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The Salvation Army marks a milestone in the City of Angels

Major Patricia Giron smiles as children at The Salvation Army Los Angeles Day Care Center receive backpacks as part of the LA125 "Caravan of Hope." Photo by Kathy Lovin

125 years of service in Los Angeles

By Robert Brennan

Spreading across the area with a “Caravan of Hope,” The Salvation Army celebrated 125 years of ministry in greater Los Angeles May 8.

The corner of Temple and Broadway was the site on May 8, 1887, for The Salvation Army’s first open-air meeting in downtown L.A.—the Army’s response to needs created by the city’s rapid growth, with a census tally of 80,000 people including a burgeoning immigrant population adding to the number of poor and disenfranchised residents.

On the same date in 2012, hundreds of Salvation Army personnel and supporters gathered at AEG’s Nokia Plaza to celebrate the past and declare that the Army is here to stay and is willing and able to meet the needs of L.A. communities. Through AEG’s generosity and a donation from FedEx for social services, the stage was set at Nokia Plaza’s L.A. LIVE—a symbol of the new and improved downtown L.A.—a fitting locale for The Salvation Army to honor its past and look toward its future.

City and federal political representatives delivered proclamations and congratulatory speeches. L.A. County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby thanked The Salvation Army for the support it continues to provide to first responders and added a personal account of how The Salvation Army assisted his own family.

Southern California Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Doug Riley delivered the keynote address, emphasizing that the past 125 years are only the beginning of the Army’s commitment to the people of L.A.

“Commemorating our 125th anniversary in Los Angeles is so much more than just nostalgia for the past,” he said. “It’s about The Salvation Army being a vital part of Los Angeles’ social service fabric today and far into the future.”

Riley’s sentiments were put into action as a “Caravan of Hope,” a fleet of Salvation Army vehicles stocked with a wide variety of social services, pulled out convoy-fashion, led by an L.A. County Fire Department truck. With approximately 125 staff and volunteers—many former Salvation Army clients—the Caravan of Hope provided a special day of service across the L.A. basin. Volunteers brought healthy lunches to day laborers in Hollywood, a hot meal to homeless on Skid Row, gently used interview and work clothes from a Salvation Army Family Store for the veterans at The Salvation Army’s Haven program, bus tokens to low-income workers in Compton, much-needed lunches and dry goods to numerous Salvation Army corps and programs across the greater L.A. area, including  books and backpacks for children at The Salvation Army’s Los Angeles Day Care Center.

“The children thaattend our program are from incredibly financially-strapped families, who all too often can’t even afford dinner, not to mention school supplies,” said Sara Varela, executive director of the day care center. “Seeing the sheer joy and delight on the children’s faces when we gave them backpacks and books was priceless; I believe in these kids…The Salvation Army believes in these kids.”

Over the past 125 years, The Salvation Army has clearly become an integral part of the city’s social safety net. Last year alone, The Salvation Army in L.A. served more than 1.8 million meals to the hungry, provided more than 800,000 nights of lodging to the homeless and delivered services to more than 60,000 clients through comprehensive care programs.

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