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A holy passion

The former Park Plaza Castle from above.

At times, Jeffrey Bailey sees moments from his difficult childhood flash before his eyes. Today as the director of social services for The Salvation Army’s Massachusetts Division, he is helping people like himself receive the care they need.

He was raised in Boston by his grandmother, Sarah Johnson, and they depended on The Salvation Army. Bailey attended Boy Scouts and other programs at the Roxbury, Mass., Corps, which often provided food for his family. His grandmother was involved in the ministry for seniors.

Passion is obviously in Bailey’s voice as he describes the role he now plays in helping “the least of these.”

“This is just the way I’ve given back that makes the most sense to me,” Bailey says. “I love the fact that we’re taking care of people who can’t care for themselves. That is what I wake up in the morning wanting to do. Sometimes, the only reason I’m able to go to sleep at night is because of the things we’re doing here that make me feel good.

“We’re doing all of this in His name. How can you ask for anything more than that?”


Moving the Christmas Castle

One of the programs Bailey is most passionate about is the annual Christmas Castle, when clients pick their own gifts. This year, the Army is moving the event to the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Boston.

For the past 20 years, organizers have held the Castle at the Park Plaza Castle in downtown Boston, a “gorgeous and historic edifice,” Bailey said. The Kroc Center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, provides extra parking and is more accessible by public transportation than the Park Plaza Castle, where in the past some clients had to walk to get to it.

The larger Kroc Center will allow The Salvation Army to implement better social distancing guidelines due to COVID-19.

Jeffrey Bailey.

“Moving to the Kroc Center will allow us to invest more in the families we serve and distribute gifts in a more convenient location,” said Heather MacFarlane, director of communications, marketing, and public relations for the Massachusetts Division.

“This comes as a blessing in disguise because of COVID-19 and will allow us to keep the clients safe,” she said.

The Salvation Army’s Divisional Headquarters used to be across the street from the Park Plaza Castle. Bailey remembers the lines of people that formed to get inside for the Christmas event.

“It’s heartbreaking because we were known for being at that location, but sometimes you have to change with the times,” Bailey said.

“The Kroc Center is a really good location. We can do more there and saving money means we can service more families. That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it?”

The Christmas Castle helps 15,000 people from 4,000 different families each year by providing presents, food, and coats from every corps in Boston.

Bailey said the Kroc Center already has a Christmas Castle. “But we’re going to find a way to encapsulate their event with our event.”

“We have to do a new flavor and a new flair,” he said. “Exactly what that looks like, we don’t know.”

Bailey said clients from the Boston Central Hispanic Corps, South End Corps, Jubilee House, Chelsea/East Boston Corps, and the Kroc Center Corps will be involved.

“Each one has its own brand, so we are taking care of a large swath of Boston,” Bailey said. “About 60 to 70 percent of our clientele is from the minority community. We’re really helping people who can’t help themselves.

“For the clients we serve, these are their big gifts—skateboards, basketballs, and radios. We are giving away really good items like that.”

Boston’s Salvation Army locations also participate in a Back-to-School distribution in partnership with TD Garden and the City of Boston. In addition, they all team up for a Thanksgiving food program.

Bailey said those kinds of programs really inspire him.

“The Christmas Castle and seasonal assistance is really special to me because I grew up in a family that didn’t have a lot,” he said. “We wouldn’t have made it without some of the assistance we received from The Salvation Army.”

by Robert Mitchell


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