Sisters help The Salvation Army answer the call in tornado relief response
By: Cindy Fuller
Volunteers have always been referred to as the backbone of The Salvation Army, playing a vital role in its activities, particularly during calamities. Recently, two sisters — Doris Gleason and Charlotte Cates — were en route to attend a surprise 80th birthday celebration of a childhood friend, when they were approached by the Disaster Resource Manager from The Salvation Army’s Area Command in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The sisters were asked to lend a helping hand in responding to the tornadoes that hit Arkansas the previous Friday. Despite being so close to their destination, they instantly agreed and began to make alternate arrangements.
Although they had planned only an overnight stay, they called Charlotte’s daughter in Benton, Arkansas to borrow a pair of jeans and tennis shoes. Doris, with a spirit of service, remarked, “I can wear a pair of pants for 10 days if it means serving others!” Their plan was to collect items for a garage sale on their way back home.
Both sisters come from a religious background and are steadfast in their faith. According to Doris, “The greatest gift was to give back instead of going to the party.” They consider it an honor to volunteer and work in the mission field.
Upon reaching the base command in Little Rock, they were assigned to serve 300 meals from a canteen that was serving first responders and survivors of the storms. Charlotte and Doris then began serving on a roaming rapid response unit to ensure that residents and responders are being provided the food, hydration and emotional care that is critical to those who have been affected by the devastation that these storms left behind.
Charlotte had always dreamt of being a volunteer since she was a young girl. “it’s like a bucket list item,” she said. “A dream from childhood come true.”
Doris, on the other hand, began volunteering twenty years ago in Yuma, Arizona, with The Salvation Army. Charlotte has been volunteering for four years, and both sisters assist with the Angel Tree program each year, serve at the Veteran’s Coffee Bunker, and Doris even dresses up as “Big Red” (a Shield costume) for special occasions, feeling it is her calling to volunteer.
“This work is very, very rewarding,” said Charlotte. “When you help others, it reminds you of how truly blessed you are.”
Through April 2, The Salvation Army has served 18,222 meals, 38,963 drinks, and 25,575 snacks, with 3,561 hours of active service and 1,311 emotional and spiritual care contacts across Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee in its ongoing tornado relief response.
The Salvation Army plans to continue its response as long as needed, and is coordinating its efforts with federal, state, and local officials, as well as other social service agencies.
To make a financial donation to support ongoing tornado relief efforts, go to helpsalvationarmy.org or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. For the latest disaster response information, go to disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.