Za’Kia Davis-Lyles is a 10-year-old girl with braided hair and a big, welcoming smile. But she was struggling with her reading comprehension, so her mother Juanita enrolled her in a free afternoon reading program offered by The Salvation Army of the Midlands. With help from staff and volunteers, Za’Kia was soon reading and comprehending at her grade level.
It’s but one way the Midlands branch of The Salvation Army helps those in need throughout the Columbia area. Look beyond the Red Kettles at Christmas time, and you’ll find a faith-based charitable organization that feeds the hungry, helps those in need by paying rent or utility bills, helps children improve their reading skills and assists young adults in finding jobs.
“The purpose of The Salvation Army is to meet the needs of people, no matter what they look like, regardless of who they are,” says Area Commander Maj. Henry Morris. “Our desire is to meet their needs and help them start their life and take it in another direction. To help them realize they don’t have to remain in the same situation they’re in — that there is a better outcome.”
The Salvation Army has been a presence in the Midlands for over a century, and at its current location in Columbia for 16 years. It serves the hungry, those needing help to make ends meet, those in search of mental health services, veterans, and children taking part in reading programs or enjoying summer camp. Helping with food and paying rent are among The Salvation Army’s most in-demand services in the Columbia area.
Morris, who has worked in Columbia for two years and served as a minister in The Salvation Army for 20, has seen the results: children who improve in school through the Leveraging Literacy initiative, or receiving toys at Christmas through the Angel Tree program; families that find affordable shoes and furniture; young adults who learn to write a resume and interview for a job through a character-building program.
In the 2017 fiscal year, 200 Columbia-area families received rental help to prevent eviction. Over 3,000 families were able to meet their basic needs with assistance. Nearly 1,000 families accepted utility assistance. 200 children received new clothes and school supplies. 48 children improved their reading skills. And over a quarter of a million meals were served to the homeless.
Christmas donations in 2017 helped over 1,300 families, contributed to the distribution of over 1,700 food boxes, and provided Christmas gifts for over 3,000 area children.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Morris says. “We have a desire to reach out and meet the needs of the people any way we can with whatever it is they’re trying to accomplish in their life.”
Besides the Red Kettles, monetary donations can be mailed to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 2786, Columbia, S.C. 29202. Their website highlights other opportunities for giving and volunteering, and item donations are always welcome at Family Store locations. Pressing needs include furniture, clothes, shoes and mattresses. They will even arrange for pickup of usable household items.
In one week alone, Morris says, the Salvation Army gave out seven mattresses and box springs to those who had no beds at home. “Believe it or not, we have many people in the community who don’t have necessary bedding to lie on,” he adds. “All we collect, we put that into our stores, and those funds go toward helping people. Everything we do goes back to our community to meet needs.”
For more information on The Salvation Army or ways to donate, visit the organization’s website at DoingTheMostGood.org, or contact the Salvation Army of the Midlands at (803) 309-6435.