Battle of the Bells.

Battle of the Bells in Jackson, Tennessee, is a friendly competition between the Fire Department and the Police Department.

Friendly Competition between the Jackson Fire and Police Departments Aims High

When Lieutenants David and Cheryl Moynihan began their command of The Salvation Army of Jackson, Tennessee, in June, the couple immediately began thinking of how they could get to know their new community and prepare for the important red kettle season.

As experienced commanding officers, they knew how essential the money raised during the holiday season is to The Salvation Army programs needed in their new community.

“This is something every officer is looking for – ways to make ringing the bells fun.  Trying to strike a friendly competition is one way to create fun. We approached the Police Department and the Fire Department here and they loved the idea,” Lt. Cheryl Moynihan said.

The idea became an event that will take place on Saturday, December 9, 2017, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Walmart North in Jackson.  The “Battle of the Bells” is billed as the “City of Jackson Fire Department vs. The Jackson Fire Department – Jackson’s finest competition to bring hope to those in need this Christmas.”  Flyers for the event encourage the community to “Come show your support for your favorite department.”

In this staged photo, Captains face off for a Battle of the Bells.

“There will be a fire truck on one end and police cars on the other end. The police department is having volunteer shifts every two hours.  The fire department has an education unit that goes into schools.  Rico Bryson has many media outlet connections and has gotten publicity out through public service announcements and other ways. He has helped a lot in spreading the word,” Moynihan said.

The Commanding officer said it is not uncommon for groups to get in on a friendly red kettle bell competition.  In addition to police and fire departments, sometimes Rotary groups, Kiwanis groups, Sunday schools, local banks, and law firms get involved.

“I’m glad David and Cheryl reached out. This is our first annual Battle of the Bells with The Salvation Army.  We are participating for two reasons: First, to bring awareness to all the good The Salvation Army does in Jackson. Our second reason is to help the Fire Department and Police Department to raise funds for underprivileged kids so they can have a special Christmas. We haven’t set a specific dollar amount we are trying to raise since this is our first year but we hope to raise a great deal to be able to purchase lots of toys and to positively impact our community,” Rico Bryson, Public Education Coordinator, City of Jackson Fire Department, said.

Lieutenants David and Cheryl Moynihan began their command of the Jackson unit of The Salvation Army in June 2017.

Lt. Cheryl Moynihan said she loves when community groups commit to a friendly Battle of the Bells competition.

“For them, it’s really not about the competition.  It’s about raising as much money as possible to help us with our community mission. The groups get excited and start spreading information about the Battle of the Bells by word of mouth.  The funds we raise first goes to making sure we can provide Christmas toys and food boxes to those in need through our Angel Trees.  Then the monies go toward helping people in need with their utilities, rental assistance, transportation, and youth activities.  It really is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Moynihan said.

Members of the Jackson Police Department and Fire Department personally know the help provided by The Salvation Army to their community.

“Both departments are in the community and The Salvation Army works closely with them for a variety of reasons. They know firsthand our hearts. They believe in the mission. They want to rally behind us,” Moynihan said.

Rico Bryson added to that sentiment.

“We see families in Jackson every day being devastated by fires, home invasions and other crimes. Often, these families don’t have insurance to pay for the things they’ve lost. We see firsthand how The Salvation Army steps in to help these families and we want to help them and do our part to give back to our community,” Bryson said.

Lt. Cheryl Moynihan speaks at an event in November 2017 to begin the Red Kettle Season in Jackson, Tennessee.

The Jackson Police Chief, Julian Wiser, and the Jackson Fire Department Chief, Maxie Stewart, will be involved in a very special way.

“Whoever wins, the Chief has to present the Battle of the Bells trophy to the other Chief when we have our volunteer appreciation event for all those who helped us make our Christmas season successful. The event is usually around the first of March,” Moynihan said.

One of the programs the Red Kettle donations go towards is the Angel Tree Program.

“Our Angel Tree Program was developed to help families who are struggling to provide for their children.  We invite those families in and find out how they need help.  Those who are approved, we find out the clothing sizes of their children and two wishes each child has and hang those on the tree. This gives the public the opportunity to learn how many children are in need in their community.  In the food box, we put enough for Christmas dinner and enough to get them through the Christmas season,” Moynihan said.

