Leaving a legacy

As your local Salvation Army gears up for summer programs, back-to-school events in the fall, and Christmas this winter, volunteers are needed. Sarah Wickerham’s inspiring testimony is just one example of what happened when her family waited upon the Lord.

“Your passion becomes your legacy when you serve others,” an anonymous author once wrote. My hope is that my own legacy will live on through my six children as they become adults. The compassion that they show to others through both service and encouragement stems from a seed planted during the earliest opportunities in childhood.

For the last two years, my husband, Jeff, and I have served alongside our four oldest children at The Salvation Army Corps Community Center in Zanesville, Ohio. For several years, I have been an advisory board member. I participate from the outside and engage in activities when time permits.


The need for engagement

In the fall of 2019, I was struck by the words of Beth Archer, our women’s auxiliary president, in her call to action regarding our Angel Tree program. Beth’s passion for the cause was clear; there was a need for help from volunteers, despite the large size of our auxiliary.

That year as my first opportunity to participate, I took applications from parents and guardians in need of help. For two hours I gathered data from them so I could align the services we had to offer with their needs. More importantly, I connected with everyone through conversation; I helped them feel cared for and respected.

During one meeting, I spoke with a customer I knew vaguely from my business. But in our 15-minute conversation, I learned that both her and her adopted grandson’s needs would extend well beyond the Christmas program. His struggle with autism put pressure on her in many ways.


A sincere welcome

She had been yearning to go to church, but because of his autism, felt rejected. In that moment, I told her that the Salvation Army church I attend has a special group of volunteers who are prepared to welcome children just like her grandson.

Through tears, she asked for more information. I connected her with our team. The Salvation Army helped make Christmas a memorable time for her family, and the interaction allowed for her to reconnect with Jesus and to also share His light with her grandson.

Several weeks later at Beth’s urging, I returned to the Army with my kids to prepare for the Angel Tree/Christmas Basket distribution. Our oldest son sought volunteer hours for his bid into his school’s chapter of The National Honor Society. As a family that has always sponsored and shopped for children in this Angel Tree/Christmas Basket program, my husband and I felt that showing our kids how our gifts made an impact would be a valuable affirmation for them to see. Boy, did the women’s auxiliary put them to work!  We unloaded boxes, organized tables, and set up the shopping room as we prepared for the event.


Exhausted, but grateful

The kids were blown away by the overwhelming generosity of our community and business partners and by the great need in our area. The kids were exhausted but felt grateful to help the team.

Unfortunately, only I could return a few days later for “Distribution Day.” But I shared with the kids several stories about the families who picked up their bags and food boxes. Some even wheeled out a new bike they had received for their little one. With a resounding “yes,” all four of our kids confirmed they wanted to be a part of the event the following year.

As 2020 arrived and the holidays approached, it was unclear what the women’s auxiliary could do during the global pandemic. But Beth and her team were determined to serve in big ways, even if the entire process looked and felt different.

As it turned out, we still managed to exceed our goals for helping families. God moved mountains for us. This realization came as each step brought us closer to Distribution Day.


The joy of giving

This year, Beth made sure our children could again participate in the event preparation. They actually “shopped” for individual children. They gained a tangible understanding of what a 10-year-old boy asked for and received. They felt the joy of packing a bundle for a 6-year-old girl who loves princesses and who received an outfit, toy, and books all decked out with sparkles and crowns.

The exuberance of our four kids, who at the time were ages 10-15, was contagious among the volunteers. The kids worked hard. They met the need, shared the love, and gave gifts to anonymous children. Nonetheless, our kids knew what this would mean to those other kids and their parents.

For my four kids to serve in this way shed light on what they might have taken for granted: a new pair of gloves, a new toy or a game to play. But as they helped our women’s auxiliary deliver another year of joy, they certainly appreciated all those items and much more.


Honored to serve

To show our children how to serve is our choice. We feel it is a lesson that brings value in the moment, and helps our kids realize that they are building a legacy, even now.

We are honored to serve alongside The Salvation Army and our incredible women’s auxiliary. As we come out of this pandemic and some normalcy returns, we look forward to future opportunities. As my daughter stated, “It isn’t a job or hard to do when you know the reward for others after our work is done.”

—Sarah Wickerham is a Salvation Army advisory board member for the Zanesville, Ohio, Corps Community Center.