Like mother, like daughter
Georgette Fields is affectionately known as “grandma” to the children of the Allegheny Valley Worship & Service Center in the suburb of Brackenridge just outside Pittsburgh, Pa. Megan, her daughter, is often called “mom.”
Every Sunday, as the offering is taken, many of the kids in the corps scamper back to Georgette’s pew to get a few coins for the collection plate. She is all too happy to oblige.
“I absolutely love that title of ‘grandma,’” Georgette says. “I’m already a grandma to 12 and great–grandma to three. They are the love of my life, but I have plenty of love for hundreds more grandchildren. I absolutely love being with the kids.
“I think all of the programs should involve the kids. I tell them that at the church all the time. We need to do more for the kids, especially the ones who come without their parents. I think we need to make sure they know that someone loves them.”
Georgette, 69, and Megan, 41, have shown the children of the corps love by volunteering to run a host of programs.
No job too big
As a senior soldier, Georgette runs children’s Sunday school, teaches Girl Guards, helps with drama programs, and is a Vacation Bible School (VBS) leader. She also serves on the corps council and is involved in women’s ministry and as a kettle counter during the Christmas season.
Megan, who is also a senior soldier, helps her mother with Sunday school, drama, and VBS. She also teaches Moonbeams and is a teen group leader who finds time for women’s ministry.
Each year, the two also help with Christmas distribution.
“We’re at the corps quite often,” Megan says. “We do a lot with the kids.”
About a decade ago, the two women started a popular “Back to School Bash” and gave backpacks and school supplies to children in the community. They started it in memory of Georgette’s late husband, Paul Fields.
“The first time, we started with 200 kids getting backpacks. Last year, it went to 450,” Megan said. “My mom and I do fund raisers to raise money for it.”
They started the Back to School Bash in Georgette’s husband’s memory because he provided many of the initial supplies—posthumously.
“After he died, we found all these school supplies that he had kind of hoarded,” Georgette said. “They were under his bed and in the cupboards. I don’t even know when he accumulated all this stuff.
“The Back to School Bash is our little baby. It has just totally blossomed. It’s just grown so much over the years. It’s been such a blessing to us. We start collecting for the next year right after it’s finished.”
Georgette and Megan have been going to the corps for 11 years. Megan’s son, Jayme, who is now 23, would go to children’s programs on Wednesday nights and then begged his grandmother and mother to come on Sunday mornings.
He kept telling his mother that The Salvation Army is a church, but Megan was dubious. “I went with him one Sunday and, lo and behold, it was a church!” she said. “I was greeted by so many people. They were so glad I was there. I just couldn’t believe it,” she recalls.
“I’ve loved it ever since. I love helping people. I love helping out if someone needs something. I think it’s just the perfect church for me.”
Paying it forward
When Georgette’s husband died in 2008, she asked a clergyman in town to perform the funeral. He wanted $200. But at the time, the family struggled financially. Captain David Rhodes, a former corps officer, officiated the service, free of charge.
“I was so impressed by that,” Georgette said. “It was just total open arms from the whole church. I was so blessed because I wasn’t sure how I was going to get this all done and with no money.”
The corps continued to support Georgette and her family long after her husband’s death.
“I wanted to give back for what they had done for us. It just kind of blossomed,” she recalls. “Everybody was just so friendly and wanting to do whatever we needed as a family. I wanted to do that too.”
Captain Pam Rhodes, a former corps officer, asked Georgette to help with Christmas distribution.
“From there, it just went from one thing to another,” Georgette said. “I absolutely love volunteering. When they need something, and I have time, I just go. I try to stay as active as I can.”
Georgette said she never volunteered at her old church, but The Salvation Army taught her a whole new lifestyle.
“At my old church, I went on Sunday, and that was it,” she said. “I tried to live a good life; I took my kids to church and tried to teach them right from wrong. But, that was about the end of it.
“Then when I started going to The Salvation Army, I saw that they helped one another and they helped the community. I learned that there was a great need for volunteerism and also that the Bible told me to help others.”
Georgette is driven by the call in James 1:27 to “look after orphans and widows in their distress.” While none of the children at her corps are orphans, Georgette is moved to help because many come from broken homes. Their parents typically stay home.
Showing them Jesus
“They need somebody to just love them and give them a little guidance,” Georgette said. “The teenagers are so loving to me.
“The Bible actually tells us we need to help one another. There’s a great need at our corps for these things and I especially feel compelled to help the kids.”
Megan, who has five children of her own, said she has a simple motivation—to introduce the kids to Christ. About 80 kids come to midweek “Troop Night.”
“I just feel like it’s up to us to make sure the kids know something about The Salvation Army, God, and Jesus,” Megan said. “I think it’s really important that they do know it.”
Megan was a single mother for 20 years. Now, she can see her own children in many of the kids she helps.
“I’ve always loved kids and wanted to help them,” she said. “I was a single mother for a long time. I look at these kids and I think, that could be my kid right now if I had not gone to church. That’s why they’re so special to me. I don’t want any of them to turn to the streets.”
Out of the mouth of babes
Megan said the church is in a challenging neighborhood.
“These kids could be into drugs or anything, but they’re not,” she said. “They’re coming to church and I think that’s important.”
There was a time when Megan didn’t feel as if the children were getting her messages. She also questioned her teaching ability. One day, a student overheard her telling someone she might step down.
“This little girl came up and hugged me and said, ‘I think you’re doing a great job. You can hear God talk to you. He’s like the little voice in your head. You don’t think it’s Him, but it’s really Him. I know he’s telling you not to do this.’
That touched me so much,” Megan said. “That was like, the best blessing ever.”
Megan said she volunteers because she has a giving spirit and “that’s why we were put on Earth.”
“I just feel like that’s what we’re here to do,” she said. “We’re here to help each other. I feel like, how could I even ask somebody to help me when I needed help, if I refused to help someone else?
“We may be taken advantage of, and that’s OK. That’s not what we’re supposed to be concerned about. What we’re supposed to be concerned about is helping our brothers and sisters.”
Megan went to church as a kid, but her spiritual life has intensified since coming to the corps.
“I feel I’ve grown by leaps and bounds,” she said. “I now have a relationship with God. I speak to Him. We just have conversations all day long.”
The two women plan to remain a powerful duo at the corps when it comes to volunteerism and service, despite leading busy lives. Megan works as a bus driver. Georgette is retired, but she can often be found helping her family.
“I’ll never retire from helping kids, though,” Georgette says.
by Robert Mitchell