Doing the Most Good for 127 Years

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

In the spirit of compassion, The Salvation Army unfolds its mission “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” They are a true beacon of unwavering hope. The Salvation Army’s commitment to “soup, soap, and salvation” weaves a tale of generosity that transcends boundaries, calling us to look around at our neighbors and explore a world where giving is not just an act but a transformative force, leaving a mark on all the lives it touches.

In 1852, on the bustling streets of London, William Booth, a visionary minister, turned away from the traditional pulpit and started his unconventional ministry of joining the poor, homeless, and destitute on the very streets where their hardship existed. His sermons resonated not within church walls but at the point of their need. Determined, despite skepticism from fellow ministers, Booth and his wife, Catherine, started The Christian Mission, which evolved into an army of 1,000 volunteers, turning even the most marginalized individuals into steadfast believers. Eventually rebranded The Salvation Army, Booth’s vision ignited a bold offensive, converting a quarter of a million to  Christianity by 1885.

Today, spanning 133 countries, The Salvation Army continues Booth’s legacy—offering healing and hope to those in need. In February 1896, The Salvation Army began its journey in Texarkana, Texas, at its 615 Spruce Street location. Over the past 127 years, it has developed into a cornerstone of our community, serving the needs of countless individuals and families. The Salvation Army’s mission is vast, and through its various programs, it touches the lives of over 7,000 men, women, and children locally each year.

Captain Juan Gomez is our local chapter director, and he serves alongside his wife, Captain Clara Gomez. “The Salvation Army is well-known for its support of the at-risk, homeless and needy families, but we extend a helping hand through a multitude of other services year-round,” he said. “These programs include disaster response to assist with survivors of both natural and man-made disasters, social services, casework and spiritual counseling, youth services, Christmas programs, and our Family Shelter.” They even offer a place to worship on Sunday with services led by Captain Gomez and his wife at 315 East 45th Street in Texarkana, Arkansas.

At 400 East 4th Street, Texarkana, Arkansas, the social service programs provide vital support, including food, clothing, and financial assistance. Remarkably, ours is the only program in the community that includes protein (pork, chicken, and beef) in our food boxes and offers rental assistance for those at risk of homelessness. These integral casework and spiritual counseling services encompass mental health, residential aid, and spiritual counseling to provide holistic support.

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign and its friendly bell ringers have become synonymous with the Christmas season nationwide and indicate the kickoff of the holiday season around town. At community partners like Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Super 1 Foods, this campaign has become a centerpiece and staple in our area and is one of the largest fundraising events in the community. Every dollar raised through those red buckets stays in Texarkana, funding regular and seasonal programs. Last year’s goal of $110,000 came up just $17,000 short, but The Salvation Army continued its 127-year tradition of serving Texarkana. This year, with the support of the community, they are even more determined to meet their goal of $120,000 and continue making a difference, but they need our support!

Situated at 316 Hazel Street, Texarkana, Arkansas, the Center of Hope serves as the only shelter in the greater Texarkana area where families can stay together, offering 18 beds for men, 12 beds for women, and eight family rooms. The Jackson family’s journey with The Salvation Army reflects the transformative impact of the organization. Nakisha Jackson, a single mother of three, found herself and her children seeking refuge at the center. Arriving in Texarkana from Ohio, with no place to stay, they reached out to the Center of Hope for help. They got in that very day, and with the center’s staff assisting her in finding a job and housing, she was able to move out on her own within just four and a half months. “The staff itself became a whole new family for me and my three kids. I was struggling to not stay at the bottom. I got no child support. When I felt like I just wanted to give up, I could always come and talk to them and get that extra encouragement, even when I was feeling at my lowest,” she reflected.

The Salvation Army offers a diverse range of youth programs, from music and athletics to arts, crafts, and camping. Thanks to community partners like The Salvation Army’s Women’s Auxiliary, 90% of the children attending have been given annual scholarships of $1,600 per child, including $100 per month for 12 months, $275 for summer camp, and $125 for excursion and transportation fees. Jackson’s children continue to get the support they need, and after school each day, they ride to the club by bus, where they meet with loving people who offer assistance with their homework and tutoring, and, as a bonus, they get to participate in fun activities. One of her children is now a teenager and has been so inspired by Captain Gomez that he now volunteers at the club as well.

