Sunday Talk: Salvation Army touches thousands of lives in Lake Area

By By Bobby Dower / American Press

Through its various services, The Salvation Army touches thousands of lives in Southwest Louisiana.

Major David Craddock, who along with his wife, Major Karen Craddock, heads the local operations of The Salvation Army, talked

with the American Press about its outreach and impact.

American Press: How many people do you serve at your facility?

Major Craddock:

Almost 300 a week for meals. So about 600 meals at least a week, plus

the beds in a 36-bed facility so those are kept fairly

full every day, plus the people of the community coming in for

meals every day. Just that facility alone does that. Then we’ve

got the groceries, the clothing that we provide through our family

store, the vouchers that we give when it’s available for

rent and utility money. I would say on an average week we are

probably touching 500 people.

And in terms of a dollar amount in all of those different services, what do you think you distribute in a week’s time?

That would vary depending on the need. I

would imagine probably when we look at the number of meals, we’re

looking at a couple

of hundred dollars per person by the time you take into (account)

meals, accommodation, all of the utilities that they use,

the showers and laundry and things, clothing given, food baskets

given, it would be a couple of hundred dollars per person.

Talk about the facilities that you have on Legion Street.

Our property has a number of different buildings on it. Right at the front of the property you’ll see our worship center with

the chapel and youth hall where we do all of the church programs.

At the back of the property is where

the day-to-day goes on. We have a large facility which is a lodge. It’s

got beds for

transients and transitional housing for men. We’ve got a kitchen.

We’ve got food storage. And we’ve got a social services

office where case work and case management is done. We have a

building in the back that is used for AA (Alcoholic Anonymous)

meetings throughout the week. And then our food pantry. There is a

big workout area with weights and everything for the fellas

to work out on and they use the gym area to shoot baskets. And

then our disaster warehouse where we store all of our stuff

that we use for tornadoes and hurricanes and feeding and all the

disaster things and extra storage for stuff like Christmas.

So in a sense, you are always in a mobilization mode if the need arises?

Yes. We have the mobile canteen that’s

parked there. It can do about 1,500 meals a day just being prepared out

of it because

it’s a fully equipped kitchen. That’s always on standby. We use it

and try to go out as often as possible to feed in the community

so we go to some of the low end and depressed areas and do that.

And then when there are things like fires, or as what happened

in Alabama, that holdout (standoff) that was going on, or storms

or hurricanes, we are ready to mobilize and in about a half

an hour we can be on the road.

This community is well aware of The Salvation Army and that mobilization because of Hurricane Rita.

What was surprising with Rita is that when some of the other first responders finally got the roads open, I know going down

into Cameron Parish when they finally got the roads open and began to roll down, they found The Salvation Army was already

there. They couldn’t figure out how we got there. We had found a way in and our vehicles were already on the scene serving

in areas that nobody else could get into.

How has those facilities helped in the Army’s ability to serve this community?

Well, the facility that we have is much

better than what we used to have. When they built that shelter that we

use now back

in 2001 that was really a big jump because we didn’t have proper

facilities for the men. We were really trying to work some

room for families, which we are still working on and accomplish

that. It gave us a better property to work on. And then with

the large, expansive grounds that we have, we’re able to put more

things in there.

There even things we still want to put

in there with possible campaigns, something like a gymnasium because

with do youth

programs and we don’t have enough space for these youth programs.

We rent our family store facilities and we’re debating do

we continue to rent or do we try to put something up that would

put everything in one area so that people could one-stop shop

instead of having to go all over town.

It has enabled us to provide more programs than we used to in the old facilities that we had. And it’s much better as far

as what the gentlemen have to use when they are coming in. For most people coming in off the street or having been evicted

or having family problems, the last thing they want to do is have a hassle. When they are looking for shelter, the better

we can make it for them, the better it is for them.

Have you seen a rise in the number of clients that you are serving?

It

goes up and down. It can go up and down with the weather, it certainly

goes up and down with the economy. I think we don’t

realize how blessed we’ve been here with our economy because we

have not been hit as bad as some of the other areas of the

country. But we’ve seen people coming in here who are coming from

other areas looking for work. And then when they get a shut

down of oil fields or companies begin to scale back because of a

down time in their business, we find that people who didn’t

know how to handle their finances or are living paycheck to

paycheck and suddenly certainly find themselves living on the

street, we see a big spike in that kind of demand.

Tell me about some of your success stories.

Quite a number of people have ended up

being employees of The Salvation Army of people that have come through.