Rico Bryson, Public Education Coordinator, City of Jackson Fire Department, has been instrumental in promoting the first annual Battle of the Bells in Jackson.

As important as the gift-giving part of the holiday season is, there is more involved with the donation drive.

“I want people to know it’s not just about making sure a child has toys.  The Angel Tree Program sparks hope, even for the parents.  The parents take the gifts home and present them to their kids. It is difficult for many parents to swallow their pride and ask for help. This is an opportunity for us to work alongside them and help them with their struggles through our ministry.  It goes beyond the toys. We provide youth programs for the kids throughout the year.  It changes lives,” Moynihan said.

The friendly competition is sure to raise money and awareness about the needs within the Jackson community.

“When someone donates to a red kettle, they are making a bigger impact in their community than they probably could imagine,” Moynihan said.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating to the event, go to http://salvationarmytennessee.org/jackson/ or call Lt. Moynihan at 731-422-1271 for additional information.

The Jackson Fire Department Chief is Maxie Stewart.

The Jackson Police Chief is Julian Wiser.

November celebrates National Gratitude Month and World Kindness Week

Corps Members and Employees Find a Special Connection to Gratitude in their Work

The Salvation Army Manifesto resonates with corps members and employees of The Salvation Army every day.

“I am a grateful courier of a stranger’s kindness.” This line of The Salvation Army’s “Doing the Most Good” Manifesto resonates with Corps members and employees of The Salvation Army every day. However, during National Gratitude Month and World Kindness Week, it has special meaning.

For Lt. Ashley Reckline, Associate Corps Officer at The Salvation Army Louisville South Corps, it is a message she takes to heart with every duty of her job.

“It all comes back to that humbleness and doing the most good behind the scenes, the things done daily that are so often not seen but knowing that I have done them and that it is helping others,” Reckline said.

Those who work for and serve in The Salvation Army know firsthand that not only is gratitude the quality of being thankful and a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness, it is an act with the amazing ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives.

Lt. Ashley Reckline, Associate Corps Officer at The Salvation Army Louisville South Corps, thanks God for giving her the strength to move from her naturally introverted personality in order to serve Him and others. 

“I feel inadequate so often but then God reminds me of how big He is, which gives me strength. God has given me so many talents but the greatest is just to be able to serve and to know when someone is down and to know when to give them encouragement and love. No matter what, the love is there,” Reckline said.

The intention of November being National Gratitude Month is to encourage practicing daily gratitude. Not only does it give us a deeper connection to ourselves and those around us, it brings us a deeper connection to our Creator.

“At Thanksgiving and this time of year, a lot of people get down as they remember lost loved ones or think of difficult financial times. I am thankful that although I am extremely introverted that with God’s help, I can be extroverted with God’s love,” Reckline said as she recalled how her work with The Salvation Army helps her connect to both God and the people she serves.

For Lt. Reckline, practicing gratitude plays a significant role in her work and her personal life.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s quote is special to The Salvation Army.

“God has taught me so much about patience and peace.  We carry a lot with my son’s health and my health.  I am so grateful for God’s blessings and peace,” Reckline said.

For Brian Campbell, a social worker in Social Services at The Salvation Army of Clarksville, Tennessee, gratitude is more than simply saying “thank you”, although he appreciates that aspect of it.

“I receive cards and letters about how we have helped lives.  Our Salvation Army mission is to do the most good.  We do get rewarded.  We appreciate that.  For me, it’s doing what we can with the gifts we are given,” Campbell said.

Gratitude encourages us not only to appreciate gifts but to repay them or pay them forward.

“To me it relates to having perfect discipline to make good, right, sound decisions about the population we serve, to always put the needs of The Salvation Army and the client first.  I take their needs above my own,” Campbell said.

Brian Campbell, a social worker at The Salvation Army of Clarksville, Tennessee, counts as a blessing the gifts he has been given to help others. Photo by Sarah Dixon/The Leaf-Chronicle.

