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Salvation Army: Service on the front lines of need


salvation armyOn his first day heading up a local Salvation Army unit in Washington, D.C., Jason Perdieu was helping with a program providing food to the local homeless population.

“And in walks a gentleman who had apparently been shot three times, but was not even concerned,” said Perdieu, now the corps officer at the Salvation Army in Waynesboro.

Which is three hours, and a world away, from inner city D.C.

But that said, while the needs in Washington are a lot different than what Perdieu deals with on a daily basis in Waynesboro, “there’s need everywhere.”

“It’s amazing to me some of the things that go on in Waynesboro. You don’t have to be a big city to have needs,” Perdieu said on this week’s Viewpoints on WVPT.

When you have nowhere else to turn, there’s the Salvation Army, whose history dates to 1865, when a minister founded the first unit in Great Britain.

Now in 127 countries, the Salvation Army serves the emotional and immediate physical needs of people worldwide.

In addition to its religious ministry, the Salvation Army has become known for its work providing aid in disaster situations, and in local communities like Waynesboro being on the front lines in dealing with the immediate needs of those struggling to make ends meet.

“We have people who are dealing with their utilities, their rent, their food. When you have a mom with three children or dad with three children that come, and they have no air conditioning, and it’s 98 degrees, that’s tough. The hardest thing is when we have no funding, and trying to scramble to find other places, churches, to help us find those funds,” Perdieu said.

The familiar red kettle campaigns at Christmastime provide the bulk of funds for local units like the one in Waynesboro, but Perdieu said the budget starts to get tight each year in the early summer months.

The Waynesboro Salvation Army unit is aiming to increase its support base with the establishment of Ms. Angie’s Fund, named in honor of Angie Engleman, the recently retired case manager who worked for 33 years as the point person for the delivery of emergency services in the local community.

“Need has no season. It’s true,” Engleman said. “Christmas is very important for the children and the families that need help with food and help for Christmas. But that continues on throughout the year. It doesn’t stop at Christmas. There’s needs for utilities. There’s needs for rent. There’s needs for different things. Clothing, food, sometimes motels if we have the funds for it. That’s why Ms. Angie’s Fund was started.”

Both Engleman and Perdieu are Salvation Army lifers, in a manner of speaking. Perdieu is a fourth-generation Salvationist, who wandered away for a few years after college, before returning to the fold to work in youth ministry, then meeting his wife, Elyshia, and heading off with her to seminary school in advance of their first assignment.

Engleman started attending church services at the Salvation Army in Waynesboro as a 5-year-old, and has been a member of the church for more than 60 years.

“It was my desire, forever, to be part of the Salvation Army like that, in the service part. It was an answer to me, and it was my calling as a ministry to be part of that,” said Engleman, who in retirement plans to be an active volunteer, to the point early on at least that it might not seem like anything has changed with her status.

She will be active in particular working with the staff on the new Pathway of Hope program wherein the Salvation Army is aiming to break the cycle of poverty that can be crippling for many families.

“Instead of just putting emergency disaster just one time, we’re getting to the core problems with Pathway of Hope,” said Perdieu. “We want to find out, why are you in this situation? Let’s deal with the situation. We’re going to put time and effort, and even finances, to move people along in this program. It may take up to six months, but we’re going to battle the intergenerational cycle of poverty. We’ve got families that are living without hope, because mom lived this way and grandma lived this way, and I’m doomed. We want to get the message out there that there is a pathway of hope.”

Too often in this day and age, people seek to assign blame to those who are in dire straits, as if falling upon hard times is a moral failing.

“We try to place ourselves in the shoes of others, and we realize that everybody is one scenario away from being on the receiving end,” Perdieu said.

For Engleman as case manager, the stories became familiar over the years.

“Somebody got sick and lost income. Somebody had to move, and therefore they needed extra income to move. It’s a lot of different reasons, it isn’t just one,” Engleman said. “You can’t put … people say variables. Well, the variables are so wide that you can’t just pinpoint any one thing with any one family. It changes with each family that walks through that door.

‘I’ve been blessed that I’ve been able to pray with them when they let me. I can pray, and I can offer them that kind of peace as they walk out the door, and a plan of action.”

The focus is not on moral judgment, then, but in “doing anything and everything we can to not only fix the problem at hand, but we want to fix people,” Perdieu said.

“My motto in life is, We need to leave people better than we find them. Because again, we can be on the receiving end as well at some point,” he said.

Engleman, in retirement, remains in Waynesboro, her hometown. For Perdieu, there is a phone call that comes every April that tells him his next assignment. This past year, it was to remain in Waynesboro, but he knows that the next April, or the one after that, could mean that it’s time to move to another community.

That won’t be an easy day, he conceded.

“Waynesboro has become my home, and it’s in my heart. Even when I get the phone call, the dreaded phone call that it’s time for us to move, Waynesboro will always have a special place in my heart,” Perdieu said. “I’ve never seen a community as loving, as giving, as caring. This doesn’t happen in other places. People just stopping in to say hello, even three and a half years later, just saying, I’m so glad you’re here. This community has embraced us, and when that phone call comes, we’re going to be going kicking and screaming.”



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Story by Chris Graham



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