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Finding love, dignity, and respect

Four Chinese students from Ashland University (AU) recently found themselves stranded in the small Ohio community due to the travel restrictions regarding COVID-19.

The university has allowed the students to remain in campus housing, but the school is otherwise closed, including food service. So they came to the food pantry at the Salvation Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Ashland seeking assistance.

Major Annalise Francis, the Kroc Center administrator and corps officer, said the staff shared a month’s supply of groceries and told the students about The Salvation Army’s mission and the love of Jesus Christ.

“We were later told by an AU staff member that the students returned to the university blessed by the experience, mentioning how they were treated with love, dignity, and respect,” Francis said.

“We’ve seen almost a doubling in the volume of people we’re serving each day in our food pantry.”

A recent day saw 40 people show up for groceries, snacks, and drinks at the food pantry, Francis said. On Saturdays, the corps offers a drive–up lunch distribution.

The corps has also partnered with a local pizza shop and a church to help deliver meals if someone can’t get out. The local school district is referring people who need food to The Salvation Army.

Ohio state troopers recently delivered 75 senior food boxes provided by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

“All of our food boxes contain Salvation Army magazines, activity books or toys for children, and COVID-19 information sheets,” Francis said. “We also provide candy and Girl Scout cookies as a special treat.”

Francis and the corps leaders are also finding ways to keep their members engaged. Several programs are now operating digitally via Zoom, including Home League and a youth group. The corps has held Sunday services via Facebook Live featuring Francis’ husband, Major William Francis, and chaplain Major Jim Klemowski, a retired officer.

The Majors Francis and Klemowski have also made “reassurance calls” to corps members. Klemowski then sends out daily devotions to everyone.

Francis said a women’s ministry group called “Chix with Stix,” which normally meets at the corps to knit and crochet, has pitched in to fight COVID-19.

“While they can’t meet in person during this time, they’ve been sewing face masks and providing them to our staff and to other groups in the community that need them,” she said.

by Robert Mitchell

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