school. “Over 260 children attended,” noted Lt. Colonel Carolyn Peacock.

Leadership development is also an important part of doing the most good, according to Peacock. Consequently, the division is conducting leadership training “that emphasizes mission over maintenance.” Along with this is a focus on partnership in missions: soldiers and officers working together. “That’s the ‘claity’, he says—the clergy and laity.”

Divisional challenges
While the Intermountain Division contains 12 percent of the continental United States’ land mass (and includes Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and parts of Montana) it only has four percent of its population, requiring Salvationists to travel long distances to gather together—a daunting task, in these days of record gasoline prices. However, says Peacock, within that huge geographic area, “The mountains inspire; the colors and seasons delight. Houses are larger, and neighbors actually do acts of kindness for one another on a regular basis!”

While it’s becoming more costly to run Army operations, the division is resource neutral—not exactly poor, but neither is it rich.

Reducing debt is one of the division’s goals. “Divisional headquarters owes $1 million to THQ, and the corps owe in excess of that to divisional headquarters,” he reports. To reduce the debt, the division has closed a number of corps, such as Butte, and Laramie, and turned them into service centers. In addition, corps are not permitted to submit deficit budgets, and actual corps expenditures are being reviewed monthly.

“God honors living within our resources,” he notes. “Sometimes that means,‘go find them.'”

Coming home
Peacock’s roots lie in the division: a fourth-generation Coloradoan, whose great-grandparents were on the staff of the Amity Farm Colony, he likes to explain that his mother attended one corps all her life: Denver Citadel…in each of its six locations. Little did he dream, however, that when he left Denver Citadel 43 years ago for training as a Salvation Army officer, that he would one day come full circle, and be in Denver once again.

There are some benefits to this, he explains with a smile. “Denver is one of the few metropolitan areas to have all four major sports franchises: baseball, basketball, football and hockey. “

Denver Red Shield impacts community
Divisional Secretary for Program Major Linda Manhardt brings international experience to her work in the West, having twice held appointments in Africa. No matter where the Army serves, she says, doing the most good is based in relationship—in compassion and in sincere caring.

“We can only do the most good as we are in relationship with people—when we touch lives, even with all of our limitations.” In an after school program, for example, “without someone really caring—really investing time and energy into the children’s lives— it’s just another program.”

The Denver Red Shield, under the leadership of Lieutenants Ron and Roberta McKinney, is just one example of the impact that two people can have on a community when they “do the most good.”

Based on numbers alone, the result is overwhelming: membership in the Red Shield has grown from 300, when they arrived in 2002, to 2,000 today. Located Denver’s “Five Points,” this neighborhood has the highest rates of poverty, unwanted pregnancy, and illiteracy in the city. Soon after their arrival, the McKinneys sat down with the leaders of the Crips and Bloods gangs—and the police—and negotiated that the Red Shield would be a neutral site, with youth displaying no gang colors or clothing. It was a bold move, and one that worked.

Creative use is made of the entire facility: the chapel doubles as a multipurpose room, with karate lessons and community meetings both held there. On Sunday, 100 attend worship services. “We enrolled 56 new soldiers and adherents last year,” said McKinney, “and we have over 100 active soldiers in uniform.” A senior drop-in center includes a food pantry and a Bible study—one Tuesday morning 14 were in attendance, many of whom are retired nurses or teachers.

Youth programs are key ingredient
Without a doubt, the youth programs are the key to changed lives: the Colorado Starlites, a girls’ precision marching team, have performed in Disneyland and this year will lead Disney’s 50th anniversary parade at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.; the Lyle-Cox boxing program, under the direction of boxing Hall of Fame member Ron Lyle, was the key to bringing together Hispanic and African American youth at the center—and has resulted in numerous titles for the participants; basketball, baseball, and traditional Army programs including sunbeams, girl guards, and adventure corps all provide healthy experiences for the youth.

A former Marine and combat decorated Vietnam veteran, McKinney recognizes the value in discipline, and requires members of athletic teams to maintain a 3.0 grade point—a standard that has benefited the youth. “Eleven Red Shield kids have won full scholarships to private high schools in Denver,” he explains. “One of our Starlite members, Latrell Freeman, won a four year scholarship to Princeton.”

West Adams Corps and Silvercrest —nurturing the neighborhood
For Captains Dan and Terrie Wilson, doing the most good is simple: it’s doing the best they can with what they have.

With just the two officers and Lt. John Mills,—no secretary, janitor, or other paid help—they maintain a food bank, assisting 500 individuals and families each month; and anticipate helping 700 families with food boxes this Christmas. They also are reaching out to their neighborhood through youth programs. This summer, a successful vacation Bible school (VBS)—mostly run by senior citizen volunteers—has resulted in more children involved in programs.

The VBS ran from Monday to Friday. On Saturday, they had a back to school party for the children and their families. Capt. Terrie Wilson notes it was attended by 108 people. “We gave the children a name brand backpack, served a meal, and had a Christian magician.” On Sunday, they held a VBS graduation at church.

Located on the corps’ property is a Silvercrest, which is administered by territorial headquarters. The facility has been there over 30 years, and is home to 34 seniors.

Crossroads shelter and Harbor Light provide transition
In the Army’s continuum of service, the Crossroads shelter, located in an industrial section of downtown Denver, is the first stop for homeless men who need a meal and shelter for the night. Originally called the “Survival Shelter,” it’s still the doorway to a new life for many. Of the 300 who stay there on a winter’s night—250 in the summer—a number will have been picked up by the Army’s search and rescue vehicle. “We seek out the homeless during the freezing winter weather,” said Major Neal Hogan, “from under bridges, in doorways, or loading docks.”

First given a mat on the floor to sleep on, with increased responsibility—including actively looking for work—a man can sleep in a dormitory bed; with added responsibility and specific program participation, he can live in a private room. Last year, 4,000 were given shelter; of those, 580 left to live in an apartment, entered a program to help meet their needs, or returned to their families.

“The three primary causes of homelessness,” said Hogan, “are forces outside their control (job loss, divorce); addictions; and mental health. The sooner we can reach someone when they are homeless, the sooner we can help them before they get hopeless.”

The Harbor Light Center is a relapse prevention transitional housing program. The center can house 60 men at a time, who stay on average for five to six months. While there, they attend life skills classes to equip them to live on their own.

Lambuth Family Center equips families for success
Home to families of all types and sizes—as well as to future Eagle Scouts—Lambuth provides “safety, security, hope and help” to those who are without. The transitional shelter houses 20 families, and has an average of 60 children at any one time. The structured environment includes life skills classes, programs for youth, and exit plans that have enabled families to successfully live on their own.

To reside there, clients must be employed; from their income, 25 percent goes to program fees (meals and housing); 50 percent to savings; and 25 percent to their own needs.

“One family saved $10,000 in six months,” said Hogan. “It enabled them to buy their own home.” He adds that the father had told him he didn’t want to take the life skills classes when they came here—“but with what you taught us, I’m convinced I’ll never be back.”

Doing the most good? It’s the Intermountain’s mission—and it’s touching the lives of men, women, and children all around the division.

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