Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Salvation Army Fights Against Human Trafficking

I recently watched the much acclaimed "Half the Sky" documentary and was particularly moved by the Somaly Mam segment, wherein a former sex worker, Somaly Mam, now has a internationally known program that rescues underage sex workers from horrible, abusive situations in her native Cambodia, and across Southeast Asia. 

Many of her girls (literally, girls from ages 3 and up) have been tricked into sex work by the promise of a job in the big city or were straight-up sold into prostitution by their desperate, impoverished families.

Being sold or tricked into unpaid, unwanted sex work is called sex trafficking and it is a serious problem, not just in developing countries like Cambodia and Thailand, but also, here in the United States. 

What I didn't know, and was really excited to find out, was that trafficking was already on the radar of the Salvation Army. As we seek to 'Do the Most Good" fighting trafficking is a clear calling for us as an organization. We routinely feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless and minister to widows and orphans, but what about "freeing the captives"? Human trafficking has been called "modern slavery"; and the numbers support it. An estimated 2 million women and children are sold into sexual slavery around the world, every year. And even in the US, it is estimated that 14,000 to 17,000 victims are trafficked annually.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

United Way, helping with more than $$$

We’re right in the middle of the Tulsa Area United Way campaign, which helps more than 60 non-profit organizations throughout Tulsa. Our community is fortunate that there are so many groups trying to help as many people as possible. Recently, I got to work with five of these organizations to see how we can focus on reaching the needs of Tulsa’s youth.

The United Way provided cohort training from the Center for What Works.  The cohort groups included the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Tulsa, Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, Youth at Heart, Campfire USA Green Country Council, Operation Aware and the Indian Nations Council Boy Scouts of America. Leaders from all of these groups met once a month for nine months to discuss how we go from “provider” to “performance.” Each group picked a program provided locally to support youth and then we learned steps we could take to improve upon the work we are doing. 

The Boys & Girls Clubs are working on their Healthy Habits program, which provides education and hands on activities to ensure kids (and their families) lead healthier lives.  Teenagers from one of our Clubs were required to go on a hike/walk at LaFortune Park once a week.  Some of the teens would complain and skip the activity.  Staff then decided to give incentives, such as refreshments and treats. By the end of summer, everyone showed up for the walk and the teens were then good role models for the younger kids.

Another bonus of the training was getting to know leaders from these other organizations.  We all have something in common: character building our youth.  Both Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts even have meetings at our Clubs.  Operation Aware held a Fun & Fit event this summer in which the Clubs participated.  Even though the training officially ended in September, the non-profits are still meeting once a month to help each other on our progress and continue building our relationships.

Although all of Tulsa’s non-profits work to improve the lives of our citizens, we can’t do it alone. That’s why it’s important to support the United Way campaign, because the Tulsa Area United Way provides help to so many important organizations in our community, whether it be training or monetary-- they help ensure we are doing our BEST work!


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Baskets Have Landed!

Four thousand wooden baskets make a fairly impressive sight, even when empty. Fortunately, with the generosity of the Tulsa Area community, they won't stay that way for long!

These food baskets will be distributed to Angel Tree families when they come to pick up the Christmas gifts for their children in late December. Families will receive assorted canned goods, bread, milk, eggs and fresh fruit. Enough to make their holiday a little brighter and fix a nice holiday meal.

4000+ baskets are waiting for you to fill them!
But in order to give a food basket to every Angel Tree family, we need your help. Canned food drives as well as monetary donations to buy the fresh items, will help us fill the baskets! More than 4,000 needy families are already registered with the Angel Tree program and are counting on us, us all, to help make their Christmas brighter.

If you or your group-- business, church, civic group, Scout Troop, book club, etc.-- would like to get more information on how you can help fill the baskets, contact:
Samantha Messick 
via Email
Also, spread the good word! Share this blog post with your social network and follow us on Facebook or Twitter, to stay connected with the Salvation Army this holiday season! Lots of exciting activities, volunteer opportunities and announcements coming your way!


Friday, October 12, 2012

So long, for now

Just as we started to rev up for our incredibly busy Christmas season, I got some bad news. I’ve been diagnosed with restrictive lung disease. It’s not life threatening or painful, but it saps my energy and we all know a lot of energy is needed to celebrate a Salvation Army Christmas. I am taking a three-month medical leave to get some rest and also to work a rehabilitative therapy program to build up my stamina. I hope to be back on the job as your blogger and media contact on January 7. In the mean time, I’ll be writing about my experiences on my personal blog, so we won’t get too out of touch. I'm trying to keep my sense of humor about this as you can tell from the photo at left. I was bored with waiting for a test on my heart and decided to "model" my hospital gown. I don't think the Auxiliary ladies are going to ask me to model it at their spectacular Christmas luncheon, do you?

Please feel free to leave comments on my personal blog or email me. I think writing blog posts is just like exercise – I have to do it most of the week or I get out of shape. My blogging boss Lindsay and teammates Carrie, Vicki and Jenny will keep you up to date with all the news of the holiday season on this site. I will miss seeing some friends whom I only see at Christmas, but you are in good hands with the rest of the team at The Salvation Army. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and see you in 2013!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Meet Justus Brown

You know those kids who everyone complains about, who no one understands and no one seems to know how to handle? Eleven-year-old Justus Brown was one of those kids. He was so angry that he threw furniture, started fights and even spit on people – and that was just at school. When you meet Justus today, you would never guess that he was one of those kids. He most likely owes it to his grandmother, Marilynn Brown, and the caring staff at the Broken Arrow Boys and Girls Club, particularly Program Director Jonathan Mullins. 

We were in the recreation room at the BA Boys & Girls Club where Justus is a member. Marilynn told me a little about Justus’ difficult life and mentioned that he fought and hit her for several months after she began taking care of him.  Marilynn said he was very disruptive in school and could not concentrate. The school suggested putting him in Shadow Mountain when he was in the third grade. Shadow Mountain is a psychiatric hospital for troubled kids.  No one knew what to do with him because he was so aggressive.  Justus lived there for 14 months. 

Marilynn said Justus is very aggressive in everything he does.  Upon hearing this comment, Justus looked up from the Ms. PacMan game which he was trying to win and shouted out “I’m not aggressive, I’m just competitive." We all had a good laugh.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rotary Club visits Area Command

Tradition has it that every Salvation Army Tulsa Area Commander joins the Downtown Rotary Club when he makes the move to Tulsa. But last week a new tradition was put into place. Area Commander Major Jim Taylor welcomed his fellow Rotarians to Area Command during a Business Visitation, where they enjoyed barbecued ribs, a speech, video and tour of the Tulsa Area Command. I got to enjoy the event also, as I was seated at a table with the charming Tom Monahan, pictured left.  He started  volunteering for the Army 31 years ago and had some stories to tell.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The kettle that saved Christmas

“Carrie, we have a $10,000 check for your Matching Kettle Campaign." This one-line email made a huge difference in The Salvation Army’s Kettle campaign last year. Tulsa Gold & Silver answered our plea in our Red Kettle Campaign to match kettle donations for one Saturday last December.

It was raining on that Saturday, which usually leads to lower donations. But that did not happen. People responded to the match, we even had a check for $5,000 in one of the kettles with a note that said “I’m so glad this donation will be doubled.”

We’re now looking for more generous companies to follow Tulsa Gold & Silver’s lead. A Matching Sponsor gets its company name on every red kettle in the Tulsa area on a chosen Saturday.  A banner with the company logo will also hang in our Joy Center throughout the holiday season. Thousands of people will see it when they come to our Joy Center during November and December.