Greene Publishing, Inc.
Many people know the Salvation Army from seeing the bell ringers with their red kettles at Christmastime or from shopping in their thrift stores, now called Family Stores, but this is just a part of what this Christian-based organization is all about. The Salvation Army’s wording on their logo, “Doing The Most Good” reflects their mission statement of meeting human needs without discrimination and all done under the umbrella of sharing the gospel.
Sergeant George Blevins, the commanding officer in the Salvation Army, along with his wife Gale, who is also a Sergeant, runs the North Central Florida Outpost made up of five counties: Madison, Taylor, Jefferson, Suwannee and Hamilton. The outpost used to be located in downtown Madison in the old historical jail building on Pinckney Street, but as of this past March, the Army has moved their headquarters to Perry.
Changing office locations didn’t change the Army’s presence in Madison County. One of the things the organization does through the school year is to teach music to students at Greenville and Lee Elementary. Brass instruments are provided to the children for learning music, but devotionals and character building are taught as well. This year at Greenville, an after school program was added with Madison County High School teacher Pat Shartran volunteering her time at the school. She also volunteers with the Army as the main music teacher when school is out, at a summer music camp that is held for kids, ages eight through 12, where they can choose between guitar, keyboard and violin.
Also during the summer, the organization holds a Community Service Camp, where kids can have fun riding horses, swimming and lots of other fun activities for five days. Salvation Army pays all expenses for the children, ages seven through 12, and works hard to make the camp a “safe place with a loving environment.”
Christmastime is very busy for the Blevins’ and their volunteers. Bell ringers have to be found and organized, but it’s also a time when needs for families are high.
Money earned through the red kettles and the family stores are now put to good use, as the Army will provide families with food and toys for the month through the Madison programs, Head Start and Kids, Inc. Blevins said he loves working with these organizations because it allows him and his team to reach out to entire families and cover whatever needs they have. Food and toys are on the list to give, but clothing, furniture or any other need could be met as well. Blevins has a heart for single mothers and sympathizes by saying, “It breaks your heart to see how hard they have to work to make it.”
Joshua Webb, a Cadet and first year seminary student from the Salvation Army training college, is assisting at the Perry outpost for the summer. Webb is at the North Florida post, “putting into practice what he has learned at seminary,” and one of his “duties” was to help Blevins give away bicycles to three Madison County Central School students, after having their name pulled in a drawing at the end of the school year. At the end of the summer, Webb will return to his studies and his bride-to-be, who is also in training.
After Webb leaves in the fall, the Blevins’ won’t be alone because George says they are helped out by a group of volunteers at their post and adds, “We can’t do what we do without volunteers.” The Salvation Army is always looking for people who want to make a difference in the lives of others by volunteering their time and the Army has several avenues where you can help. Although there are no Family Stores closer than Tallahassee, Thomasville or Valdosta, donations are always appreciated and can be used to cover needs in the community. Monetary donations are always helpful because they can be used anywhere there is a need and a set of helping hands can always be used at the school or summer camp programs. The Salvation Army also has a disaster relief service that trains those interested in helping during times of crisis.
You can visit the Salvation Army’s North Central Florida Outpost site on Facebook at www.facebook.com/salvationarmyncfo or call them at (850) 584-5678. For information on the disaster relief services, checkout their website at www.disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.