The Salvation Army in Benton Harbor Dinner

Apr 26, 2024

It was a night filled with touching and uplifting moments on April 11th, 2024, at the Salvation Army in Benton Harbor Dinner, held at Shadowland on Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan, and attended by more than 200 people.

The evening began with a welcome from Corps Officers, Lieutenants Mario and Melissa Bledsoe, who were appointed to Benton Harbor in June of 2022. “Even though we haven’t been here long, we are excited to see what the future holds for The Salvation Army in Benton Harbor as we continue to serve West Berrien and Van Buren Counties,” Lt. Melissa told the crowd. “This community has become our home.” Grand Valley Area Commander, Major Tim Meyer, then shared a little about The Salvation Army’s history and delivered the invocation.

(*Lieutenants Mario and Melissa Bledsoe)

(*Major Tim Meyer)

Following a delicious buffet dinner and sounds from The Salvation Army Brass Band, Advisory Board Member Bonita Mitchell introduced a very special guest to the podium. That guest was a 25-year-old man named Kentrail Nattee, who came to The Salvation Army Men's Shelter in Benton Harbor when he was just 17 looking for help. “He was referred to The Salvation Army for 4-5 days,” Bonita said. “If it hadn’t been for the Men's Shelter, God knows where this man would be right now.” Today, Kentrail, who has been singing since the age of 12, has a home of his own and he opened the dinner by singing "A Change Is Gonna Come," by Sam Cooke. Kentrail’s dream is to enter the I’m Saving Myself Academy in Benton Harbor where Bonita teaches music, and hopes to produce his first CD.

(*Bonita Mitchell)

(*Kentrail Nattee)

The dinner was emceed by three-time Emmy Award Winner and WNDU News Anchor, Joshua Short. Short spoke of how he grew up in a low-income area of Chicago, Illinois, and saw the struggles his mother faced raising their family. “There are people here in this city that face those same struggles each and every day,” Short said. “They must decide whether to eat, pay for housing or even their utilities. That is why The Salvation Army is here.”

“THE CITY’S CHAPTER (The Salvation Army of Benton Harbor) IS ALIVE AND WELL. There’s so much work being done and — based on community members and donors in that room who I spoke with — a lot more is necessary. Even so, the outpouring of support and care inside of the Shadowland on Silver Beach on Thursday is proof of the effort underway to help families in Berrien County.” – WNDU News Anchor, Joshua Short.

(*Emcee Joshua Short & Keynote Speaker Jackie Huie)                                

(*Major Valerie Nance & Lieutenants Mario and Melissa Bledsoe)

Jackie Huie, CEO & Board Chairman of JohnsonRauhoff, gave an inspiring keynote speech of the evening. "I was honored and humbled to be the keynote speaker at the Annual Salvation Army Dinner at Shadowland on Silver Beach. A big thank you to friends and family that joined..." Huie said.

Grand Valley Area Command Program Officer Major Valerie Nance joined the Bledsoes and helped present awards to groups who were recognized for their hard work and dedication to serving others. Before handing out the awards, they shared a story about The Salvation Army Co-Founder, General William Booth. “In the early 1900’s, the cost to send a telegram wasn't easy for Booth to afford so his message of encouragement to his officers around the world had to be short,” Major Valerie said. “An entire message had to be condensed to a single word…a word that had to encourage and inspire. And the word he used was OTHERS. So in honor of Booth and our volunteers, the word inscribed on these awards, is OTHERS. OTHERS became the focus; OTHERS became the reason and OTHERS became the purpose.”

(*Sisters From Another Mother (SFAM) with Lieutenants Mario and Melissa Bledsoe)

(*Advisory Board Members with Major Andrew Shiels)

Divisional Secretary Major Andrew Shiels inducted new Advisory Board members and thanked current members for their service. The Salvation Army of Benton Harbor's Advisory Board consists of local leaders and business professionals who share the vision to transform and restore lives in our communities. With their vision and guidance, The Salvation Army is better equipped to serve families and individuals throughout West Berrien and Van Buren Counties.

In closing, Lt. Mario said, “We are grateful for the overwhelming support from both familiar and new faces, and we hope the message of Love Beyond was clear. Thank you, donors, and volunteers, to our staff, congregation, and God. Go in peace, go in joy, and go in love. Have a beautiful and great night, amen.”

To learn more about The Salvation Army in Benton Harbor, please visit

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