World Kindness Day is celebrated around the globe on November 13th. Created in 1998, this holiday encourages people to spread happiness, joy and peace through kindness.

When asked about the day, Campbell’s thoughts naturally turned to the coming holiday season.

“We are full steam ahead. We are primed and ready for what is ahead in the Christmas season,” Campbell said, thinking of the individuals and families that come to The Salvation Army, usually in a transition process, needing a helping hand to get their lives back on track.

Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money or take much time, but research shows everything in our lives has the ability to improve when we are grateful – our mood, our health, our happiness. Not only does practicing gratitude decrease stress, it alleviates depression, lowers blood pressure, and improves our relationships.

As Lt. Ashley Reckline and Brian Campbell demonstrate daily, we all have the ability to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.” Simply take a few moments every day to focus on the good in your life.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/volunteer for additional information.

The words of actress Audrey Hepburn exemplify The Salvation Army’s philosophy.

Camp Paradise Valley Changes Lives

The Salvation Army’s Camp Paradise Valley & Conference Center is the hub of activity in the 400-acre camp on the Kentucky-Tennessee border and Dale Hollow Lake.

Lt. Dakarai Darby’s Life Journey Shows the Legacy of Love at Camp Paradise Valley

In the summer of 2017, Lt. Dakarai Darby had a lot to celebrate: turning 33 years old, celebrating his tenth wedding anniversary with his wife, Lt. Dominique Darby, and their third anniversary leading the Richmond Salvation Army Corps – all important personal and professional landmarks.  He also celebrated something else every day of the summer and every day in his heart – Camp Paradise Valley.

“I love telling my story, especially if it helps others,” Darby said.

It is his personal story but it is also one he knows others share aspects of in their own unique way – that Camp Paradise Valley positively changed their life. Not for a week or a month, but for a lifetime.

“My mom passed away when I was two years old. My step-father physically abused us. My grandmother adopted the three of us when I was 3 years old.  At the time, my sisters were ages 5 and 7. I grew up without a father figure. I was a very angry young person. My grandmother put me in camp when I was 6 in 1990 because it was something to do to get away from the environment I was in. So The Salvation Army has been a big part of my life for 27 years.  Now I get to go to camp every month. I love camp. Since I was a kid, it was a sanctuary for me. It was the complete opposite of where I lived in a housing project in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We grew up very, very poor.  At camp I was able to eat three meals a day and I was able to go outside and play and run,” Darby said.

Lt. Dakarai Darby enjoys speaking from the pulpit and anywhere he can spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It won’t surprise anyone that connecting with nature and having free time for unstructured play are two of the top benefits children cite when talking about attending camp. But people might not know that for some children, camp is the first time they experience wildlife.

“I heard crickets and frogs for the first time there. I had never heard those sounds before.  At camp it was the first time in my life that I didn’t have to worry about sleeping under a window and bullets flying. I got to be at peace and be a kid. The things about Camp Paradise Valley I think of most are:  It is set in one of the most beautiful atmospheres you will ever see. There are so many animals and you get to see the changing seasons. I grew up in a concrete jungle with loud cars. At Camp Paradise Valley you get to see the stars and hear the crickets and the frogs,” Darby said.

Being at peace, also gives kids a chance to do something many long for but don’t know how to achieve without guidance – reinvent themselves.

“I was not a good kid at that age. I had to be tough. Most of it was fabricated but the only way I knew how to defend myself was with my hands. Four weeks in a row that first year of camp, I was sent home but allowed to come back. The people there didn’t give up on me when they had every right to.  It gave me drive and perseverance.  You don’t want to give up on yourself when others have expectations for you. It molded me to recognize there was more to life than being intoxicated or having money. People can love you if you show up. It gave me something to strive for because they didn’t give up on me. My father didn’t care about me but The Salvation Army kept loving me. It never stopped. They did it because that is what God called them to do,” Darby said.

All the unconditional love helped him to gain resiliency and confidence – two other aspects of attending camp that are often cited as beneficial.

