My Visit to the Salvation Army

Diana Brauer, of the Lawrence Salvation Army, serves a meal to a guest in the dining area. The agency serves free lunches to walk-in visitors on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week.

When I visited the Lawrence Salvation Army last week before we launched the "Cans and Fans" food Drive, Diana Brauer, a Salvation Army employee who works in the food pantry and kitchen, greeted me with a smile and then quickly began to list off some needs. The more items she named, the more she thought of, and quickly decided it would be easier to send me an e-mail. You don't have to hang around long to realize there's a clear need for the Salvation Army's services. In my short visit (really just to show them an ad proof and snap a quick photo), I learned that several calls for fans and assistance with utilities are coming in daily. Liz Coleman, who works in the main office, took one such call not two minutes after I arrived. It was from a mother of three whose gas had just been shut off. Sigh.

For now, there's little Liz can do, as funding is all but depleted for many of these issues. What she can do is refer people to other agencies and offer advice about working with utility companies to set up payment plans. And I'm sure, especially after meeting Liz, it's comforting just to have a warm and compassionate voice that can offer hope and counsel.

Shortly after that phone call, a young man, maybe 16 or 17, appeared behind me sitting on the steps. He asked Liz what time lunch was served. He wasn't sure where he was, as apparently someone had just given him a ride from Topeka and dropped him off at the office. "Am I in Lawrence?" he asked. I got up and offered him my seat as I stepped out into the hall, and Liz took him under her wing.

Susan Dalberg, Salvation Army Captain, showed me around, and we talked briefly about what we'd be doing on WellCommons. I showed her the ad we'd place in the paper, and talked to her about getting a couple of photos of the pantry. She introduced me to Diana and "Bob", a cheerful and high energy employee who says he himself has spent time on the streets.

Bob told me I wouldn't find kinder, more giving people anywhere in Lawrence — that Holly, another team member, would quickly take the shirt off his back just to make someone else a little more comfortable. He told me there are so many stories to tell about some of the experiences and circumstances that bring people to the Salvation Army — stories I couldn't imagine. He's right. I can't.

And that brings us full circle to the food pantry and kitchen.

Bob explained they also need non-food items for their pantry . Diapers (sigh), bandages, bug spray... "so at least those guys don't get eaten up while they're sleeping outside." And socks. Socks are huge. I've heard this from Loring Henderson at the Community Shelter as well. But enough about socks — it was time to put food on the table.

According to Diana, they'll serve 60 to more than one-hundred people at any given lunch. It's a great thing to see people enjoying a good meal in good company, and that's exactly what I saw — fellowship, conversation, camaraderie. I overheard people talking about where they were working or looking for work. I saw people waiting for "seconds" as Diana kindly made sure that everyone had had "firsts." I saw goodness. And so much of it... in such a short time.

It was heartwarming and humbling to see people who care enough to work every day on the front lines of need, and often with people who have been discounted by some of us who are living under better circumstances. And still, it was all too easy for me to walk back to my air conditioned office and forget it all. It would be even easier if I didn't feel it was part of my job right now to convey this message to you.

The Salvation Army's current promotional tagline is "Doing the most good." It appears to be so true here in Lawrence. Everything that comes in, goes out. No pomp and circumstance, no flashy "to-do", just nuts and bolts basics for those who need them the most.

There's a much bigger story to tell here, and that will be coming soon from Karrey Britt, our WellCommons journalist. I can't wait to read it. I want to know more.

Diana's list:

The following is what we need as of today.

Food Service Program (Soup Kitchen) Tea, Sugar, Tomato Sauce, Tomato Paste, Salad Dressings, Hand Towels, Any kind of rice, Fresh Produce (The cook will serve fresh produce first before using canned goods.), Sliced Cheese, Bologna

Food Pantry Any and All nonperishable canned, boxed and packaged food.

Miscellaneous Needs Deodorant (Men & Women), Band-Aids, Insect Repellent (For people that live outside, this is important.), Toilet Paper, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Laundry Detergent Powder (We separate this out by load.), Feminine Products, Socks, Diapers (all sizes), Baby Wipes, Q-Tips, Towels, Combs/Brush


urothrock 8 years, 2 months ago

Wow, what a powerful post. I think it's easy to be oblivious to the unfortunate facts in our community when we are not confronted with them. When we don't see the need, we don't address the need. Hopefully this will inspire people to help.

The fact that you got that much information and so many stories while only at the Salvation Army for a short time is amazing. I can't wait to read more from Karrey.

Karrey Britt 8 years, 2 months ago

Monica, Thanks for sharing this powerful post! I am looking forward to spending a day at The Salvation Army and learning lots more! I think it will be real eye-opening. I plan to make a donation when I go, so thanks for the list!

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