Relevents

Karen Meehan

Karen Meehan, corps sergeant major and director of operations at the Salvation Army’s Cambridge, Mass., Corps, talks about Christmas dinners at the  homeless shelter, why Samuel Logan Brengle is an example for her staff, and the importance of creating a new generation of Army supporters.


During World War II, seeing the Salvation Army donut girls in action were how many people became familiar with the Army. That generation became the Army’s biggest supporters, and the ones who gave to the Army the most. Sadly, those folks are slowly leaving us. What are we doing to create the next generation of supporters? Do we start baking donuts again or is there another, more modern way? In the coming year, let’s find new and exciting ministries that will turn people into lifelong supporters and fighters for The Salvation Army.

My office is filled with Salvation Army statues, posters, and other decorations from its years of serving others during the world wars. One of my favorite pieces is a small statue of Samuel Brengle, an early commissioner of The Salvation Army, polishing a boot. When Brengle came to the Army, he was immediately put to work—blackening the boots of the officers. Though he was an educated scholar, he did every job they gave him, and that was how he advanced in the Army. I read his story to my staff to remind them of the true definition of service. We come to The Salvation Army to serve Jesus Christ.

My office is filled with Salvation Army statues, posters, and other decorations from its years of serving others during the world wars. One of my favorite pieces is a small statue of Samuel Brengle, an early commissioner of The Salvation Army, polishing a boot. When Brengle came to the Army, he was immediately put to work—blackening the boots of the officers. Though he was an educated scholar, he did every job they gave him, and that was how he advanced in the Army. I read his story to my staff to remind them of the true definition of service. We come to The Salvation Army to serve Jesus Christ.

When I first came to The Salvation Army, it was the soldiers of the Cambridge Corps who reached out and made me feel welcome. They invited me to Home League. Though I didn’t know much about making arts and crafts, I still went for the fellowship. I didn’t even know that the Cambridge Corps had a homeless shelter until a new corps officer started inviting the people in the shelter to service on Sunday. When I lost my job, I became the coordinator for the homeless shelter. I grew up in the community and knew the people who came looking for help. Working and praying with them was a new type of fellowship.

Every Christmas, we prepare a special meal at the corps. We put on linen tablecloths, plates, silverware, and serve a beautiful Christmas feast. No one rushes anyone to eat, and no one stands in line waiting to be served. That’s what The Salvation Army is about: making everyone feel loved and welcomed. One woman said that she felt like she was eating at a fancy hotel. We do this because we are celebrating Jesus’ birthday; how could we not throw a royal party in His name?

interview by Hugo Bravo

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