Army in the South hosts townhall conference call addressing COVID-19 pandemic

By: Brad Rowland

On the evening of March 31, The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory held its first-ever donor townhall conference call, with information on how the organization is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Major donors and advisory board members from across the southeastern United States were invited to attend via phone, with Major Terry Israel, community relations and development secretary, shepherding the call.

During the call, several interactive opportunities materialized, with feedback, questions from attendees and valuable polling data collected through the use of survey questions. In addition, the group of over 11,000 listeners was simply thanked for all they have done and will continue to do in service of the Army’s mission.

“Tonight, we want to say ‘thank you’ and provide ourselves as being transparent, accountable and responsive,” said Colonel Ralph Bukiewicz, chief secretary. “The Salvation Army has always wanted to nurture a culture of caring. It’s in our DNA. It’s part of who we are, in our passion to respond, first of all to the amazing grace and the transforming love that God has demonstrated to us. We can pass that along to our neighbors in need in the most practical and powerful ways possible.”

Major Israel and Colonel Bukiewicz were joined by Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, Major Andrew Wiley, social services secretary, and Jeff Jellets, emergency disaster services coordinator, for different segments of the presentation.

As part of the informational session, it was affirmed that every divisional headquarters has a crisis management team in place for coordination and support with three top priorities: keeping Salvation Army housing programs open, continuing to provide meals to needy individuals and families and the distribution of essential supplies, such as a food boxes, cleaning products and personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves.

In addition, the necessity of continued emotional and spiritual care was at the center of the discussion.

“Perhaps our greatest challenge has been in the provision of one of our most essential services – the delivery of emotional and spiritual care,” Jellets said. “While COVID-19 has made ‘social distancing’ the norm, The Salvation Army will not give up when it comes to comforting the lonely, isolated or distraught. Instead, we have established an emotional and spiritual care hotline where those in need can find a friendly, caring and compassionate voice who can help ease fears in these troubled times.”

The toll-free hotline, which can be reached at 1-844-458-4673, is available for anyone to call for support between 9 a.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET each day.

The work of The Salvation Army continues, both in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis and with other programming, including emergency disaster service deployments, persisting across the territory, all while following CDC guidelines for social distancing. The on-the-ground response is paramount but, in concluding the townhall conference call, Commissioner Howell made sure to note that the centerpiece of everything is the comfort and nurturing that arrives from a trust in Jesus Christ.

“Regardless of how threatening things may seem, let me assure you that if Jesus is in your boat, you’re not going to sink,” Commissioner Howell said. “If Jesus is in your boat, scary as the situation appears, you have nothing to fear. We’ll get to the other side of this…. Being in a storm with Jesus is far safer than being anywhere else without him.”