Magazine Features

Will Power


“Some men’s ambition is art.
Some men’s ambition is fame.
Some men’s ambition is gold.
My ambition is the souls of men.”

William Booth

The Salvation Army’s financial donors are an eclectic and visionary group. Among their many thousands throughout the United States are retirees, business men and women, military veterans, homemakers, celebrities, and more. They come from every demographic and walk of life.

Before communities are ravished by floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or terrorist attacks, these visionaries have already committed themselves to helping facilitate positive outcomes—even if these events happen long after the end of their lives.

For instance, one married couple are retired missionaries. Another gentleman is a historian. Another giver is a decorated military veteran. Still another veteran’s first encounter with The Salvation Army happened decades ago while he received free coffee and doughnuts on the battlefield.

Although their backgrounds are varied, they have one important characteristic in common—they care deeply about the welfare of other people and they’ve shown it by remembering The Salvation Army in their wills.

As missionaries, Ted and Patricia typically had little money. During the course of their 50–year marriage, they learned to work and to minister effectively as a team. One day, after retiring from missionary service, they received a significant inheritance.

The money dramatically improved their financial status. But even before the windfall, they had received an intangible blessing from The Salvation Army. “We were the beneficiaries of the Salvation Army’s service and goodness,” said Ted. Energetic and younger than their years, they both do a wonderful job of talking about the need that exists in the world today and why people should help. “The Salvation Army helped us write our wills in the precise language needed so that our wishes will be carried out,” said Ted.

As a bright, straightforward man who tells it like it is, William is a historian and owns cattle as well as a few construction companies. Also a war veteran, William remembers, “While in the service, The Salvation Army treated me and my fellow soldiers with kindness. The Army gave without wanting anything back,” he said.

Today, William is leaving everything, including his business assets, to The Salvation Army.

Jimmie is also a military veteran who received a Purple Heart for his service as a bomb disposal technician. He performed some of the most harrowing, dangerous work in order to keep people out of harm’s way. Inspecting, deactivating, and safely removing such devices was intensely stressful, to say the least. As a result, Jimmie ended up with an alcohol problem.

But it was The Salvation Army that got him back on his feet and where he needed to be. Although Jimmie is a humble man, he is also rather guarded about opening his heart too much.

Nonetheless, deep in his soul, he has something powerful to say. Jimmie is leaving his and his mother’s estates to The Salvation Army. In doing so, he is allowing their contributions to speak for him.

Energetic, and a great storyteller, John is a sparkplug of a guy. Decades ago, this military veteran had his first encounter with The Salvation Army while drinking free coffee and snacking on doughnuts. “It was a cold, drizzly, miserable morning,” he recalls. “There were hundreds of guys on the line, standing for hours. Then comes The Salvation Army with coffee and doughnuts—for everybody. They never asked for a cent.” That’s why John now wants to give back to the Army. “The Salvation Army is my favorite charity,” he said. “I’m remembering them in my will.”

By the time Susan first connected with The Salvation Army, she had already done her homework on the organization. An independent, entrepreneurial woman, the foundation of her success had been built on hard work and pursuits that had given her a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment.

After the passing of her mother, and with no dependents to support, Susan realized it was time to update her estate plan. “It was an intense and difficult time,” she said. After much soul–searching and effort, Susan determined she’d leave her entire estate to charity. But to which charity, and why?

Susan said her first choice was The Salvation Army. While she’d never had any personal interaction with the Army’s work, she’d given to it financially for years through the annual Christmas kettle campaign. She had known a woman in her hometown who’d been personally helped by the Army. This knowledge, combined with her own research regarding the Army’s fiscal responsibility and efficiency, led Susan to decide it was time to contact her local corps.

Susan said that her frank, solicitation–free conversation with the director of planned giving significantly influenced her ultimate decision. When Susan asked about the Army’s immediate needs, she received her answer—direct from the “trenches.”

When Susan called the Salvation Army officer in her hometown, he bluntly shared with her the bottom line shortfall he was facing. That same day, in order for the corps to meet the increased demand from the community for help, Susan met the need—and then some.

“I believe in the biblical adage, ‘To whom much is given, much is required’ (Luke 12:48),” Susan said. She had built a career based on helping people. Although she recently sold her business as a financial planner, her policy remained that “the scale slides to zero” when her help is needed.

Children’s programs are near to Susan’s heart. Next summer, she hopes to volunteer at a Salvation Army camp.

When asked about the impact of her gift, Susan said, “I just hope that at least one life will be changed. I hope The Salvation Army will be able to identify a child on a difficult path, redirect him or her, and provide appropriate schooling and resources for a lifetime of opportunity and success.”

Susan decided not to put any restrictions on her gift, trusting the Army to “know better” than she at the time the gift is realized. She understands the importance of infrastructure and overhead, which is needed to serve as many people as possible.

Susan made The Salvation Army a significant beneficiary of her final estate. With the potential of important gifts like hers, the Army will be able to save many lost, lonely, or forgotten children.

“Growing up, my mother always told us to give to The Salvation Army,” recalls Nancy. “The reason for this was, when she was a little girl in 1917, her father died in the flu epidemic. This was around Christmastime. My grandmother was not the kind of lady who would ask for help. But that Christmas, she found on her doorstep a food basket and a toy for my mother, who was around 10. The family was very touched.”

Eventually, Nancy retired to live with her sister. As young retirees, they loved to travel and take trips to Hawaii, New England, and Nova Scotia. They also visited New York City to see Broadway plays and cruised the Mississippi River and the Alaska waterways.

Today, it is a little harder for them to get around, so they stay closer to home. But they remain attuned to the needs of other people.

“It is terrible,” Nancy said, “to see the numbers of people who don’t have enough food.” In response to that apparent need, Nancy and her sister have each left bequests to The Salvation Army in their wills.

“My sister and I have no other family,” Nancy said, “and friends whom we might have left money to are gone now. So we tried to think of organizations that do good for people. The Salvation Army was one.

“We would like to know,” said Nancy, “that our gift will make it possible for people who need help, to get it.”

by Warren L. Maye