by Amy Burke
Three-time Olympian Lolo Jones was the featured speaker at The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County’s annual OTHERS Luncheon.
“The OTHERS theme resonates from The Salvation Army’s Founder William Booth,” said Major Steve Merritt, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan divisional commander. “On Christmas Eve in 1910, Booth wanted to send a message to Salvation Army supporters. With funds limited and telegraphs charging by the word, Booth sent a one-word message that summarized the mission of the Army: OTHERS.”
Jones spoke about the importance of helping others and how The Salvation Army helped her family when she was growing up in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I would not be the three-time Olympian that I am without the assistance of The Salvation Army,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I have a very personal relationship with The Salvation Army. When I was growing up, my family was quite poor; my dad was in and out of prison, and The Salvation Army housed my family when we were homeless.”
With support from The Salvation Army, her mother was able to provide for five kids and they had a haven while she worked two jobs.
“The number one question people ask me is, ‘How did you start as an Olympic athlete?’ Oddly enough, it’s through a lot of the sports programs The Salvation Army had. I’d say if dodgeball were an Olympic competition, The Salvation Army would have started my career in that because I was destroying kids in there,” Jones said, laughing. “Then I went on to play basketball with The Salvation Army kids and also went to their summer camps and church.”
Jones said The Salvation Army helped mold her not only from the assistance she received but through her experiences at the corps.
“When we lost everything, faith was a very important factor for me and just having that foundation,” she said.
She also spoke about her near wins at each Olympic Games. Especially in the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she missed a hurdle, which ended up costing her the gold medal.
Afterward, she said she was devastated but then heard God whisper, “But you’re here,” and realized how far she’d come. Then, she went back to the Olympic Village and prayed.
“I think when people give to The Salvation Army, they don’t realize it is directly impacting people,” Jones said. “Years ago, the people that donated probably still don’t know they helped a three-time Olympic athlete. Here I am today because someone else gave.”
At the luncheon attended by more than 200 people, The Salvation Army honored three Milwaukee businesses for their service: Northwestern Mutual, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and the United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee.
Attendees had the opportunity to donate to four specific youth programs. The proceeds of $5,000 will benefit the Feed the Kids summer lunch program; a program that provides select public schools with backpacks filled with school supplies; the Christmas toyshop where parents who need holiday assistance can select gifts to give their children; and Coats for Kids which provides coats and winter accessories for those in need.