By Elyse Delano |
The Salvation Army in Waco prides itself on helping more than 100 homeless or low-income people in the community a week by serving meals, sheltering homeless and providing other types of aid. The Christian organization has been a key instrument in turning around the lives of many, helping them find jobs and apartments to get off the streets.
The shelter’s food kitchen is one of the few programs that allows pre-prepared food donations to help feed their clients. While they have a budget to buy supplies for hot meals served, a lot of food comes from local donations, including from Baylor’s own dining halls. On top of feeding the homeless, the Salvation Army provides hot showers and warm beds for those in Waco who need a place to stay for up to five days.
Jorge Delgado, the social services director and men’s shelter manager, believes that these services aren’t even the most enticing aspect of the Salvation Army to clients.
“What makes our organization very appealing to some is that the Salvation Army is actually a church,” Delgado said. “What I love about it is the fact that, they don’t try to push it on us, but they’re always open to [giving] guidance. It’s just a completely open door policy and I think that’s what a lot of the homeless like about it.”
The Salvation Army has had a major impact on the lives of hundreds of Waco homeless, some of whom wouldn’t get a chance to eat each day if it weren’t for the company’s lunches or dinners.
One employee, Louis StJulian, owes his current job to the Salvation Army.
“I was a client here about five years ago,” he said. “I just came through to get one of my bills paid. I met with Jorge and he told me all about the program, and he told me it would benefit me better to come into the program than to just keep doing what I was doing. Then they offered me a job.”
StJulian now works six days a week at the shelter and food kitchen, serving people who stood where he once did.
“We do good work here for the people,” he said.
It may be good work that they’re doing at the Salvation Army, but according to employees, it’s also never easy. Some clients suffer from untreated mental illnesses and many are retired military who are living with PTSD.
“I think we have more stress [working here] than a brain surgeon,” StJulian said. “We just have to deal with different situations, different personalities.”
Another employee, Michael Prestwood, added to that, citing his own experiences with upset clients who have often come to terms with their homelessness.
“Sometimes you get [disgruntled people] calling back and coming up with outrageous stories that you did this or that to them when really the guy had two knives strapped to his back,” he said. “There are a lot of people who will say things that aren’t true.”
Regardless, the Salvation Army exists to help everyone, Prestwood said, even the people who have often accepted their lives on the streets.
Students or staff at Baylor University can walk in and volunteer at 4:45 p.m. every night and help serve meals. If you or your company are catering an event, don’t throw the leftovers away; the Salvation Army will accept pre-prepared food donations leftover from events and parties.
In addition, students who are cleaning out their pantries before the end of the semester are encouraged to donate canned goods or dry items like ramen noodles and cereal to the thrift store food pantry on 4721 W. Waco Dr.