Making a Difference in the Midwest, September 10

Sep 15, 2020

We are all adapting to new realities amid the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. That doesn’t mean we can’t still work toward our goals. Across the Midwest, The Salvation Army continues to achieve goals, provide vital services and plan for the future.

Hearts in the Park(ing Lot)

Lately, we may think of a Salvation Army parking lot as the ideal place to host a drive-through food pantry. To be sure, this is an excellent use for these stretches of asphalt. The La Crosse, WI Worship and Service Center has given their parking lot an additional function by using it to host an event which provided services to the local homeless population.

Earlier this year, two La Crosse nurses heard that a side effect of COVID-19 pandemic safety precautions was a reduction in services to the homeless, leaving them without vital resources. In response to this service need, the nurses formed Hearts in the Park, a nonprofit organization designed to help supplement these needs. They decided to host an event that would bring essential services to one location, creating a one-stop shop for about 100 clients. Soon, more than 40 medical professionals had volunteered for the event, and other community organizations signed up to participate. Stations provided haircuts, hygiene bags, meals, blood pressure checks, foot care, wound treatment, housing assistance, addiction treatment resources, behavioral counseling services and more.

Originally planned for a local park, which is home to many of La Crosse’s homeless, the location was moved to the La Crosse Salvation Army parking lot. This space better allowed for social distancing. “Here at The Salvation Army, the resources that are offered today at this event are resources that we offer 365 days a year within our facility,” said Krista Coey, Social Services Director for The Salvation Army, La Crosse County.

Character Building and Hoop Dreams

Former Creighton University basketball star Josh Jones has traded in his jersey for a whistle. He is now the director and coach of The Salvation Army Omaha North ABCDevelopment program. The program, for boys and girls from kindergarten through third grade, is designed to teach basketball skills, teamwork and leadership. ABCDevelopment launched this past winter. While it’s currently on pause due to COVID-19, Lieutenant Kenneth Jones and Josh Jones hope the program can resume soon. In fact, they plan to partner with Nebraska Hoops Elite, a sports-based youth development and educational nonprofit in Omaha, to expand its basketball programming to middle and high school girls this fall.

“We give kids a safe place to play, have fun and learn some basketball skills, but it’s also a means to an end,” said Lieutenant Jones. “While they’re out there having fun, we’re also helping them build character and grow their communications and leadership skills. We are preparing them to be future leaders in our community.”

Our new realities may include providing services through a different format, or they may include pausing a program and planning for how it can be even better moving forward. While we are all working and living with new guidelines, The Salvation Army is still committed to Doing the Most Good within our communities – even if it looks a little different these days.

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