Covid-19Magazine Exclusive

Blessings fall on Latrobe

As pastors, Majors Christopher and Jennifer Blessing have a great name. They often get asked if it’s real. It is.

The Salvation Army officer couple, now in their 16th year of service, have been a huge blessing as leaders of the Latrobe, Pa., Corps. Although they’re about an hour outside of Pittsburgh, they’ve received a lot of help from that community amid COVID-19. Sharky’s Café, one of the largest restaurants in the area, recently blessed the corps with 250 meals to help feed the hungry.

John Heiple, the restaurant’s general manager, said they’ve  provided 650 meals of ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and salad to organizations in the community.

“We actually delivered a bunch of them to families that didn’t have transportation,” Heiple said. “It was a community event.

“We know there are a lot of families struggling at all times, especially around Christmastime with the coronavirus. A lot of people are out of work and others are not working as much. The community has been affected by this and we, as one of the largest restaurants in the area, just assumed some responsibility. The easiest way for us to help was to give food. We felt whatever we could do on that front was the best for the people in the community.


The place to call

Providing meals to The Salvation Army was an easy choice, Heiple said.

“They definitely do a lot for our community and everyone who works down there has a good idea about people who are in need, whether it’s food or clothes or anything that gets donated,” he said. “They have a very good grip on what is going on in our community.”

Heiple said the restaurant, which served traditional American cuisine, plans to provide meals again next year.

Major Christopher said The Salvation Army received 125 meals for both Christmas and New Year’s Day. The recipients included families from the Christmas application list and shut-in seniors.

“We delivered them to homes, but some people did come and pick them up,” Blessing said. “For us, it was an amazing blessing because not only were we able to give meals, but those meals sparked conversations with people who just needed an ear. We were able to visit people who just needed personal contact. We did it responsibly with social distancing, but it was more than a phone call. It was a tangible act where people, especially our shut-ins, could receive a meal and actually see people.”


Being there for people

COVID-19 has taken a toll on Latrobe, but Blessing said that, since June, the corps has met in-person and has made use of digital platforms.

“We’re extremely blessed,” he said. “We have a good, creative leadership team. We’ve made adjustments to be able to continue our programs and services. Our community has been really supportive.”

Blessing said being a pastor during COVID has been “humbling, yet amazing.”

“It is humbling to know that God puts us in a place where we can speak into so many lives,” he said. “We have been presented with so many opportunities and it’s been a real blessing.

“Of course, there have been challenges because the mental health of people is a little more sensitive than usual, and a lot more people are experiencing fear. But what a wonderful thing we have; to be able to give a message of hope from a God who says, ‘Don’t fear. I’ve got this.’ It’s been really awesome being a part of sharing that message. God is becoming tangible to a lot of people who are wanting to take a different faith journey now.”

by Robert Mitchell

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