An angel from the ashes
Generations in families sometimes suffer from unhealed issues. Rather than disappear with time, those issues can fester. Nonetheless, this story is about a breakthrough that happened when tragedy turned to triumph, and when gratitude became a powerful force for change for one family under siege.
“I was shocked; I was blown away,” says Major Claudia Germain as she thought about what had happened through the generosity of one faithful woman. “Sometimes, I think that nobody comes back to say ‘thank you’ or to show any appreciation for the work that we do. But here is one lady who has been influenced by the ministry and comes back to say, ‘thanks’ in a big way.”
Germain’s enthusiasm is for Dina Aulet, who recently made a significant donation to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree/Adopt–a–Family Program. That amount covered the needs of two families and included three gift cards for teens.
“Some of the kids on the list wanted bikes; two girls wanted American girl dolls. The cost of all of that was included in the donation,” said Germain.
Aulet’s philanthropy is what inspires Germain to continue in what is frequently a challenging ministry. “Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to give up? But this really blessed my heart. This inspires me to keep on because this shows me that there are people out there who really appreciate what we do for them. I have to keep reminding myself that my thanks comes from God rather than from man. I just do what I have to do and leave it up to Him.”
Adopted by an angel
When Majors Claudia and Johnson Germain were corps officers 10 years ago with the rank of captain in Waltham, Mass., they helped Aulet get her daughter into the corps after–school program. A few weeks ago, while driving, Major Claudia received a call from Aulet. “Captain Germain, I just want you to know that I’m calling you guys because you’ve done so much for me and my family. I noticed on your Facebook page that you are doing the same kind of things you used to do here in Massachusetts. I want to give back to The Salvation Army because you’ve been so good to us.”
When Germain asked, “What do you mean?” Aulet replied, “I see you are doing an Angel Tree/Adopt–a–Family Program. You guys have helped us so much, I want to adopt two families from your program.”
Germain was so shocked that she had to pull over to take the call. When the Germains had arrived in Waltham, Aulet worked as a nurse’s aide. Her six–year–old daughter was happy to attend the corps after–school program. “Dina had been through so much,” remembers Major Claudia. As corps officers, the Germains helped her persevere through difficult times.
Deaths in the family
Dina had come from Puerto Rico where her parents, twin brothers, and younger sister lived. In May 2012, her mother called to say one of the brothers, now in their mid 20s, had been killed. So, after having lived on the mainland for 16 years, Dina returned to Puerto Rico to attend his funeral.
Her attempt to save her second brother’s life failed when he overdosed in Massachusetts. His death happened despite every effort on the part of the Majors Germain and Aulet to save him.
“I’m trying to bring my other brother here to protect him from further harm,” Autlet had told Major Claudia. The concerned sister managed to find him a job and introduced him to the Germains.
That day, Major Claudia remembers saying to him, “If you’re not working, come by and volunteer when you’re able.”
Major Johnson made a few calls and got him into a shelter program in Boston. Eventually he got a job cleaning the corps building. He stayed for a little while, but then suddenly disappeared. “When he left his job and left the program, he started living from friend’s house to friend’s house,” remembers Aulet. “Due to his addiction, he wandered the streets and became homeless.”
At the same time, Dina took care of her younger sister. She did well at the corps as a member of the youth choir. She also served as a homework helper in the after–school program. However, she eventually decided to go back to Puerto Rico.
In November 2014, Dina’s brother died from an overdose. “We comforted her during this period,” said Major Claudia.
In January 2019, Dina’s father died of a massive stroke. She soon learned that her mother was also dying of brain cancer. “I was unable to leave the U.S. to bury my father in the Dominican Republic, his homeland, because at the same time my mom was receiving chemotherapy treatments to fight her cancer.” On Father’s Day of that year, she also died.
Dina’s parents’ and brothers’ untimely deaths plummeted the family into an emotional abyss. “But in the midst of all this, Dina remained a strong woman,” recalls Major Claudia. “She went from being a nurse’s aide to earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology / science and eventually was accepted into a master’s program to become a physician assistant.”
Giving back to others
Today, Aulet works at a pharmaceutical company. She and her husband take care of their family. “Now, I’m a mother of two beautiful children. My daughter is 16 years old and my son is 10 years old,” she says.
“The condition that my father died of was called a blood stroke. My mom was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiform stage IV of the brain. That is why I am interested in neurology–oncology during my physician assistant studies,” said Aulet.
At her daughter’s 16th birthday, Aulet said to Major Claudia, “I cannot have this party without you! I need your husband to bless my daughter!” So, the Germains drove from Astoria Queens, N.Y., to Massachusetts for the festivities.
This young philanthropist also has a message for people who think they are too poor to give back. “There is so much you can give, like your time, even though you may be going through difficult times. If you really have faith, you can achieve anything. You can be the light in the middle of the darkness.”
by Warren L. Maye