Strength in Family

Apr 16, 2020 | by Doug Donahoo

Robert can be found, on any given Sunday, sitting on the center left-aisle seat, the third row from the back, at the Olathe Salvation Army Corps Community Center. He has difficulty hearing and sometimes talks loudly during the sermon when he has a question. If someone comes into the service late, and Robert knows them, he gets right up out of his seat to give them a hug. That’s what you do in a family.


At 69 years old, Robert has his church family who loves him and has been saving him his seat for the past eight years.


First, though, Robert had to find his seat, through no small journey. Eleven years ago, shortly after his mother passed away, Robert was facing eviction and homelessness. With few places to turn for help, Robert began working with a Salvation Army case manager.


The case manager recognized a disability and assisted him in starting his Social Security payments. It was but the first step in what has become a lifelong caregiving friendship. Emphasis on friendship.


Robert moved into a new apartment and started attending church serves at The Salvation Army, his case manager sitting next to him every Sunday for the first year. Slowly, Robert began to make new friends. Robert’s life of loneliness came to end.


In the chapel of The Salvation Army Olathe Corps, he found a family and discovered a God who loves him very much. Robert came to rely on the weekly church service as part of his life routine.


The thing about family is, it sticks with you, through the thick and thin. Just a few months ago, it became apparent Robert was no longer managing his medications correctly, so The Salvation Army staff started weekly meetings in Robert’s home so he could fill his weekly pill box The Army provided to him. Soon, the weekly visits included trips to the grocery store. Robert was looking better than he had in a long time.


Then, COVID-19 struck. At first, Robert thought his Salvation Army case manager was teasing him about the virus, but when the truth became clear, he fell into a deep sadness. Especially when church services were canceled for the first time. And then for the foreseeable future. Robert has no internet access and, for him, not seeing his church family left him wondering if he was forgotten.


His Salvation Army helper would still assist him in filling his pillbox, but trips to the grocery store were replaced by delivery orders via the helper’s phone. Each week, Robert would ask, “Is this almost over?”


“When can I go back to church?”


“Am I going to die?”


When Robert walked over to the Kentucky Fried Chicken location near his apartment, he found it closed, and he was devastated. Two of his most favorite places in the world: The Salvation Army and KFC were both closed to him. That’s when his family responded.


One of the men at the corps started to do weekly drive-through pick-ups at KFC and delivering the food to Robert’s apartment. Two members of the Corps’ Youth Council purchased 12-packs of Pepsi and 7Up (Robert’s favorites) and gave them to Robert’s helper to deliver them.


On Good Friday, Robert’s Salvation Army helper showed up with a gift he never expected: an Easter Basket, with his name on it. The first one he received in more than 30 years. Just the sight made Robert stop and giggle. Then he was told who had sent the basket. His church family, who loves and misses him very much.


Robert began asking, “Is it from Heidi and Kory?” Yes, it is.


“Is it from John and Donna?” Yes, it is.


“Is it from Lori and her husband who plays the drums?” Yes, it is.


Robert laughed, and smiled, and talked about how he couldn’t wait to go back to church.


One Easter Basket was all the proof Robert needed to know he was not alone. He was not forgotten. His family remembers him and loves him.


Because family is like that.


You can help The Salvation Army provide the strength of family for the thousands impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Click here to donate now and join our family.

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