San Bernardino gives a ‘cup of cold water’

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Doing the Most Good- Sierra del Mar

Ministry to poor, rich, lonely, homeless echoes William Booth.


Craig, a graduate of the ARC and Path to Prosperity programs, is now a building inspector for Cathedral City. On Sunday nights, he talks to men at the open-air meetings.

William Booth surely would have loved the Sunday morning worship service in San Bernardino!

In this city—with one of California’s highest crime rates—the chapel is filled to the brim on Sunday mornings; the Sunday school overflowing…and still they come: the poor and the rich, graduates of Salvation Army programs, street kids, the homeless, reformed criminals, the lonely—all spiritually hungry for the cup of cold water they receive from Corps Officers Majors Jacqueline and Russell Fritz.

“I’d been a thief and a meth addict for 30 years. When I got out of prison, The Salvation Army took me in,” says Richard, who now has been clean for seven years, and is the head of maintenance at the San Bernardino Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC). He recently became a soldier.

“It’s a miracle I draw breath,” he says.

Richard first found help at the corps’ Hospitality House shelter before entering the ARC. He says then shelter director, Linda Lott, “took me under her wing as no one had ever done; this short black woman cared about me – a skin-head, racist convict!”

One of the corps’ secrets of success is the integration of programs. Those with a real desire to stay clean and sober can enter an educational program called Path to Prosperity, where they have the opportunity to go to college, study, get a vocational certificate or a degree and enter the work force.

Most of the men find that once they have entered college, their goals change and they find dreams long ago buried and forgotten. Each semester finds Path to Prosperity students on the dean’s list, some going on to pursue higher education, many looking for the best way to give back.

Giving back

“I was a homeless meth addict. The only one who cared about me was The Salvation Army,” says Craig who graduated from the ARC and entered Path to Prosperity.

“They got me enrolled in college and had me workin’ at the homeless shelter, cleaning toilets,” he recalls, “cleaning toilets for the homeless—that puts things in perspective.”

Craig graduated with a 4.0 grade average, making the dean’s list four semesters in a row. Now he has a job he loves, as a building inspector for Cathedral City.

Every Sunday night, Craig returns to Hospitality House, joining men from the ARC, to hold an open-air meeting. The men give their testimonies and then circulate through the hundred or so lined up for a meal at the shelter. It’s not surprising that some of the people who came just for a hot meal turn up at the ARC the next week, asking questions and often enrolling for treatment.

The San Bernardino corps also has a program to help those with handicaps pay their bills, with The Salvation Army acting as executor for the government monies and dispersing that money for those not capable of managing their own accounts. This helps keep these individuals in their own homes and relatively self-sufficient.

William Booth surely would have loved this work in San Bernardino!

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