Long before you see the first light on a tree, smell roasting chestnuts, or hear a bell ringing by a red kettle, The Salvation Army has been hard at work preparing for the holiday season. The season of giving is year-round, and Salvation Army officers and employees start planning well in advance to help those most in need during what should be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
The Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family program specializes in helping families who’ve experienced extreme hardship and devastating tragedies during the year such as death, serious illness, abuse, and home fires. Families in the most difficult situations are adopted by a sponsor who purchases Christmas gifts for each member of the family.
Clinton Mills’ sister, Denise, had already survived breast cancer when she was diagnosed with brain cancer last year. In November, the single mother of seven and grandmother of four called her brother from her hospital bed to ask him if he would take care of her children after she was gone. It was Denise’s final request and the last time she spoke with Clinton or anyone else in their family.
Clinton is a single father of five and grandfather of three living on a fixed income and unable to work due to a disability. Desperate to honor his sister’s dying wish, but not knowing where to start, Clinton began calling organizations throughout the city who might be able to offer some support for the family. Clinton said he always received calls back, but usually just to refer him to another agency or group. Clinton never contacted The Salvation Army, but somehow Jeffrey Howe, The Salvation Army Seasonal Services Program Administrator and Inner- City Ministries Chaplain found out about Clinton’s situation and contacted him directly.
Denise passed away two weeks before Christmas. Clinton wishes he’d had the chance to tell her The Salvation Army was going to help. “Just to see the joy on the kids and grandkids’ faces when I delivered their presents from The Salvation Army was so great,” said Clinton. “I called so many places but I had no knowledge of The Salvation Army. When I got the call from Robin and Jeffrey I had to hold back tears—it was a happy-sad moment that day. I’m just so grateful for what they did to help.”
Naomi Pippen and her four children ages 12, 10, 9 and 3 lost everything when an electrical fire destroyed their home last year. Naomi, a community employment specialist for people with mental and intellectual disabilities, and her children found temporary shelter through The Red Cross, while she worked to get back on her feet and find a new home. Naomi said that getting her family situated took a lot longer than she anticipated as she saved to find a place to live and provide her family with the most essential items. When her caseworker asked Naomi how Christmas would be for her family and if she could use help, Naomi felt a burden lifted. “This time of year is so critical for parents and I just wanted my kids to have a little something at Christmas,” said Naomi.
The sponsor who adopted Naomi’s family gave her children clothing, toys, and for Naomi, a set of new dishes and a gift card. “When I went to pick up our presents from The Salvation Army it was very nice,” said Naomi. “They welcomed us, took us in, spoke and prayed with us, and gave us a Holy Bible. My children were very grateful and happy about the gifts they received.”