Friday, February 6, 2015

The Salvation Army – Celebrating 150 Years

You would recognize that red kettle anywhere, and the holidays wouldn’t seem quite right without the ringing of that bell along street corners throughout the world, but do you really know what the Salvation Army does?

This year will mark the sesquicentennial of The Salvation Army, a Christian organization and international group that provides charitable giving to those in need. The organization is set up along the lines of a military unit with officers, soldiers and volunteers who work together to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the poor, destitute and hungry.

William Booth
London's Poor
It all began in 1865, when London minister William Booth decided to take his message to the streets so that he could better reach the poor, homeless and hungry. Realizing that the destitute were not welcome in Victorian churches of the time, Booth founded a church just for them – the East London Christian Mission.

Bramwell Booth
Catherine Booth
Booth’s wife Catherine, and son Bramwell worked with him. In fact, it was Bramwell who named the organization The Salvation Army in 1878. In 1880, The Salvation Army came to America, and by 1900, the group had established organizations throughout the world. Today, The Salvation Army can be found in 126 countries around the globe.

Capt. Joseph McFee
The red kettle did not come about until December of 1891. Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee needed money to pay for food for the free Christmas dinners to be given to San Francisco’s poor. While walking the waterfront, McFee saw a “Simpson’s pot,” a large pot placed near the landing docks where passerby’s tossed coins to the poor.

McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland ferry landing with a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.”  McFee received enough money to provide dinners for all of those in need that Christmas. By 1895, over 30 Salvation Army locations in the U.S. were using the red kettles to raise funds for the poor, and by 1897, the red kettle had spread throughout the country. The New York World newspaper dubbed the kettles “the newest and most novel device for collecting money.” And the kettles are still used today, mainly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year, over 58-and-a-half million meals were served to those in need.

But The Salvation Army does more than give holiday assistance, provide rehabilitation centers, and run thrift stores. It also offers emergency disaster services, provides senior, adult and child care centers, oversees group homes and temporary housing, provides youth camps, training programs, and supplies transportation, medical care, job referrals and substance abuse assistance to those in need. In the 21st century, human and sexual trafficking are major problems, and The Salvation Army also provides services and advocacy for those who have been victimized by this international crime.

Salvation Army Lodging
In the past year, shelter and lodging was provided for over 10.5 million people, and clothing, furniture and gifts were distributed to over 20 million people throughout the world.

The Salvation Army also provides assistance during  and after major disasters. There are ordained clergy in the group who comfort the bereaved, conduct funeral services and hold memorial services. To find out more, visit The Salvation Army website.

Commemorating 150 years of “Doing the Most Good” is indeed, something to celebrate.

~ Joy

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