Love in Action at The Salvation Army’s Memphis ARC
By: Camille Connor
For many, the start of a new year means setting new goals and embarking on new experiences. This is certainly true for Patrick Lewandowski. On an early Thursday morning in January, he found himself settling into a new role in a new city. As a Corps Mission Associate, he has been tasked with managing the food pantry and assisting with worship services at The Salvation Army in Jackson, Tennessee.
Just a few days ago, you could catch Lewandowski assessing residential living spaces, scheduling appointments, and offering guidance to clients living at the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Memphis, Tennessee. As the resident manager, he was accustomed to juggling various tasks, all while ensuring clients stayed focused on their journey toward recovery from addictions. But his goal was to do more than run a tight ship. He galvanized the troops to spread hope far beyond the walls of the ARC.
Lewandowski was also a soldier of The Salvation Army’s Kroc Church in Memphis. In 2022, he began to join the church on outings in the Memphis Area Command’s mobile kitchen unit. The group – which consisted of volunteers, employees, and officers – would ride around Memphis in the canteen filled with sack lunches and water bottles. They made stops at no-barrier homeless shelters and low-income apartments, hoping to provide nourishment for both body and spirit.
During these outings, Lewandowski began building rapport with the individuals they served from the canteen. He told them about the ARC’s work-therapy program for people recovering from addictions. Through word-of-mouth, Lewandowski was able to get nearly a dozen people to become residents at the ARC within just a couple of months.
Robert Hines was one of the individuals who learned about the ARC as a result of the mobile canteen ministry. Hines said he was homeless and a recovering addict when he met Lewandoski.
“He started talking to me along with another guy and said, ‘Well would you be interested in coming with me today and join in our program’.” Hines recalls needing a little convincing. “I was skeptical,” he said. “I knew about the Salvation Army with Christmas. I didn’t know they had a program for anything.”
Hines joined Lewandowski on the rest of his mobile canteen route that day, helping to hand out lunches to others in need. By the end, he decided to go with Lewandoski back to the ARC. “It was the first time anybody really reached out to me, and I kind of felt connected.”
Lewandowski says that not every connection has resulted in a success story. “Not all of them have stayed,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s the way it goes.” Lewandowski says some have only decided to stay for a few weeks instead of completing the full 180-day program. But he hopes the staff at the ARC have planted a seed in the hearts of people who chose to leave. “By showing them that love in the first place, that we’re here, it leaves those doors open.”
Lewandowski personally vouches for the program at the ARC, not just as a current employee, but as a former client. “I came through the program myself in Jacksonville, Florida in 2020.” Soon after completing the program, Lewandowski was offered a job at the ARC in Memphis. He worked as the resident manager for nearly two years.
For clients who have decided to stay, it has been a transformative experience. He has even kept in touch with one of the individuals who he met through the mobile canteen ministry. “Since I no longer work there, I’m able to be his sponsor,” Lewandoski said. The man he is sponsoring has almost completed the 180-day program at the ARC.
Lewandowski sees his new role at the Jackson Corps as a “learning experience.” He hopes that, over the next six months, he will gain the ministry and leadership skills that will prepare him to enter The Salvation Army’s Evangeline Booth College School for Officer Training in Atlanta, Georgia.
To learn more about The Salvation Army’s ARC program in Memphis, please visit https://salvationarmymemphis.org/adult-rehabilitation-center.