Officers Spotlight: Majors Greg and Poppy Thompson, Divisional Leaders, Western Division
As divisional leaders of The Salvation Army Western Division, Majors Greg and Poppy Thompson have had their work cut out for them over the last two years. In the spring of 2019, the Majors oversaw disaster relief in the wake of flooding that caused more than $3 billion in losses and impacted thousands of individuals and families along the 400-mile corridor flanking the Missouri River and its tributaries. The flooding is believed to be the single largest disaster response in Western Division history.
Just when life was beginning to return to normal across the Western Division, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, presenting a new set of unique challenges for The Salvation Army. “We’ve seen people coming to The Salvation Army for first-time assistance, having never done so before,” said Maj. Greg. He noted that Omaha’s hospitality industry, including convention centers and hotels, has been hit particularly hard.
“Things can seem pretty normal if you are out and about, but if you look deeper into the community, there have been many layoffs,” acknowledged Maj. Poppy. “There have been many small businesses that have not been able to maintain their staff. It’s a real struggle for a lot of people.”
Throughout the pandemic, The Salvation Army has implemented unique ways to continue serving the community, including drive-thru food distributions and, most recently, a drive-thru Christmas toy distribution at each of the Omaha corps.
“We’re not stopping. We’re not saying, ‘There’s no way we can do this,’” said Maj. Poppy. “We and other local agencies are saying, ‘How can we rethink this? How can we make this safer?’ Some things do need to be cancelled. But we can’t cancel service to our community.”
Despite the many challenges still ahead, the Thompsons are confident The Salvation Army will continue to do what it does best, which is to help those most in need both in the short- and the long-term.
“After The Salvation Army steps in and says, ‘Let us help you with your most immediate needs,’ we then say, ‘Let’s talk about your long-term needs. How can we help you maintain your housing? How can we help you find a job? How can we assist you in making sure your kids are still going to school?’” said Maj. Greg.
The Thompsons know the work is far from done, but they remain hopeful for the future by holding on to the many moments of selflessness, kindness and grace they’ve witnessed in 2020.
“I want to take what we have learned, the kindnesses we have been shown and the beauty that has been all around us in people reaching out and touching other people, and I want to hold on to that,” said Maj. Poppy. “It’s been a year of unprecedented challenges, but 2020 has also been a year – if you look for it – of unprecedented beauty in our community.”
If you’re wondering What can I do? to help “Rescue Christmas” for those in need this season, please consider making an online donation. Every bit helps – thank you!