Major Sarah Nelson and Captain Dan Nelson deliver doughnuts to first responders as part of Salvation Army Week in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Salvation Army Week brings a virtual shout-out to Knoxville
By: David Ibata
When Major Sarah Nelson and Captain Dan Nelson began planning special events for Salvation Army Week, May 10-17, in Knoxville, Tennessee, they quickly realized they’d have to forego traditional celebrations like an open-air meeting downtown and a cookout for transitional housing clients.
“It became very apparent the events we wanted to hold weren’t going to be possible in light of COVID-19,” Major Nelson said. “It was somewhat challenging but also exciting to figure out how we would celebrate National Salvation Army Week without really coming into physical contact with people.”
The Knoxville Area Command realized it had an opportunity to reach even greater numbers of people through an effective online strategy.
“Our strategy was really to highlight The Salvation Army’s five core values” – Passion, Compassion, Bravery, Uplifting Spirit and Trustworthiness – “and identifying various aspects of our ministry here in Knoxville,” Major Nelson said.
G-Lab Group, the firm that designed the Knoxville Command’s website, helped to secure the domain name “salvationarmy.865” (“865” is Knoxville’s area code). The link leads visitors to the landing page for “National Salvation Army Week: COVID-19 Edition.”
Here, content created for and during the week (like photos, videos and downable assets) can be accessed long after the week is passed – unlike social media postings, as with Facebook, that drop lower and lower on a page as other content gets posted until they effectively disappear.
On Monday, May 11, Disaster Services Day, the Knoxville Command dispatched its mobile feeding unit (canteen) to deliver doughnuts to first responders and posted photos to its website – an example how The Salvation Army helps in the event of natural disasters and other emergencies.
The theme for Tuesday was Men’s Ministry. Soldier Mark Brabson gave a video testimony how his life was radically changed by Jesus Christ. Wednesday, Church Ministry Day, featured a “Salvation Stories” digital newsletter highlighting Knoxville’s various ministries.
For Senior Ministry Thursday, Lucy Love gave a video testimony how her life was transformed when she came to The Salvation Army for help. Youth Ministry Friday offered downloadable coloring pages for children and an invitation to kids to participate in a coloring contest.
Saturday, Camp Ministry Day, had testimonies by Lauren Ekhardt and Destiny Battle about their life-transforming summer experiences at Salvation Army camp; and Sunday, a day to describe the Knoxville Command’s Transitional Housing Ministry, came with a take-away pizza dinner for clients donated by a longtime Knoxville Command partner, Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza.
“One thing that’s not on our schedule for the week is, we have a local restaurant donating food to feed our entire staff on Friday,” Major Nelson said. “We’re building in a staff appreciation component, which is so important right now because our employees have worked so hard for the past eight weeks. It’s appropriate to honor them; in a sense, they too are first responders.”
The novel coronavirus inspired new and creative ways to respond to an unexpected crisis.
“We never would have done this had it not been for COVID,” Major Nelson said. “There’s always a silver lining. This shows us how to do something different and to some degree, in a more effective way.”