Mary's Story

Jul 25, 2023 | by Deann Davidson

It’s not every day that someone who has been helped by The Salvation Army turns around to become a volunteer, soldier, and employee of The Salvation Army. But for Mary Fullilove, that’s exactly what happened.

“When I was introduced to The Salvation Army, I was coming from the streets,” Mary said.

Mary came across The Salvation Army at a resource fair during her rehab program in Chicago in 1992. Through The Salvation Army, she received household goods for her family and counseling services to help her with her addiction struggles.

“They really helped the whole family,” Mary said. “They helped me out with an apartment. When I got the place, they helped me out with our needs: pots and pans, covers. They also gave me counseling.”

Mary had a young son that she soon enrolled in The Salvation Army’s preschool program and soon found herself immersed in volunteering. At the preschool, Mary volunteered and became involved with multiple committees.

“I started off as a top volunteer, and then I got on the Parent Committee and ended up being the President of the Parent Committee,” Mary said.

Through volunteering at the preschool program, Mary became connected with The Emergency Lodge in Chicago and began volunteering there as well. Mary worked very closely with an employee named Miss Owens, who oversaw meal preparation at the lodge. Mary assisted wherever needed, and when Miss Owens chose to retire, Mary was asked to fill the position.

“I got her job when she left, but I started out as a volunteer,” Mary said.

In 2007, Mary and her family relocated to Las Vegas, Nev., and Mary strayed away from The Salvation Army. Six years later, Mary said her father convinced her to move her family to Milwaukee and work with his organization, whose mission was to help those struggling with addiction, just like Mary had once been. Mary and her family returned to the Midwest and bought a home close to The Salvation Army Milwaukee Citadel Corps, on the northside of Milwaukee.

Shortly after, Mary started a Block Watch in her neighborhood due to the crime and drug trafficking in the area.

“They sold drugs, turned tricks, everything, right there in your face with no respect,” Mary said. “I used to cry because I couldn’t take it.”

Through Block Watch, Mary was connected to The Salvation Army Milwaukee Citadel’s officers. Captain Patricia Williams invited Mary to have Block Watch meetings at the community center rather than Mary’s home.

In no time, May became a pillar at the Citadel Corps as a Salvation Army Soldier and an employee of The Salvation Army once more. Together, Captain Williams and Mary found ways for The Salvation Army to serve the community further.

“The Salvation Army is the truth. The Salvation Army is a blessing to the community. They really help,” Mary said. “They help you where you’re at. Where there’s a need, they reach it.”

Mary is now The Salvation Army Milwaukee Citadel’s Food Pantry Coordinator where she runs the pantry and provides food to those who walk through The Salvation Army’s doors. In addition, she still serves as the neighborhood Block Watch captain, and is a volunteer chaplain in The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County Chaplaincy Program.

“I see people come in every day in need and it’s just a blessing to not be that person today, because I was that person,” Mary said.

Through her work, Mary said she has found purpose and works hard to help those in her community who are in need and facing the same struggles she faced before finding The Salvation Army many years ago.

“The greatest gift The Salvation Army has given me is a new way of life,” Mary said. “This is a life-changing situation. I get to walk in my purpose and work with The Salvation Army. I get to help people change their lives, and in the same breath, change my life.”

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