Heartwarmers from America’s Heartland

In the vein of John Krasinski’s YouTube sensation, “Some Good News,” we share some of the feel-good stories of people’s kindness, generosity and service across the Midwest that have inspired us.

Thinking big in Hannibal, Mo.
by Magan Hall

While most 13-year-old boys are obsessed with screen time, playing sports or their score on Fortnight, Robert Wealer is focused on joining The Salvation Army in “Doing the Most Good.” He’s been collecting canned goods and monetary donations since he was just 6 for its Hannibal, Mo., food pantry. He’s  collected over 30,000 food items and raised $6,100 in the last six years!

So earlier this year when Robert asked his donors via Facebook for help to restock the food pantry  during the COVID-19 crisis, they didn’t hesitate. After several weeks, he presented The Salvation Army with a check for $2,122.97.

“People are struggling because they are getting cut off from their jobs, so they have to depend on places like The Salvation Army to help with their basic needs,” said Robert.

“What’s truly inspirational about Robert is that the food drive was a self-initiated project. He saw a need as a young boy and wanted to do his part to help, but it wasn’t just a one-and-done effort. He’s made it an annual mission,” said Matt Schmidt, Quincy, Ill., Area Command assistant development director. “He has the ability to bring an entire community together to support his efforts, and he should be proud to know he’s helped put food on the table for hundreds of families in his community over the years.”

“Some people think that if people only donate a little then it isn’t worth giving, but if everybody gave a little, then it would be plenty,” said Robert. “Start somewhere and, no matter what you collect or make, it is better than what you would have if you would not have done it. From there, build up support and raise your goals.”

Wise words from a young man who already has spent half of his life giving to those in need.

A caring canteen caravan
by Samantha Hyde

COVID-19 has changed many things, including how The Salvation Army is able to interact with its most loyal donors. This spring, the Indiana Division’s development team came up with a new way to stay connected with donors in central Indiana.

The idea sprouted from phone calls staff were making to check on donors quarantined at home. Many fell into high-risk categories, unable to see family or participate in the active, social lifestyles they normally enjoyed.While the phone calls were welcomed, the team felt it could do more.

Jo Ann Remender, Indiana divisional director of development, was inspired by the “Hope is Greater than Fear” theme used nationally as part of The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 disaster response. She ordered small bags and tshirts with the logo and worked with staff to make care packages for donors in the  Indianapolis area. The bags were filled with items like chocolate chip cookies, coffee, devotionals, prayer request cards and photos of The Salvation Army serving across Indiana.

“We called our donors to ask if we could stop by and make a social, safe visit from the yard,” Jo Ann said. “We took the EDS canteen on days it was not being used and drove a little caravan of cars behind it.” Honking horns and waving signs, the “Caring Canteen Caravan” visited donors in neighborhoods and  retirement communities across the city. Elated donors and their neighbors waved from their porches and balconies as the bags and well wishes were delivered.

For many, it was the first glimpse of the outside world they’d seen in weeks. When the team pulled up to the home of Bill and Liz Murphy, long-time Salvation Army supporters, the visit was especially welcomed. They had just recovered from COVID-19 and were thankful for both the company and prayers.

“These visits helped to deepen our relationships with our donors, because we care about them as people, as our friends,” added Jo Ann. Her office is filled with thank you notes and letters of gratitude, even as the team plans its next round of visits.

The fulfillment of giving back
by Camerin Mattson

In the past few months the Joliet, Ill., Corps food pantry has served more people than ever. There are several reasons for the spike—families out of work due to the coronavirus, bare shelves at grocery stores, and word getting out about how The Salvation Army can help.

“We’re seeing families that have never needed assistance before,” said Major Wendy Faundez, corps officer. “We have learned a lot about surrendering to God and trusting in His provision as the need has increased.”

Serving more than 300 families a week is a challenge, not only in terms of having enough food and household items to go around, but in the amount of work it takes to gather, sort and package donations for distribution. They are managing, however, thanks to an inspiring team of volunteers,  including two men who were in need themselves not long ago.

Novel Woods came to the Joliet Corps through the courts. “I needed to get my act together and change my life,” Novel said of his life two years ago. At the time, he was a recovering drug addict and in trouble with the law.

He’s since graduated from a drug program and reconnected with his family, changes he largely credits to being involved at the corps. “This is the most wonderful place I’ve ever been,” Novel said. “Serving here, I feel like I’m giving back to the people who gave to me.”

Eight months ago when Myles Redmond walked through the doors of the corps he was homeless. “I was in a bad situation,” Myles said. “And they embraced me.”

Grateful for their warm assistance, he knew he wanted to give back, too. Myles filled out an application to volunteer and has been a fixture at the corps ever since.

Both men volunteer daily at the corps, a role that’s taken on new significance with the coronavirus outbreak. They assist with picking up donations, packing boxes, food pantry distribution on Monday afternoons and delivering necessities throughout the week to shut-ins.

“These are wonderful guys,” concluded Linda Trevino, volunteer coordinator. “I never have to ask them to do things. They see the need before I can ask. Their help means the world to me.”





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