‘National Salvation Army Week’ story series, Part V: Disaster Services

May 17, 2024

National Salvation Army Week is May 13–19. To celebrate, The Salvation Army Northern Division is publishing stories about some of our most important services to illustrate how your donations and volunteer work are helping us Do the Most Good for people and families in Minnesota and North Dakota. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has joined the celebration by officially declaring this week as Salvation Army Week in Minnesota (read the proclamation).   

When tornadoes, floods, fires, and other disasters strike, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services team provides critical support for survivors and first responders. 

Disaster Services staff and volunteers serve communities across Minnesota and North Dakota, with our largest response units based in the Twin Cities and Fargo. The most common duty of these teams is to serve hot meals, snacks, and water bottles from inside our mobile kitchens (pictured). 

These services are welcomed not only by disaster survivors, but also first responders.

“Firefighters appreciate The Salvation Army’s service when we’re two, three, four hours into a call and they haven’t eaten,” said Maddison Zikmund, Fire Chief for the City of Fridley. “We’re very thankful for The Salvation Army.”

Our Disaster teams also provide another important service: Emotional and Spiritual Care (ESC).

ESC personnel are trained staff and volunteers who walk the streets of communities devastated by floods, tornadoes, and other calamities. Their main job is to offer prayer, comfort, and a listening ear to survivors and first responders – a practice The Salvation Army calls a “ministry of presence.”

“We talk to people, listen to them, and try to cheer them up,” said Desta Hunt (pictured above), a longtime ESC volunteer from Fergus Falls, Minn., pictured comforting a flood survivor whose home had been submerged in 5 feet of water. “We show Christ’s love as a ministry of presence.”

Local disaster volunteers are even deployed to serve at disasters around the country and world. Earlier this month, for example, local volunteer Marie Putnam (pictured right) was called to Nebraska to serve survivors of several devastating tornados. (Watch a news story about Marie.)

Marie first began volunteering for The Salvation Army in 2007 after witnessing a touching moment in Ladysmith, Wis., where a tornado had decimated the community. While helping clean up around the town, she saw Salvation Army food service volunteers praying with an old man; he was visibly upset because the tornado had flattened a long row of tall trees he had planted throughout the course of his life. 

“The volunteers were concerned about the man’s mental stability,” Marie recalled. “They weren’t just feeding the body – they were feeding the soul.” (Learn more about Marie.) 

The Salvation Army first began offering assistance to disaster survivors after a major hurricane hit Galveston, Texas, in September 1900, destroying the coastal city and killing thousands of people. Salvation Army officers from across the country moved into the Galveston area to help feed and shelter thousands of survivors, while also providing much needed emotional and spiritual support.

The Salvation Army is always looking for new disaster volunteers in Minnesota and North Dakota to serve meals, provide emotional and spiritual care, and more. While most disaster volunteers typically serve in their communities at fires or police calls, some are occasionally deployed to serve outside the region.

To learn more about becoming a disaster volunteer in your community, please 651-746-3400.

Help Celebrate National Salvation Army Week by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer

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