Closer to Normalcy
Cassidy Bowers, formerly an event and volunteer program manager for The Salvation Army Massachusetts Divisional Headquarters, talks about learning new skills and ways to serve during COVID–19; what it’s like to put on the Salvation Army’s mascot costume; and what she looks forward to doing when the pandemic is over.
When COVID–19 hit around this time last year, I went from setting up events for the Army to helping to run food pantries. I had to quickly learn how to operate forklifts and move pallets of supplies. I was making pickups at food banks and preparing boxes to be distributed. We turned our children’s learning center that had been closed due to the pandemic into another food pantry. Our team gave out around 12 million meals to families who needed help during the pandemic. I learned how to organize a team and set a common goal. I had worked with Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) in the past, but that was for smaller, local emergencies rather than for a state recovery effort like this one. At The Salvation Army, a big part of our job is knowing when to drop everything and give our focus to a new, more important task at hand.
Three out of four times a year, I become “Captain Redd Shield” the Salvation Army’s costumed mascot for events such as Donut Day and fundraising kettle drives in Boston. Wearing the costume gets really hot, I have no peripheral vision, and the giant shoes make it hard to walk. Sometimes, children will try to take a picture with me, but I can’t see them posing. I don’t know how professionals, such as the ones at Disney World, wear those costumes every day without holding someone’s hand, especially in the Florida heat!
When we did our yearly backpack give–away last September, we had to make a lot of changes to the process. We usually have a big event at TD Garden in Boston. Vendors and sponsors team up with The Salvation Army to play games and get to know the families we help. This time the event signups were all done online. Instead of distributing backpacks at a single location and in one day, we divided them between five different corps, and gave them away in three days. Distributing boxes of food and letting children pick out backpacks in their favorite color were different experiences, but the act of giving was still the same. We wondered if children would be excited to get a backpack full of school supplies and items such as masks and hand sanitizers. It turns out that they definitely were excited. For many families, going back to school was a return to normalcy.
My family lives in Rhode Island, only 45 minutes away, but if I were to visit them, I would have to quarantine myself for two weeks and I’d be unable to do my job. Some of my best experiences while working for the Army happened during the pandemic. But being able to see my family is what I miss the most about life before COVID–19. Hopefully, we’ll soon see our loved ones as often as we want.
“You’re a fool whether you dance or not, so you might as well dance,” is one of my favorite sayings and a twist on “Dance like nobody’s watching.” You need that joy and silliness to be part of you. Life is going to be full of all sorts of crazy, unexpected experiences, so find a way to enjoy every bit of your time here on earth.
Interview by Hugo bravo