They’ve gotten

jobs and when we’ve had openings, they’ve come back and applied to

work for us because they were so blessed with what they

received. My desk staff right now, a couple of them were clients.

One of them was a client of mine in Texas and she ended

up coming to work for us here. Another one was a client here and

he’s now working on the desk. They are able to give back.

They learned how to handle their money, they learned how to

straighten out those problems in their lives that was causing

them those issues. We try to provide them with life skills the

best we can and it enables them to get back to being profitable

citizens.

Once we do that, for many of them The

Salvation Army has become their church home because they started

attending and they

want to give back so I have a couple of folks on my desk, my

thrift store manager was one time a client and now he’s running

our store. We have people that are working for us but there are

other people in our community that have come through, they

got a job and they learned how to handle their money, found their

own place and moved on and are now working regular jobs

and doing very, very well.

Are the majority of your clients transitional?

The majority are transitional. Many of

the transients ones that come in, we give them five days to begin with

and within that

five days they sit down with a case manager and we find out what

the problem was, what issues they’ve had. If they can fit

the program, if we feel they can do what the program requires, we

will offer them a chance to come into the program, even

if they weren’t thinking about it to begin with and they start

their job search. We give them 30 days to go out and find employment

and start getting checks. At the end of 30 days, they start paying

a program fee which helps offset our costs. By that time,

most of them have found work and they are getting their check and

they are starting to put their money into a back account

and showing us that they are saving.

Many of them that will come in as

transient will end up in the transitional program. The largest number of

beds is the transitional

program.

Are most of them are people who are down on their luck?

They come from every kind of problem.

We have people who are down on their luck, they’ve lost their jobs and

things have really

gone bad. We have people who’ve gone through marriage breakouts.

We get people who come out of jail who for whatever reason

they are in, they have had just a bad turn and they come out

trying to get their lives straightened out. We have people who

are just the landlord decided they didn’t want them and evicted

and then suddenly one day they’ve got a house, the next day

they are evicted. It’s all kinds of issues and it’s not all that

they are just homeless or that they all couldn’t just handle

a job. It’s many different reasons. So we have to tailor the

program for them and work with each individual.

How did you get involved in The Salvation Army?

I was born and raised in The Salvation

Army. My parents were Salvation Army officers. My grandparents were

Salvation Army

officers. Both my wife and I can trace our families back to the

earliest days of The Salvation Army when it was known as the

Christian Mission in England. I describe myself as I was born in

it, I was wrapped in The Salvation Army flag at birth and

if you cut me, I will bleed yellow, red and blue, the three Army

colors.

It’s been a part of our life because we

grew up in the church aspect and knew all the social service work that

The Salvation

Army does. We’re both originally from Canada. My wife’s mother is

American and married a Canadian so we’ve had contact with

both sides of the border. My grandparents came from England to

Canada and moved to the U.S. and worked for The Salvation Army

in the U.S. before going back to Canada. So it’s been a way of

life for us.

We had to make a choice ourselves to go into ministry. It didn’t automatically happen but we made a choice to go into ministry

with The Salvation Army ourselves. It’s that way for us.

At the (recent) conference we heard

from other people that came and somebody knocked on their door and

invited them to the

Sunday School or the Girl Guards or the Venture Corps programs

that we run. One fellow was talking about how he had been an

alcoholic and one day he just found himself in a line. He didn’t

know why he was in that line but he found it was a line to

go into to get a meal at The Salvation Army and now he’s serving

as a Salvation Army officer. It changes lives.

How have you seen The Salvation Army change over the last 20 or 30 years?

We always have to adapt. We try to keep

up with current trends and technology. One thing we will not do is we

will not let

go of our message or our stand as far as moral issues. But, the

Army has had to, as society has changed, as issues have come

and gone, we’ve sometimes bend with some of these things as you

would as a tree with the wind, and say, yes, we will to a

certain point provide.

We’ve always been nondiscriminatory. The Salvation Army has never discriminated and continues to hold that stance. We will

not discriminate as far as our services go. Anybody and everybody that needs help gets it.

The things that what’s causing and what

people need to know to change. The old days and somebody would come in

and needed

help and you’d put them to work mopping floors or teach them how

to do simple chores and they could go out and do something.

Now we have to teach them how to a job search on the computer, how

to fill out an electronic resume. There are issues that

we face now that we never faced years ago.

There were even times when they came

for a meal, they worked for the meal. Nowadays because of regulations

and so on, you

can’t ask them to do certain things. So, we had to look at how

could we make this a learning opportunity for them and still

stay within the guidelines that we have to maintain. We find ways

to teach them lessons and still get across to them the things

they need and still stay within the regulations. There are all

kinds of rules and regulations that come and go and we have

abide by everything.

