Cleveland County Commissioners recently presented The Salvation Army of Cleveland County with $500,000 to help with lost revenue due to COVID-19 and to support services throughout the county. COVID hit The Salvation Army hard but did not stop them from continuing their mission to help those struggling with poverty.
“We were changing policies daily to keep people safe,” said Leona Chapman, Director of Social Services. “We lost all of our restaurant donations because they closed. Our meal feeding program had no resources for meals each night, so we immediately had to start shopping and providing things out the door with to-go containers. That increased our need for funding for food and supplies.”
Still, they managed to carry on with their work.
“Every program we offer continued during COVID,” Chapman said.
Services include basic emergency shelter for men, women and families, clothing vouchers and ID recovery within The Salvation Army’s social services department.
“We also have emergency services that include a food pantry, utility assistance, rent assistance, fans in the summer, coats in the winter, Christmas assistance,” she said. “I call all of those ‘getting by’ services.”
The Salvation Army does not stop there. They have services to help people end the cycle of poverty and improve the quality of their lives, including one class on self-empowerment.
“Our latest program is ‘Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World’,” Chapman said.
This program teaches people to look at their finances, spending patterns, and available resources then make a budget that will help them live within their means instead of spiraling into deeper and deeper debt.
Marcy Carroll, a Getting Ahead program participant, said she learned how to prioritize her spending and bring her life back into balance by saving money for wants, but only after needs were met.
“Now I have a job, and I’m putting money into a savings account,” Carroll said. “If you don’t think you’re going to make it, stick it out. Ride the waves, and at the very end you will be very impressed with how well you get through it.”
While Salvation Army’s emergency shelter is located in Norman, services span every community throughout Cleveland County.
“The Salvation Army has been in Cleveland County from the early 1900s,” Chapman said. “In 1978 we started our shelter operations serving Cleveland County, and in 1981 we started the social service department serving the entire county. We go into Moore, Noble and Lexington. We have outreach when we do our programs.”
This includes going into the schools and the senior centers throughout Cleveland County communities.
“The Salvation Army is motivated to provide soup, soap and salvation,” said Major Charles Powell. “We believe that when individuals are cared for in the most basic levels, with nutrition and shelter, they can begin working towards their goals for the future.”
The Salvation Army is a part of the network of nonprofits serving throughout Cleveland County.
“Through our services, we aim to identify client needs and help develop services which build and strengthen individuals,” Powell said. “With the support of the local community and other nonprofit agencies, we increase the capacity for success in the clients we serve.”
One success story is Patrick Conely, former Salvation Army client who is now an employee.
After Conely left a toxic relationship that cost him his worldly possessions, he moved to Oklahoma to start over. To help him get back on his feet, he connected with The Salvation Army where his case manager saw him leverage resources to advance himself, including getting a job and an apartment. She also saw Patrick walking back and forth to work, eager to improve his life.
“She gave me a bike, and I used that bike to get a second job,” Conely said.
Now, he works at the shelter helping and encouraging others. He has since passed his bike on to another patron of the shelter, paying it forward to help another man get back and forth to work. He said The Salvation Army gave him the boost he needed to turn his life around.
“I’ve been going uphill instead of downhill,” Conely said. “If you want help, The Salvation Army will help you. I’m a witness to it.”
Conely said he loves being able to tell others that if he can make it, they can make it also.
“You got to leave the drugs alone and get a case manager,” he said. “I am grateful for The Salvation Army. Without them, I don’t think I’d be where I’m at today. I owe them a lot. I’ll continue working for them as long as possible so I can help everyone I can…. It’s my goal to help people.”