Meet the helpers of this moment
It’s safe to say no one has gone untouched by the coronavirus crisis. Once declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, it invaded nearly every aspect of life as we know it with widespread “stay at home” orders shuttering businesses, closing schools and canceling events of all kinds.
And while things slowed down in many areas, for The Salvation Army everything ramped up.
The Salvation Army went into emergency response mode across the world. In the western U.S., where we’re based, all Salvation Army facilities were made available for response efforts and all Salvation Army officers (or pastors) and personnel were assigned to emergency response, providing emergency food programs and emergency shelter services in just about every zip code.
But no matter what might be happening, as Mr. Rogers famously said to his preschool-aged neighbors, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
So that’s what we did in a “Meet the Helpers” series over the past two months, including the following people who jumped in to help during a pandemic.
While long considered the “unsung heroes” of global health, nurses today are unsung no more. We caught up with an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse in San Francisco, Jenny Mao, who is also a member of The Salvation Army to hear more about how she’s helping in the midst of COVID-19 and what she is seeing from the frontlines of service.
“Most encouraging is seeing people on the road to recovery,” she said. “Seeing people on that road to recovery gives us hope.”
The Salvation Army’s “Let’s Fight #COVID19 Together Project” in Oakland, California, as part of #GetMePPE Bay Area, collected 20,000 medical-grade masks from individuals, churches, community clubs and other non-profits and donated them to area first responders. Here Captain Esther Hsu shares more about the project, how she’s helping and what she is seeing from the frontlines of service.
“I was touched by their kindness because during this hardship of the pandemic, people are still working together to help each other,” she said, “and this shows that God’s love is still flowing through this community.”
Hunger is a new reality for many as the coronavirus has taken hold of communities across the country, and as a result, The Salvation Army has stepped up its services to meet the need. In Denver, Lt. Sarah Aguirre said the Denver West Adams Corps has increased the amount of food it distributes by 75 percent. She came on the show to share how she’s helping in the midst of COVID-19 and what she is seeing from the frontlines of service.
“We have to go back to our faith and we have to be intentional to serve and love one another,” she said.
Eyo Toe, a graduate student at Point Loma Nazarene University and one of San Diego Echelon’s public relations chairpersons, provided a much needed change of pace. In the spirit of John Krasinski’s Some Good News initiative, they decided to be part of the spreading of feel-good content on behalf of The Salvation Army.
“Any act of kindness, big or small, is extremely impactful and witnessing all aspects of the community from children to business owners to essential workers contribute in giving what they can is incredible to see every day,” she said.
There’s no question a pandemic is stressful—for everyone. But there’s six key things you can do to lessen the impact of stress on your and your kids’ health. California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is on the show to share what’s inside her Playbook on Stress Relief during COVID-19 and what you can do every day, at home, to help support your mental and physical health.
“I think for those of us who are feeling a little bit stressed out or a little bit overwhelmed, there’s a moment of like, oh my gosh, why am I feeling like this?,” Harris said. “Well, this is a really exceptional time and so we have to give ourselves a break.”
Many seniors who live by themselves stay busy in the community, especially at The Salvation Army West’s Silvercrest residences for seniors. Across the western U.S., some 3,000 people live in these independent living communities. And now, because of COVID-19, they’re inside their own apartments, together but apart. That’s why in Chula Vista, California, Karin Ingrande initiated a creative way to keep seniors engaged and active—balcony music sessions.
“It’s about prevention,” said, “preventing anxiety, preventing depression because of isolation, and preventing illnesses.”
Evie Russell drove a truck for 12 years before joining The Salvation Army as the service coordinator in Cortez, Colorado. That’s why she had such a strong reaction when she heard that some truck drivers were being turned away from restaurants or having a hard time finding a place to eat as they helped deliver essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic. So she devised Operation Thank a Trucker.
“They can’t sit there and eat, of course, with social distancing, but they can come in and have that little bit of interaction,” she said. “That interaction with human contact that’s not just your shipper or receiver has been a big thing.”
Sarah Bentley started the Silver Line, a toll-free phone line seniors can call for emotional and spiritual support—and a connection to practical support as well. It’s important, she said, that these older adults know they’re not alone. And the phone has been ringing ever since. She came on the show to share how she’s helping in the midst of COVID-19 and what she is seeing from the frontlines of service.
“Since the line has gone live, we’ve had many, many calls from residents across the territory and they’ve been heartwarming and they’ve been heartbreaking,” she said. “People just want connection. They want to hear a human voice.”
While chapels and pews are empty at the moment due to social distancing restrictions, The Salvation Army’s corps (churches) across the western U.S. are holding online worship services to support emotional and spiritual needs. Pastoring during COVID-19 is more than creating an online message, however, and we caught up with the Pasadena Tabernacle Corps Officer Captain Terry Masango to learn more about how his service has shifted in the midst of a pandemic.
“As Salvation Army people, we say we are ‘saved to serve,’ so my faith is helping me, knowing that my calling goes beyond my personal needs,” he said. “My calling is to serve and help others. My faith compels me to help those who are in need, particularly at this time.”
The Salvation Army Orange County’s Anaheim Emergency Shelter is a temporary home to 224 individuals. While there, residents have a place to stay, meals and job and housing services. And now, Site Supervisor Benjamin Anozie said The Salvation Army has adapted life at the shelter to increase the safety of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the crisis has forced a deeper reflection among his team and for himself about why they do the work they do—despite the risks.
“For me, there’s more passion there than just working a job and coming in and punching a clock,” he said. “It’s really about transforming lives and ultimately caring for people’s soul and caring for them holistically.”
- Is there someone in this list who inspires you? Pass it on: Send the link to their story to someone you want to inspire today.
- Visit the Do Gooders Podcast to catch up on episodes full of ways to get involved in doing good right where you are.
- See how you can get involved in the Fight for Good at westernusa.salvationarmy.org.
- Did you know The Salvation Army served more than 23 million Americans last year fighting hunger, homelessness, substance abuse and more—all in a fight for good? Where can you help? Take our quiz to find your cause and learn how you can join in today.