Do-gooders honored in St. Louis

by Nicholas White

(l to r) Ferguson Community Empowerment Center Chairperson and award recipient Karen Helm; Ferguson, Mo., Mayor Ella Jones; Ferguson Community Empowerment Center Co- Chair Reyna Spencer-Gurlly; and Sylvia Petty, Midland Division digital marketing specialist.

Eight award recipients were honored earlier this year at the St. Louis Hilton Frontenac for their contributions to The Salvation Army and “Doing the Most Good” in their communities.

Those recognized included Alpha Kappa Alpha, Gamma Omega chapter (Community Partner), Greg Cartee (Corps Volunteer Service), Schnuck Markets, Inc. (Corporate Support), Janet Lundstrom (Service Extension Volunteer), Karen Helm (Community Leadership), Gretchen Luke (Emergency Disaster Services Volunteer), Barbara Pearce (Regional Volunteer) and Gordon and Margaret Finley (Individual Support).

Videos of each person sharing their inspiration, background and ways of charitable involvement played on screens throughout the ballroom. Their memories of The Salvation Army ranged from childhood to 60 years involvement in emergency disaster services.

Lt. Colonel Robert Webster, Midland divisional commander, greeted each recipient with their award before they had their photo taken with him, Major Kjell Steinsland, Midland general secretary and area commander for the St. Louis metro area, and local TV celebrity Chelsea Haynes who acted as mistress of ceremonies, keeping the event upbeat and lively.

Those in attendance were left stunned by a 45-minute speech by New York Times best-selling author Liz Murray, a Bronx native who reached national prominence with her book, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, that chronicled her journeying from the streets of New York City to the classrooms of Harvard University, persisting though her parents were heroin-addled and sometimes didn’t have money for food. For more than 20 years she has been inspiring others with her story and is the founder of The Arthur Project, a nonprofit New York-based mentoring program for middle-schoolers.

“I’m standing here today someone who was, first and foremost, helped by nonprofits, volunteers and kindhearted people in my community,” she said. “I was so close to the brink of, in plain English, giving up on myself. I like to say that I was quite literally ‘loved back to life’ by people who cared about me.”

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