Like twinkling lights and joyful carols, it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without the familiar ringing of The Salvation Army bells. For six weeks each fall, The Salvation Army asks the public to remember their neighbors in need by dropping spare dimes and dollars in its iconic red kettles.
These donations help fund programs and services long after the Christmas trees come down and the last of the snow has melted. From after school programs and summer camp to food pantries and utility assistance, The Salvation Army serves tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Indiana.
One of these individuals was Phyllis, who is rebuilding her life at the Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center, located on The Salvation Army campus in the heart of downtown Indianapolis dubbed the “Block of Hope.”
Phyllis has no illusions about how dire her situation had gotten. “If I’d sat out there another day, I’d be gone,” she shares, shaking her head at the memory of her last days on the street. Phyllis had been homeless and living at a local bus station, suffering from hyperglycemia because she didn’t have access to medications to treat her diabetes. She weighed only 86 pounds and had stopped eating when she walked through the doors of the Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center.
Phyllis was immediately admitted, given food and looked over by a doctor. It wasn’t long before she was back on her medication and sharing her harrowing tale with the shelter staff, which included the sudden death of her husband from brain cancer and the loss of her house. She’d always been taken care of as a wife and didn’t know how to seek employment, handle personal finances or get the psychological care she needed to deal with the loss of her husband.
“This is a place where you can get help,” Phyllis smiles as she gestures at the walls of her new home at the Women and Children’s Center. “They’re helping me through things. I’ve never been homeless before, and it’s really hard. They have a lot of options here. I’m grateful for it because it’s getting me on my feet.”
Phyllis is now tackling a list of goals, both large and small. From getting her body healthy again to finding employment and saving money for her own apartment, she works every day to get closer to independence. That work includes weekly meetings with her case manager and social worker, sessions with a psychiatrist, money management classes and a new job at a local restaurant.
After just two months, Phyllis already looks like a different woman. She proudly tells anyone she meets that she’s up to 120 pounds and has her diabetes under control. While Phyllis will sheepishly admit that she still isn’t “street smart,” she’s learning how to make smart decisions for her future.
“They set you up for success – that’s what they do,” Phyllis explains. “I give thanks to The Salvation Army. I thank God every morning that I’m here.”
So when you drop a quarter in a red kettle this month or search out the clear ringing of a bell in a crowded shopping mall, remember the thousands of Hoosiers like Phyllis who know The Salvation Army is more than a red kettle at Christmas. It’s hope for tomorrow.