Talk about those core principles that The Salvation Army has always maintained.

Because

The Salvation Army began its mission as a church, our core principles

are based upon the Gospel of Christ and we don’t

bend those. We have always looked at what the teachings of Christ

are. Jesus did not discriminate. He didn’t say, ‘‘You I’ll

help and you I won’t.’’ And we hold that same thing. But there are

certain biblical truths for members of The Salvation Army,

for those who are actually involved, in the service, that we hold

ourselves to and we hold our employees to certain levels.

Those things we will not bend.

While society may say it’s right, if

God says it’s wrong, The Salvation Army will stand by that. But it will

not cause us

to discriminate and cause us to say we don’t like your color or we

don’t like your practices, we don’t like your beliefs so

we won’t help you. If you need help, you get help.

What we believe here and I’ve always

made it a position for myself, is I avoid getting government money

because there are

certain stipulations that we have to abide by and whether we

believe it’s a misrepresentation or constitutional, the idea

of separation of church and state, if you get government money,

you cannot proclaim the Gospel of Christ. So we try in every

way possible to avoid that so that we can tell people the best way

to change their life is not just get a job or get a back

account, it’s to change them, change themselves spiritually. That

is one of the very, very core positions that The Salvation

Army maintains — the best way to change a person’s life is to

change the person through Christ.

What are the myths that the general public has about The Salvation Army?

Those are many. The idea that we are

just a social agency, that’s a big one. That we just help drug addicts

or alcoholics.

That we just sell old clothes. There’s so many of those like that.

There’s those who just think that we are a disaster agency.

There are people who think we are connected with other agencies

and I won’t mention the other agencies because of that, but

they seem to believe we’re all one, and yet we are separate

entities. There are those who believe we discriminate and that

we will not give service to specific portions of society, which is

great myth.

I say the biggest way for me to do away with those myths is have somebody come and tour my facility because they will meet

people of every kind in there and they very quickly learn that we don’t. But that’s probably one of the biggest myths that

we have is that The Salvation Army is a discriminatory group.

The other one is that we beat people

over the head with the Bible and that if you don’t believe you’re out.

And that again

is far from the truth. We’re not going to tell you that you have

to believe, but you are certainly going to hear it. You can’t

make a choice if you don’t know both sides.

How large of a staff do you have?

We run normally about 19 employees between our family store and our lodge facility.

Is there any volunteer included in that?

Yep. We have volunteers as well who

come in. We have many volunteers that come in and help at our store.

They’ll sort and

they’ll help on the floor with the arranging of product. We have

people who come and volunteer at our center. I have a full-time

cook but he can’t work seven days a week. So we’re always looking

for volunteers who will come in and prepare meals on the

off days. We have people who come in and clean. We have people who

come in and provide classes, the budget classes or other

life skills that are normally all done by volunteers.

Christmas time is our biggest time for

volunteers. When we’re doing the bell ringing and the Angel Tree we use a

lot of volunteers

then and at other times of the year it’s less. Disaster time,

volunteer. We train people in the quiet times of the year on

how to run our vehicle and how to do disaster work so when it

comes, we can pick up the phone and call them and they are ready

to roll.

What type of budget do you have?

Just about 800,000 dollars a year.

That’s pretty lean.

I describe myself as cheap, my advisory

board describes me as thrifty. We have over the years run deficits.

Since I’ve been

here we have not had any deficits. We pay our bills and make

things go, but we never have enough. That’s always a challenge.

But we are also known for being able to stretch a dollar further

than anybody else. We know that at least 80 cents of every

dollar is going to service, if not more.

Tell me about the Empty Bowl Fundraiser.

The Empty Bowl Fundraiser came about a

number of years ago as a way to help us to kind of overcome a deficit

time of the year.

The idea behind it is a banquet-type meal. We have potters,

volunteer potters, who make clay bowls and each bowl is unique,

but the idea is that everyone will get one at the end of the

night. They come together to sample soups and we have chefs from

all over the city providing us with some of their top soups. And

people sample soups. But the idea was that for many people

a bowl of soup would be a luxury. And for a lot of people all they

have is an empty soup bowl. And we need to fill the soup

bowl.

People can come and either buy a ticket

or sponsor a table. There are different levels of sponsorship that

gives them promotions

and so on. But they can come and sample soups and listen to some

form of entertainment and learn about The Salvation Army.

