Providing a Young, Desperate Mom-to-Be a Place to Call Home
Major Angie Hansen remembers the December day vividly. “A woman literally burst through the front door of The Salvation Army – cold, obviously pregnant, and out of breath. Her coat did not cover her body or the body of the child she was carrying,” she said.
Loretta Nelson, a regular volunteer at the DeKalb Salvation Army Corps Community Center, recalls the woman yelling, “I’m tired and I’m hungry.” So she took the woman aside, reassured her, and found out how the Army could help.
Loretta soon learned that the woman, Ruby*, had walked to The Salvation Army that day. She had moved to DeKalb just the week before, seeking to start over in a new town. Thankfully, another organization had helped her secure an apartment.
Making a Home
Loretta gathered up some groceries from the DeKalb corps’ food pantry and drove Ruby home. When she got there, she said, “I was stunned. The apartment was empty. The fridge was empty.” They talked for a while, and before Loretta left Ruby hugged her. “She didn’t want to let me go,” she said. “I assured her I’d be back.”
When Loretta returned to the corps and shared the bleak situation, she and Major Angie knew they needed to do something more. “She was sleeping on the floor and didn’t even have a towel to shower with,” Major Angie said. “No longer homeless, but with belongings so meager how could she manage?”
Loretta began collecting items from the corps and asking staff and volunteers if they had any extras at home they could donate. Then she went home and gathered some of her own belongings – plates, pots and pans, silverware.
The next day she went to Ruby’s apartment to deliver an air mattress, towels, and kitchen supplies. The day after, she delivered more groceries and items for Ruby’s home. Soon, the Army delivered a Christmas tree and a vacuum cleaner. Bit by bit they were filling out her home – making it livable both for Ruby and for the child she would soon welcome into it.
Paying it Forward
In that process, Ruby and Loretta developed a close bond. They talk or text almost every day now. Loretta has always enjoyed helping others, “That’s how I live my life,” she said. Loretta knows firsthand how important that help is; she once went to a Salvation Army for help herself.
“When I first moved to DeKalb, I needed money to pay rent,” Loretta said. “I went to The Salvation Army and they helped me. That’s why I volunteer with them, to help pay them back.”
And while she’s grateful for all the people she’s been able to help in her years of volunteering with The Salvation Army, Loretta knows her connection with Ruby is something special. “I will continue to help her and be there for her as long as she needs me,” she said.
A Divine Appointment
Loretta discovered just how much the relationship means to Ruby when she asked Loretta if she would be at the hospital with her when she delivers her baby. And she asked Loretta if she could call her mom.
Soon after she first went to The Salvation Army for help, Ruby texted Major Angie and Loretta. “I’m so grateful for all she [Loretta] has done and for all you guys have done. No one ever has helped me in a way like you all are doing now. I have asked for help from others but they all just turned me away when I really needed them the most. It’s good to know that there are still people out there who will go out of their way to help a single mother like myself.”
Desperation may have led Ruby to the Army’s door, but Loretta knows it was also a divine appointment. “I’m happy God put me there that day to be there for her,” she said. “She will always be a part of my heart.”
*Name changed to protect client’s privacy.