Loving Her Neighbors with Crochet and Ice Cream

Jul 28, 2021

This summer, Captain Amanda Keene at The Salvation Army Gary-Merrillville Corps Community Center has been loving her neighbors with crochet hooks, s’mores, paint, and ice cream sundaes.

“I believe that it is important to get to know our neighbors and learn about what is needed in the community. Right now that seems to be connection and the need to know that a person is not alone,” Captain Amanda said. “In a year that has been very isolating, we wanted to think of programs and events that would bring people together in a safe way since COVID is still affecting our community.”

Those programs include a weekly crochet circle, DIY Saturdays (where local women gather for lunch and a project), open gym times, outdoor movies with a bonfire and s’mores, LEGO builds, and a drop-in center for kids (with lunch, crafts, and games). In addition, every Sunday in June and July, Captain Amanda has driven the Army canteen into the community to distribute free ice cream and summer fun packs for children, calling the events Sally’s Sundaes.

The Gary corps has regularly hosted community events such as these to engage their neighbors, including a weekly community dinner and worship gathering. Captain Amanda planned the programs this summer to meet the unique needs brought on by the pandemic, especially in the hard-hit neighborhood surrounding their corps.

“The youth in our area have been e-learning and this has caused a feeling of being alone and has increased depression,” she said. “Adults are feeling the stresses of the cost of living increasing, being laid off from work, having to figure out childcare for children at home since many are essential workers. Families and individuals are facing disconnections on utilities or evictions from homes. We know that COVID is disproportionally impacting people of color and those facing poverty.”

In addition to restoring a sense of connection, Captain Amanda hopes these events have helped raise awareness of the practical assistance The Salvation Army offers, including food pantries and emergency financial assistance with rent and utility payments. “We want to help connect people to The Salvation Army, where they can find support and resources that can make life a bit easier,” she said.

But mostly her desire has been to address the emotional needs in her community. “Knowing what our neighbors are facing, we wanted to provide programs and events that could bring some joy and hope in a difficult time.”

Learn more about all the Gary-Merrillville Corps programs at salarmygary.org.

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