We give them a presentation so they understand what we are doing

and why we are doing it. And it’s a way for people to contribute

to filling stomachs and filling soup bowls for other people in the

community.

It’s a fun night. We always have a lot of fun with it. But it’s an eye-opener when you realize that I can come and I can sample

six or eight or 12 soups and there are people that one little bowl of soup that would be a luxury for them.

This year’s Empty Bowl Fundraiser is when?

March the 14th. We use L’Auberge. L’Auberge has been very, very gracious to us over the years. We use the ballroom there.

We have the Dixie Belles who are from

New Orleans as the entertainment and my understanding there are some

folks who are saying

that they are already bringing some of the wounded warriors

because of that World War II connection. We look at things like

The Salvation Army was there in the trenches in the first (World)

War, serving donuts, which is why we have such a love for

donuts and we can blame part of our weight problem in America on

The Salvation Army.

Of course, we were instrumental in the

USO in the second World War. So we have that connection with these

people and the warriors

with providing that kind of sources. So people said they were

going to bring some wounded warriors to the Empty Bowl which

is great.

It’s a great opportunity to come and sit and enjoy some great entertainment and have a meal and meet with a lot of folks and

support The Salvation Army.

How can individuals or corporations get involved in helping The Salvation Army?

First thing they can do is just call

our office at 337-433-4155. If they just call the office, they can ask

about the Empty

Bowl tickets and they’ll be put through to the bookkeeper. We have

different levels of support. Tickets are 100 dollars a

seat and there are eight to a table, but we ask sponsors to buy a

table for a thousand dollars and they get their name on

the table. They are listed under the rank of lieutenant. If they

give, 2,500 dollars they are list as a rank of captain. And

they get promotion in the flyer and on the screen. Five-thousand

would make them a major and 10,000 would make them a general.

It’s great to have that support and we give them all the promotion and advertisement and say these people support us and believe

in what The Salvation Army is doing.

The same hold true if they want do more for something other than the Empty Bowl Fundraiser?

If they want to come and volunteer for a

day or do some work helping around the center, we have groups that come

in sometimes

and will do some work on helping to get the property up. We

sometimes need some extra work on the property or the building

needs repairs or something. They offer to come in and do that kind

of thing. They might want to get involved in disaster work.

They may want to get involved at Christmas time.

This past year, probably the greatest example of that was Sasol. Sasol has always supported us at Christmas, but all of their

new contractors and partners in their expansion wanted to get in on it. And they went from roughly 3,000 dollar support to

roughly 16,000 dollar support. They went out and cleaned out a store of bicycles and brought toys. We have people who work

with Sasol that came and helped sort toys and packed bags to get things out on distribution day. We have people that come

out and just get involved in things that The Salvation Army is doing.

We have youth programs. It’s great to have people that we clear as volunteers who could help teach these kids character-building

lessons and do sports and activities like that. There’s always volunteer opportunities and all they have to do is pick up

the phone and call.

If not for the volunteers — we are have

such a huge impact on society and America as a whole — The Salvation

Army has a huge

impact on society and yet number wise, internally, we’re small.

If not for the 3 million-plus volunteers every year we would

not have nearly the impact that we have every year. And we have

people believing the message of The Salvation Army, believing

that if they give their money to us it’s going to be used properly

and wisely, that we will not discriminate, but we will

not let down our standards. There are those things that people

have a trust in The Salvation Army.

I’ve always said whether they talked

about what the Army did for them in the war or whether how they were

helped after a fire

or somebody came to them at Christmas, I say the biggest problem

that I have with what The Salvation Army did 50 years ago,

is that I have to live up to that reputation. And it’s always a

challenge to live up to what somebody else has set as a level,

as a bar to continue to provide that service. It’s a real

challenge. ...

Our best testimonies come from the people whose lives we have touched. For many people, they don’t know what The Salvation

Army can do for them and will do for them until it’s touched their lives.

If you were to ask people to do a quick

poll, how many people over their lives were touched by The Salvation

Army in Lake

Charles, you would find people who went to one of the Red Shield

Clubs when they were young or went to Sunbeams or Girl Guards

or Venture Corps, those who had a Christmas gift under their tree

from The Salvation Army, those who got a meal from disaster

work and they don’t think anything of it until they see that red

shield or somebody says something.

I would say more than half the population of Lake Charles has at one point or the other been touched by the service of Salvation

Army, whether it was a child or an adult, somebody has been touched and we don’t go out blowing our horn and making a big

parade about it, we just go out and do the job.