Salvation Army officers and staff with members of the National Advisory Board, Echelon National Leadership Council and National Capital Advisory Council

Earlier this year Salvation Army officers and staff, and members of the National Advisory Board, the National Leadership Council of Echelon (young adult professionals) and the National Capital Advisory Council visited members of the U.S. Senate and their staff.

The goal was to build awareness of The Salvation Army’s service and impact, and to build partnerships to meet people’s needs, according to Lt. Colonel Margaret Davis, national social services and public policy secretary.

She said the meetings specifically focused on the crisis of homelessness which has skyrocketed in the U.S. Due to a lack of housing supply and the gap between income and affordable housing options, homelessness has increased nationally in recent years after a period of decrease. In fact, recently released data shows an alarming 12 percent spike from 2002-2023. On any given night, over 653,000 people experience homelessness.

Salvation Army officers and staff, serving as liaisons, with an individual advisory board or Echelon member, were matched with states in their territory. In 37 one-on-one meetings, they shared The Salvation Army’s comprehensive response to the homelessness crisis nationally, as well as a snapshot of what the organization is doing to address the issue in their state. Packets of information, along with the business card of Lt. Colonel David Davis, national social services liaison and special representative to Capitol Hill, were provided.

“Colonels Steve and Janice Howard and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with senators and staff from Central Territory states. It was a privilege to tell them about the great frontline work which impacts their communities,” said Central Territorial Commander Commissioner Evie Diaz. “In some offices, a prayer was shared, and in all the story of meeting human needs in Jesus’ name was told.”

Sen. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska is presented with the Fight for Good award during the visit to Capitol Hill. Pictured (l to r): Commissioner Jolene Hodder, national program secretary; Mr. Mike Cassling, immediate past National Advisory Board chairman; Senator Ricketts; Commissioner Evie Diaz, Central territorial commander; Colonel James Betts, national chief secretary; and Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder, national commander.

Advisory board or Echelon members made three “asks.” First, they asked senators and staff to let The Salvation Army be a resource for them in combatting homelessness, whether providing statistics and testimonies, or drawing on our vast experience to serve this vulnerable population. Second, they asked for collaboration, that legislators fully engage and support solutions to homelessness. Senators and staff were encouraged to be part of every effort to help fight homelessness by highlighting this critical issue and working for remediation through funding opportunities across the full continuum of homelessness services.

Third, they encouraged charitable giving and volunteerism. They urged senators and staff to improve access to the charitable deduction and other public policies that encourage giving and volunteering.

In conclusion, senators and staff were invited to visit one of the Salvation Army facilities in their home state, to volunteer in one of our programs, or to consider ringing bells at kettles next Christmas in support of local Salvation Army programs.

During this visit to Capitol Hill, Sen. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska was presented the Fight for Good award for his support of The Salvation Army locally and legislatively. Introduced in 2018, the Fight for Good award has three objectives: recognize congressional relationships and expand knowledge of services provided throughout the country; honor congressional members who either worked closely with or supported The Salvation Army in their state or district; honor congressional members who sponsored, co-sponsored or supported legislation that benefits Salvation Army clients and beneficiaries. To date, 46 congressional members have been honored with the award.

At a dinner the evening before the visit to Capitol Hill, Congressman Don Davis, who represents North Carolina’s 1st District and is a new NAB member, spoke on effective presentations to members of Congress. It set the stage for the highly successful endeavor, according to Colonel Margaret Davis, who also indicated the NAB’s interest in such future engagement.

 

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