There were mountains of cases outside The Salvation Army’s Greater Philadelphia Operations Center filled with thousands of pounds of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce and dinner rolls. It all needed to be loaded into trucks and hauled to three Salvation Army sites before dawn on Thanksgiving morning for distribution to local families later that day. Among those up to the task – Team Rubicon!
“They moved, they lifted, they lugged,” recalled Major Susan Ferreira, Associate Director of Operations, The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia.
The Salvation Army Tabernacle Corps Community Center, at the intersection of Allegheny Avenue and Mascher Street, sits in the heart of the Fairhill-West Kensington section of Philadelphia. The largely Hispanic neighborhood is considered one of the poorest in the city, with a poverty rate of more than 62-percent – more than double the overall Philadelphia poverty rate of 26.3-percent – according to the U.S. Census. The once thriving manufacturing community of 50 years ago is now a sea of deteriorating buildings, trash-strewn streets, high crime, drug sales and prostitution.
“This is a very tough neighborhood,” said Captain Omar Rolon, Co-Commanding Officer, The Salvation Army Tabernacle Corps Community Center.
The Salvation Army is a place so many here in need turn to for support and spiritual guidance. That’s why every Wednesday, Luce Melendez and dozens of other older residents gather at Tabernacle for socializing, lunch, games, educational workshops and praise. They come for the new Seniors Program, which kicked off in the summer of 2015 with approximately 20 participants. Now it draws as many as 50 people on any given week.
The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia is joining forces with the Philadelphia Police Department, The United States Attorney’s office, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security and multiple non governmental agencies to form an anti-human trafficking task force in the City of Philadelphia.
“The task force will provide Philadelphia with the resources to address human trafficking collaboratively on city, state and federal levels,” said Jamie Manizaraka, Director of Anti-Human Trafficking and Social Service Ministries, The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia.
Nancy Strong is a woman who lives up to her name. She has been through a lot in her 50 years and the last four have been the toughest: losing her job, becoming homeless, and grieving the death of a son, all while raising a teenage daughter. But Nancy has persevered and is making great strides to self-sufficiency – with inner strength and determination and some love and support from The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia.
The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia’s Captain Omar Rolon and Major Migdalia Lavenbein went to Honduras on a medical mission trip to change thousands of lives. They returned a week later with their lives changed too.
“My mind cannot erase all that I have seen and experienced in Honduras. Quite frankly I don’t want to forget, because I have grown as a person,” said Major Lavenbein. “I suppose it’s impossible to witness suffering and heartache and walk away unaffected by it.”
Four days in Cuba have left a lasting impression on The Salvation Army USA officers and representatives, following an historic trip to the island nation. So much so, the group intends to return for a mission trip next year. The visit encompassed fellowship with the Cuban people and The Salvation Army of Cuba, spreading the word of the Gospel, presenting the gift of music and conducting much-needed service projects at The Salvation Army Corps Community Centers there. The trip, during the weekend of February 20, is the first time The Salvation Army USA officers from the contiguous US have traveled to the once-closed off communist country in nearly 60 years.