These are tough times for many American families this Christmas. People are hurting. Fortunately, this week thousands of these families in need are showing up at Salvation Army distribution centers all across the United States to receive Christmas gifts for their children and food baskets for their families.
Yes, once again, no matter how tough the times, the Salvation Army is on the front line helping needy families with food, clothing, shelter and gifts for their children this Christmas.
Most Americans will pass a Salvation Army Angel Tree or bell ringer in front of the "Red Kettle" while shopping this holiday season. These volunteer efforts are some of the best examples of people coming together to help families and children in real need this Christmas.
The sheer number of families and children who will be helped this Christmas by the Salvation Army is staggering. It's literally in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. For example, Shreveport, Louisiana will see some 6,000 less-fortunate children receive Christmas gifts and clothing through the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program. In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the number is 3,500, and it’s 6,000 in Tampa, Florida. The number is actually 17,000 in Nashville, Tennessee, which represents a 26 percent increase from last year and the biggest number in that city's Salvation Army Angel Tree program's history.
In each case, these children come from at or below the Federal Poverty Level.
William Booth, the ex-Methodist minister and founder of the Salvation Army, viewed church as a "sinner's hospital." While elites of London looked down on him in the 1860s, Booth would reach out to alcoholics, prostitutes and drug addicts and take them to church. His mission expanded to help out those who are less fortunate and truly in need of life's basic necessities. Roughly 150 years later, the Salvation Army is still fulfilling that vision.
Accordingly, the Salvation Army is one of America's favorite charities, with its very low overhead and fundraising costs and focus on getting resources directly to where the need is greatest. In fact, more than 90 percent of each dollar spent by the Salvation Army is used to fund direct services for people. As the late Peter Drucker said, "No one even comes close to it in respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication and putting money to maximum use."
Indeed, it is the role model for faith based and charitable organizations.
Salvation Army volunteers will tell you that nothing gives them greater joy than to see past recipients of the Salvation Army's assistance return to now help others in need. There are stories this year of one mother and her daughter, who several years ago were helped by the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program, returning and providing gifts and clothing for 12 families this Christmas. Then there's the lady who put a substantial sum in the "Red Kettle" and remarked, "The Salvation Army helped me and my children years ago when we were freezing and had no heat." These stories are endless. This is something that no Federal Government program can accomplish.
One thing I have always liked most about the Salvation Army is its humility and nonjudgmental nature. Rather than wearing religion on their sleeve, they just focus on doing the Lord's work.
Earlier this week, a single parent mom with five children, two of whom have disabilities, stopped at her local Salvation Army Angel Tree program distribution center to pick up Christmas toys, clothing, and food for her family. She said, "I just thank God some miracles can happen this year." Yes, miracles are happening this Christmas. The greatest miracle of all happened some 2,000 years ago. Today, the Salvation Army is working to make sure the light of that miracle is brighter than ever this Christmas.
Van D. Hipp, Jr. is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in government affairs, business development and public relations. He is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army and the former Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. He currently serves on the National Capital Advisory Board of the Salvation Army. Follow him on Twitter @VanHipp.