It gives Jackson great joy and makes her so proud to see her own child wanting to give back as a result of what has been given to them. “The Salvation Army helped me find a job. They prayed for me, and they encouraged me. That’s what they do, and I am very grateful for that… The Salvation Army helped me get through the hard times. They never leave you. They guide you, pray with you, and build you up.” The Jackson family received assistance with their first month’s rent and utilities through The Salvation Army’s Social Service Office, and the children continue to benefit from The Salvation Army’s Boys & Girls Club through scholarships.

Another service the Salvation Army provides is The Family Store at 420 Walton Drive, Texarkana, Texas. The Family Store not only generates income for The Salvation Army’s programs but also provides vouchers for clothing, household goods, and furniture to those in need. In 2023, the store raised $33,300 in vouchers for the needy of Texarkana. All funds raised through The Family Store stay right here in Texarkana to serve the local community.

The heart of The Salvation Army’s impact lies in personal experiences, and Captain Gomez embodies this spirit. “I’ve always said I’m a product of The Salvation Army,” he said. “I’ve gone from one side of the feeding line to the other.” His intimate understanding of the programs has grown through various roles, from working in grants and public relations to serving as a youth leader. However, his connection to these programs began in childhood. Gomez recalls, “My grandmother would take us to The Salvation Army soup kitchen in McAllen (Texas) to volunteer. What I did not know was we were volunteering at the soup kitchen so we could secure a meal for ourselves. My grandmother would go into the kitchen and cook a meal for 150 people, and after the meal was served and the tables were cleaned, we would sit down and have our meal.” This is a story that resonates with countless individuals who have benefited from The Salvation Army’s support through the years.

Matt Fry, Director of Operations at Pleasant Grove Independent School District, and a dedicated local Salvation Army volunteer, shares his deep connection with the organization. He highlights its local focus and its vital role in Texarkana. “Being able to stay together as a family helps give people a better chance at success. There is also a certain magic when I get to be Santa Claus at Christmas. Delivering presents to the families in our shelter was a highlight of my year. Allowing those kids to understand that they are valuable was an incredible feeling.” Fry’s experiences echo the sentiments of countless others who have seen The Salvation Army’s incredible impact on Texarkana.

The organization’s holiday assistance programs, which provide food, clothing, and gifts to low-income individuals and families, are a constant throughout the holiday season. The Center of Hope offers a lifeline to homeless individuals and those in extreme vulnerability, providing shelter, warm meals, and essential services during the holiday season. Children and seniors alike benefit from The Angel Tree program, which ensures they can enjoy the holiday season despite financial hardships by providing toys and gifts. Even the volunteers are left with a sense of fulfillment from the time they spend giving back to those in need during the holidays.

The Salvation Army is a testament to the power of community and compassion that has defined Texarkana for over a century. Let’s come together, embrace the spirit of giving, and make a lasting impact on the lives of our neighbors in need. The Salvation Army, through its unwavering commitment, exemplifies the true essence of making a difference in the world.

The Salvation Army in Texarkana has been a beacon of hope for 127 years, touching the lives of thousands with its wide range of programs and services. As a new year begins, it calls upon the community to support its mission, making a difference in the lives of those who need it most. Whether through donations, volunteerism, or financial support, every contribution goes a long way in helping The Salvation Army continue its invaluable work.

Here are critical needs for the upcoming year...

The organization relies heavily on monetary donations to fund programs and services, as well as clothing, household items, and food to support its thrift store and food pantry.

Volunteers play a pivotal role in helping The Salvation Army meet the needs of the community, especially during the holiday season. They help assemble and distribute food boxes, gather gifts, shop for unadopted Angels, and serve meals.

Food donations, including non-perishables, hams, and turkeys, are especially important during the holiday season. These donations help not only the food pantry, but also the soup kitchen.

Toys & Gifts
Donations of new, unwrapped toys and clothing are essential, helping offset the cost of adopting children through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

Financial Support
Contributions are crucial to The Salvation Army’s ability to provide a wide range of services.

TO VOLUNTEER CALL 903-691-9031


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