By Taylor Wheeler
It wouldn’t be the holiday season without the sound of Salvation Army bells in the air. An institution for over 100 years in the Wiregrass, the Salvation Army of the Wiregrass Area provides help and hope to those in need in the Wiregrass during the holiday season. Dropping a donation into a smiling bell ringer’s Red Kettle as you do your Christmas shopping is almost a holiday rite of passage. Selecting a child’s name off one of the Salvation Army’s Angel Trees lets donors be Santa Claus to a child whose Christmas wish list is just a few hoped-for toys and much needed clothing items under their tree on Christmas morning.
But long after the holiday season is done, the Salvation Army of the Wiregrass Area is hard at work throughout the Wiregrass. Those coins and dollar bills thoughtfully dropped into the Red Kettles each holiday season help the Salvation Army continue its year-round mission of preaching “the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination,” according to Captains Chris and Kelly Bryant, the Salvation Army of the Wiregrass Area officers helming the local branch that serves families and individuals in Geneva, Henry and Houston counties. This husband and wife team have deep personal connections to the Salvation Army—Chris benefitted from its assistance as a child and young adult, and Kelly grew up in the Salvation Army.
Under their leadership, the Salvation Army of the Wiregrass Area has been successful in changing lives in our community. Through many valuable social services programs, including homeless prevention, budgeting and life skills, and intensive client case management, the Salvation Army of the Wiregrass Area is working to make the Wiregrass better, one family or individual at a time. The Salvation Army, both locally and nationally, is also a bulwark during times of disaster and crisis like the 2017 hurricanes, providing disaster social services, counseling, disaster volunteer training and emergency communications assistance.
While the Salvation Army of the Wiregrass Area is a successful and vital social services non-profit in the Wiregrass, it is—first and foremost—a church. All are welcome to the Salvation Army of the Wiregrass Area church located at 2001 South Bell Street in Dothan for regular church services, youth programs and Bible studies.
In the section below, Captains Chris and Kelly share their personal connections to the Salvation Army, as well as more in-depth looks at the Salvation Army of the Wiregrass Area’s holiday programs, year-round social service programs, disaster services and church services.
In addition to presents under the Christmas tree for the kids, what other benefits do Angel Tree families receive?
Capt. Chris Bryant: One of the things that I think is most important that the families get is the opportunity to take life skills classes, budgeting classes, and many other resources to help them be able to stand on their feet again. It is a requirement after someone first signs up for Angel Tree, that in order to qualify again they must take a budgeting class that we offer free of charge to them throughout the year.
Capt. Kelly Bryant: I, on the other hand, feel that the hope and knowledge that someone is out there to love and care for families in tough times is a great benefit the families receive. We do also make sure all of our families, plus several hundred low income seniors, receive food boxes during our Angel Tree drive.
How can the community assist the Salvation Army with the Red Kettle and Angel Tree programs?
Capt. Chris Bryant: We always need volunteers. For those that want to volunteer at our kettles, it is a great way to help us raise as much money as we can this season. Get your Sunday School groups, social groups, civic groups, whoever you want. Call our office and pick a day, location, and time period and we will get you signed up. 334-792-1911
Capt. Kelly Bryant: We also need volunteers to man our Angel Tree at the mall. A very easy, but extremely important part of our Angel Tree program. Anyone can do this, it’s that easy. Again call our office and we will get you signed up.
The Salvation Army provides year-round help to families in need in the Wiregrass. What types of programs and services are available all through the year?
Capt. Chris Bryant: We have so many. First are our church services. We are a church and have regular services. Sunday School 10am, Worship 11am, Women’s Ministries Tuesdays 11am, Youth Programs Tuesday’s 6pm, and Bible Study Thursday’s at 6pm. All are welcome.
In our social services roll we have:
• Food Pantry
• Homeless Prevention- utilities and other assistance to assist in keep individuals with remaining in their established residence.
• Pathways of Hope- focusing on intense case management to help families in generational poverty learn how to approach life with new perspectives.
• Budgeting and life skills classes that will give individuals tools to succeed in life.
• Case Management to help keep goals on track, and find resources that will be needed to help an individual with their situation.
There are many ways we assist that will differ with each family. That is the beauty of our program is we can customize it to assist in any way we can, and if we can’t we have relationships with other agencies that may be able to help too.
You are a husband and wife team–tell us how you met and how you each became involved with the Salvation Army.
Capt. Chris Bryant: I am a blessed man. I met my wife when we were 12 at a Salvation Army summer camp in North Carolina. We were there studying music for the summer. I was a typical 12-year-old that thought the best way to get her attention was to annoy her. That didn’t work too well, it took a few years for her to warm up to me. Thankfully years later she would fall madly in love with me. I became involved with The Salvation Army out of necessity. My family did not have a lot of money growing up, we got food from The Salvation Army, we were angel tree kids, there was just a lot of need in my family. Getting involved with the programs of The Salvation Army changed my life. I am where I am today because The Salvation Army invested in me as a youth, and a leader.
Capt. Kelly Bryant: I am a Fourth generation Salvationist. I have been attending the Army since I was born. I was involved in everything the church offered. I met my husband when we were 12 through The Salvation Army’s music program at the camp in NC. We lost touch when we were young and reconnected when my parents, whom are Salvation Army Officers, got appointed to his hometown in SC. After that the rest is history.