“I didn’t know how to handle it at first.  It allowed me to be myself and to see the love of Christ shine. The people at The Salvation Army do a wonderful job of making you feel special and know Christ loves you as your heavenly father and they love on the children there at Camp Paradise Valley. There are no strings attached to that love. It made me want to be a part of it so I can then in turn do it for someone else. At 12 years old, I was saved at Camp Paradise Valley at a basketball court after a fight. The fight was at 10 p.m. It took me hours to calm down. The camp counselor at 1 a.m. showed me the way to Salvation. I would not be the person I am without The Salvation Army and Camp Paradise Valley. ” Darby said.

Lt. Dakarai Darby and his wife, Lt. Dominique Darby, are a team at the Richmond Salvation Army Corps.

While in high school, he was asked to attend camp in a new way.

“At 17, I was a counselor at Camp Paradise Valley for the first time.  It was an awesome experience.  It gave me an eye opener. It made me appreciate what I had. These kids would come to camp and they had no shoes and no clothes.  It made me compassionate when I saw this,” Darby said.

Learning life skills to become a successful adult is another component of attending camp often included in lists of why kids should go to camp. In this, too, Darby excelled with the guidance he received at Camp Paradise Valley.

“I learned how to swim. I caught my first fish. It is a hobby I still enjoy. I still go down to the lake at Camp Paradise Valley. There are a lot of firsts for me at the camp. I learned how to play an instrument, how to be a part of a group, play basketball. I could get enough to eat and get seconds and thirds. Through The Salvation Army programs, kids get to experience things they never would because they couldn’t afford it. As a kid, I was always wondering who’s paying for this? Now I know, the donations made it possible so I could have those experiences,” Darby said.

His gratitude to The Salvation Army sometimes overwhelms him as he thinks back on his life successes.

“I would never be an officer in The Salvation Army or gone to college because I wouldn’t have been on this track. ‘Thank you’ is always on my mind. I wish the donors to The Salvation Army and the employees could hear ‘thank you’ a lot more. The only reason I have a relationship with Jesus Christ is because of The Salvation Army.  I was in church all the time growing up because my grandmother was active in the Baptist Church and my uncle was a Baptist minister. I knew about Him but I didn’t know what He looked like in action until I became involved in The Salvation Army,” Darby said.

Lt. Darby enjoys playing the guitar. During The Salvation Army’s Cadet Training School in 2014, he won the Robert Taylor Memorial Guitar Award.

He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2007 and is now working on his Master’s degree in Business Administration.

“There are so many things I want people to know about Camp Paradise Valley. The one thing that is most important is I would encourage people to come and see for themselves. The door is always open. Come and look. Seeing is believing. We help with social services more than most people are aware. They think of the bell ringing at Christmas but most people don’t know how their donations sustain the social services we provide all year. Most people don’t know how the donations to our Thrift Stores keep our shelters running. Since we don’t advertise, it’s hard for people to know what we do. It’s a lot of loving and caring people who do it because they love people and want their community to prosper. Come see. Take a look and spend an hour. We care about the people who walk through our door,” Darby said.

Camp Paradise Valley often has a generational impact.  Darby is experiencing this first hand in his family.

“I’m the father of two, a 6-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son, and husband to Dominique. In August, we celebrated 10 years of marriage. Our daughter went to camp for the first time this summer at Officers Family Camp.  She loved it, the singing and the praise and worship. The first time at night she was scared but by day 3 or 4, she was fine,” Darby said.

Reminiscing about Camp Paradise Valley and his recent wedding anniversary, caused him to reveal another important thing the camp has provided in his life…meeting “the one.”

“My wife is from Hawkinsville, Kentucky.  She was 10 and I was 11 when we met at Camp Paradise Valley.  We were on the same dance team.”  Darby said with a chuckle.

Camp Paradise Valley is administered by The Salvation Army Kentucky & Tennessee Divisional Headquarters, in Louisville, KY, directly under the supervision of the Divisional Youth Secretary. Further administration flows from the on-site camp office, in Burkesville, KY. Camp Paradise Valley is accredited by the American Camp Association, having met a set of rigorous national standards regarding safety and training.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/volunteer for additional information.