VIDEO: 'Serve and Save' - Lodging is just one need the nonprofit meets

Published on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 22:45 - Written by By Emily Guevara eguevara@tylerpaper.com

In Kay Waddell’s room, it’s the details that make it home. A fiber optic Christmas tree adorned with ornaments and an angel on top sits atop a small desk.

In one corner, she has carved out a space for her son, Logan, 11, placing the twin bed against the wall with his bookshelf and desk next to it.

On the side of the armoire hangs artwork made by Logan, things such as a Mother’s Day card and a picture of him. On the way out, a sign hanging on the doorknob reads, “I’m a believer.”

Although the space is small, it’s home. And it provides what Ms. Waddell, 52, and Logan need, at least for the time being.

Since April the two have lived in a family dorm room at The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope in Tyler.

When Ms. Waddell lost her job as a pharmacy tech in March because of some medical problems, she quickly realized she couldn’t make it financially.

At the time, she and her son were living in a duplex. But as a single mom, it was difficult for her to save money, so she couldn’t support the two of them.

She walked into The Salvation Army in hopes that she could get help with housing. And she did. After filling out some paperwork, she and her son received a room in the family dorm.

“I’m very independent, and so it’s hard for me to say, ‘I need help,’ you know,” she said. “But this place is like a home. It’s a shelter, you know, but because of the way you’re treated, especially in the family dorm, it feels like home. But, you still want to leave.”

An international movement, the Army’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination, according to its website.

Providing lodging is just one of the ways the Army meets people’s needs. The lodge, which is called the Center of Hope, can house up to 210 people in rooms.

Chantel Millin, the Army’s community and corporate relations coordinator, said people can stay there for up to two years. Emergency lodging is available for up to 10 days.

Ms. Waddell said it was a shock to get to the point where she needed help. But she has had a positive experience with The Salvation Army.

The afterschool program for the children has been immensely helpful to her because it means she can work and her son can stay there until she gets back each day.

“The afterschool program allows me to have my job and know that he’s being cared for by people who care about him,” said Ms. Waddell, who works at Designer Graphics in Tyler.

Perhaps one of the most significant changes that have come because of her time in the shelter is her faith.

“I’ve become a Christian living here because of their church,” she said.

Growing up Ms. Waddell didn’t attend church because her mother had grown up in an environment where religion was “pushed down her throat.”

“When I came here, I was kind of leery of it like I have been for pretty much my whole life,” she said. “But, they make you feel so comfortable. You can wear jeans and a T-shirt. You don’t have to dress up, as long as you’re there. And, you know, I became a believer and my spiritual growth has been amazing because of the people, the majors, they don’t preach at me. They teach me.”

Her son, Logan, also has accepted Christ as his Savior, Ms. Waddell said.

In the New Year, she plans to move out of the shelter and into a new residence with another mother she has met there.

They plan to stay together for a few months so they can help each other get back on their feet.

She said she plans to continue attending The Salvation Army church even when she no longer uses the shelter. And she invites everyone she can to attend the church.

“A lot of people don’t realize The Salvation Army is a church,” she said. “It’s a church first and a shelter later. It’s to serve and save. That’s their motto.”