‘It’s a new day at the Atlanta Temple Corps’
By: Brad Rowland
“It’s a new day at the Atlanta Temple Corps.”
On Wednesday, July 1, Captain Ken Argot, corps officer, uttered that phrase as part of the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of a new day center. Though the opening ceremony was delivered in a virtual manner due to COVID-19 restrictions, the atmosphere was festive in nature, with genuine excitement about the work that has already been done and the work that lies ahead.
Captain Argot thanked partners in the community as well as internal support staff and volunteers. He praised Reggie Gilbert, an Atlanta Temple employee, as the location’s “ambassador to many in the homeless community,” and Gilbert certainly wasn’t alone in garnering accolades.
“None of this would be possible without the work of Caleb Louden,” Captain Argot said. “Caleb had the vision to create this opportunity. He wrote the grant, set the parameters and developed the initial partnerships.”
For nearly a decade, The Salvation Army operated a program titled “SALT’D,” an acronym for showers and laundry time with devotions, and the new day center signals an expansion of those efforts to a fully developed five-day program. Louden, who now works as an employee at territorial headquarters while remaining a soldier at Atlanta Temple, shepherded the development of the day center while serving as a Salvation Army mission specialist, and he spoke glowingly about the endeavor.
“This is a great day for The Salvation Army Atlanta Temple Corps,” Louden said. “For a couple of years, I had the privilege of helping to lead what we called SALT’D. It’s amazing to see this day finally here and to celebrate with you all what really is a new day for our day center.
“For many years, people experiencing homelessness found themselves living under the bridges along the Peachtree Creek, unseen by so many in our community and unseen even though they were living in unsafe, unhealthy conditions. They were, to a large degree, ignored. Over 10 years ago, some of our soldiers and officers made it their mission to go out to these people, and to serve them … They began to reach out to these individuals, offering material needs and friendship, and beginning relationships. It is that moment in the life of the corps that led to SALT’D, which has been one of our ways to serve the community and pursue our mission.”
Under the leadership of Jessica George, social services program manager, the new day center will operate Monday through Friday from 9-11 a.m., offering showers, laundry services, clothing, food, agency referrals and more. Plans are also in the works for classes to be offered at 11 a.m. each day, with topics such as simple budgeting, health and wellness, music, ESL, art and more.
Representatives from the community gathered alongside Lt. Colonel William Mockabee, Georgia divisional commander, and Major Bob Parker, Metro Atlanta area commander, for the ribbon-cutting. In addition, many spoke in praise of the community partnership, with Alan Goodman, president of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, saying the organization is “thrilled to be partners with The Salvation Army.” The day center expansion was aided by a generous grant from Dekalb County, with Melvia Richards, housing manager for Dekalb County, expressing her support.
As of the start of July, the center is now open and operating, with many coming through the doors immediately in search of physical assistance, emotional support or simply a warm greeting. The theme of a “new day” permeates the program’s existence, as those who come are simply given a chance to recharge and gather the provision needed to press on.
“These are the stories that describe, for me, so beautifully what we are all about here,” said Louden. “That is helping people, through relationships and material support, attain their goals in life and encounter God’s transformative word … This day center is a place of rest, a place of refuge for people who are weary and so very burdened. May God bless this new day center, and may it be a place of rest, belonging, transformation and love.”