Yuletide Stories from Kentucky to New York
Finding a Church Home
When Lisa Tryon applied for Christmas assistance from the Salvation Army in Oswego, N.Y., last year, she was well aware that the Army is a church.
Two of her three children had been junior soldiers when the family lived in Florida. When Tryon’s sister fell ill last October, the family moved to New York and attended the corps in Oswego.
“It’s pretty much our home away from home,” Tryon said of the corps. “It’s family. They’re people whom we care about.”
Captain Wendy Senior, the assistant corps officer in Oswego, said Tryon and her three children are quite active.
“She volunteers in the soup kitchen and in the food pantry,” Senior said. “She’s involved in all the programming.”
Tryon said Captain Senior and Captain Heather Odom, the corps officer in Oswego, are always willing to talk with her. So is Tina Farr, a senior soldier who signed up Tryon.
“They might not always agree with what I do in my life, but they don’t judge me for it,” Tryon said.
Tryon’s son Anthony is a corps cadet, while daughter Zoey is a junior soldier. Peyton, another son, is a prospective junior soldier.
Tryon found The Salvation Army after moving to Stuart, Fla., when her housing plans fell through. She spent a year and a half in a Salvation Army shelter for women and children.
Captains Andrea and Scott Hoover gave Tryon a job standing kettles, which she has done in both Florida and in New York. They also encouraged and helped her to write a resume and eventually become a licensed day care provider.
“They found us at the lowest point of our lives, but always had an encouraging word,” she said.
Bright, Cheerful Faces
It’s a year later, but Faith Travick has not forgotten the holiday help she received from The Salvation Army of Central Ohio last December.
Faith and her two daughters, Isabella, 12, and Da’Nae, 6, were blessed by the Christmas Cheer program. They received a box full of all the fixings for a holiday meal including a family game to play.
Each girl also received a toy.
“I wish you could have seen their faces light up,” Faith said.
One of their favorite gifts was a gingerbread house kit. She and her girls worked for hours decorating it while creating special family memories.
Faith is a single mom who has faced many challenges. At one of her lowest moments, she had to live in a shelter because of limited income and no transportation. Last December, she had just secured an apartment and was barely making ends meet. Like every mom, she desired to give her kids everything they need and want (especially during Christmas). The Salvation Army stepped in and helped.
“If I could talk to a donor, I would say, ‘I’m so thankful for everything they have given … their time, their finances, to allow my child, and other people’s children, to be happy and excited during those times that we feel like we might not be able to do for our children.’ I couldn’t be more thankful and appreciative to those donors,” Faith said.
Officers Leave, Team Stays
There is a dedicated group of volunteers in the soup kitchen at the Riverhead, N.Y., Corps on Long Island. They’ve been together for more than a decade. They make the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays special.
“They have remained dedicated to feeding the community of Riverhead day in and day out amid the changing of several commanding officers,” said Taylor Quaranta, the social ministries coordinator at the corps.
The team includes Jeanie Lopez, John Camara, Mary Palmer, Dolly McManus, and Miller Gilbert, a 15–year employee and former volunteer.
“Our soup kitchen volunteers treat our patrons with love and support as if they were feeding their own family,” Quaranta said. “They bring in games for the kids, clothes for the adults, and are always trying to make sure the patrons are well fed and cared for.”
Camara is known to bring in games, Palmer brought in socks for the patrons, and Lokpez made sure there was hot sauce and guacamole available at every meal because she noticed that it’s a favorite. Gilbert noticed a patron who was redeeming bottles, so Gilbert started saving them himself. He later gave the patron a full sack of bottles.
“It’s these small acts that truly build a wonderful community in our soup kitchen,” she said. “They are an incredibly thoughtful bunch. For example, they make sure there are always vegetarian options on the menu and manageable food for people with dental issues.”
Finding Healing at Christmas
Last Christmas, Majors Susan and Thomas Hinzman, corps officers in Lexington, Ky., hosted an Angel Tree table. Unexpectedly, they noticed tears running down the cheeks of a woman who had been looking through the many stacks of Angel Tree tags.
After a few moments passed by, the Hinzmans saw her literally break down and cry. A friend wrapped her arms around the woman. When she could regain her composure, she looked at the Hinzmans and said, “I have picked the child that I want to help this year.”
She continued, “You see, my son was 12 years old when he died. I found this 12–year–old boy’s tag here. He needs help this Christmas and I want to help him.”
The Majors Hinzman offered their condolences for the loss of her son. Major Susan then asked, “What did he die from?”
“Suicide,” she said.
In reflection, Major Thomas said, “Angel Tree reaches down deep. It helps thousands of children during the Christmas season. I also think of the countless people who choose a child to help while additionally hoping to experience healing in their own lives.”
by Robert Mitchell
One Last Performance
Each Christmas season, The Salvation Army of Greater Hartford, Conn., holds a toy drive at various locations. Last year, one of the spots was the lobby of City Place, an office building.
“As people arrive to work, they drop off toys, as well as put something in the kettle,” said Michael Baldelli, a public relations specialist for the Army.
Amid the hustle and bustle, Major Wesley Geddes decided to treat everyone by singing Christmas carols.
“This was a powerful moment, not only because of Major Geddes’s beautiful voice, but also because Major Wes was battling cancer at the time,” Baldelli said. “It was completely spontaneous. Major Wes loved to sing. His heart was filled with the Christmas spirit and he wanted to share that with all of the passersby that morning.”
A few months later, on May 5, Geddes was promoted to Glory after fighting a long, courageous battle.
“Right up until the end, he was dedicated to fulfilling The Salvation Army’s mission,” Baldelli said.