Character Building Taught Early at The Salvation Army

Captains Matt and Danielle Cunningham enjoy leading youth in The Salvation Army.

Moonbeams, Sunbeams, Corps Cadets Programs Show Youth How to be Leaders

As the nation celebrates Youth Leadership Month, The Salvation Army focuses on its character building activities for young members.  One of the ways The Salvation Army Kentucky-Tennessee Division does this is through the work of Divisional Youth Leaders and Captains, Matt and Danielle Cunningham.

“Our character building program starts at ages two to five. They are called the Moonbeams and it’s for boys and girls.  Older girls progress to Sunbeams, then progress to Girl Guides.  The boys are Explorers and progress to Boy Guides.  It is similar to the Boy and Girl Scout programs. If you are familiar with the American Heritage program, their program is similar and uses some of the same materials. The kids earn badges and patches as they progress and learn skills,” Captain Matt Cunningham said.

Corps Cadet campers enjoy the vacation experience at Camp Paradise Valley.

The Salvation Army offers these positive ministry programs and events for young people to help them develop a strong character while also helping them understand God’s love for them through a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.

The youngest children in the character building programs, the Moonbeams, make a pledge that if followed by all would make a wonderful world:  “I promise that I will try to love God, to help everyone, and to always do my best.”  The Moonbeam Prayer is equally inspiring: “Help us to do the things we should, to be to others kind and good, in all we do at work or play, to grow more like Jesus every day.”

“Kids in the program are often underprivileged and often don’t have home or life skills.  These programs have a Christian faith background, help kids to develop a vision, and show them the steps to get there,” Cunningham said.

The programs offer a holistic Christian education experience for girls and boys with the goal of helping them to develop positive social and communication habits, artistic flare and giftedness through a Biblical worldview, Christian values and Biblical principles.

The beauty surrounding Camp Paradise Valley is an inspiration to the Corps Cadets.

The Explorer and Sunbeam programs are organized into individual troops, and sponsored by the local Salvation Army corps. Volunteers and Salvation Army personnel provide leadership. Meetings are usually held in corps community or service centers.

“It’s a way we get to see them every week at youth programming night, usually Wednesday nights. The kids also get a week at Camp Paradise Valley in the summer where they get to work on earning the harder patches.  We don’t charge the kids anything to come to the meetings or to go to camp.  For many of the kids, it’s an opportunity, maybe their first, to have a vacation and be away from the responsibilities or troubles at home,” Cunningham said.

Having fun is a great way to teach leadership and character building skills.

“We are teaching them character building but also giving them a chance to relax and be kids.  They are getting fed both physically and spiritually. They are learning how to look outside themselves and to be community citizens,” Cunningham said.

Honoring our country through raising the American flag is one of the experiences in which campers participate.

The purpose of Adventure Corps, Sunbeam Corps and Corps Cadets is to provide a program that gives a child an opportunity for personal growth spiritually, mentally, physically, socially; and to increase their understanding of service to others by exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

“These programs are the place we come to gather and train for our mission. Junior Soldiers in first to sixth grades.  They go to classes and learn history and how the church works. Corps Cadets is from seventh grade on through twelfth grade. It is a five-year disciple training course. The Corps Cadets are members of The Salvation Army Church where you first become a soldier. It teaches them to be leaders in the church and the community,” Cunningham said.

The programs help young people develop leadership skills and character by providing real-life opportunities to practice.

“They do community services like help at the soup kitchen or visit a nursing home.  They give an account of that experience and give a written statement,” Cunningham said.

Making s’mores is something Moonbeams especially enjoy at Camp Paradise Valley.

Many Corps Cadets go on to take roles in The Salvation Army as adults – as did Dan Duncan with the Christian Education Division of Kentucky-Tennessee Division.

“I did Corps Cadet as a teenager. We talked a lot about the biblical leaders and studied the apostles. During those years, I learned leadership and engaged in evangelism through teen nights. From personal experience, I understand the importance of these groups in developing leadership skills in youth,” Duncan said.

Learning a Biblical worldview by encouraging a sense of personal identity and character through Christian values and Biblical principles is one of the biggest goals of the program.

“Providing an example from scripture and applying it to today’s culture empowers the Corps Cadets to look at the truths in the Bible to find solutions to today’s challenges. The greatest challenge for today’s young people is finding a community and engaging in community life and discovering how to interact in it. The Corps Cadet program helps youth find their place in the world,” Duncan said.

Kids, however, aren’t the only ones benefiting from the youth leadership programs at The Salvation Army.

“It’s restorative to adults working in the programs, too, because they get so see the positive impact their leadership and teaching have on the youth. The process, the methodology of applying biblical principles to the culture is important. The strength is not in finding a simple answer but realizing how difficult the challenges are and coming up with a solution,” Duncan said.

Dan Duncan teaches archery to Corps Cadets from the Owensboro, Kentucky Corps.

In today’s world of school shootings and rampant drug abuse, many children are confused and feeling hopeless.

“These programs enable them to not feel so powerless. You feel less powerless when you are part of something, a community, and you know your place in the community.  That’s what the Corps Cadent program does. It gives kids a community,” Duncan said.

If you know a child who would benefit from these programs, getting involved is easy, simply ask.

“Anyone interested just needs to contact their local Salvation Army, inquire about when they have youth programs and character building, and ask to speak with the Corps officer,” Cunningham said.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to for additional information.

College Loan Long Repaid Continues to Drive Donations to The Salvation Army of Paducah

Lars Blythe is the senior member of BlytheWhite. Since childhood, he has been actively involved in The Salvation Army.

Family and Church Show the Way to Successful and Happy Life for Lars Blythe

Lars Blythe is a busy and successful man as the senior member of BlytheWhite, a Paducah, Kentucky, firm offering tax, financial planning and accounting services. He is also a modest man and the last thing he wants to do is talk about himself.  However, if the subject is how The Salvation Army helps its fellow mankind and how it helped him as a young man, he’s happy to tell his story.

“I just grew up in The Salvation Army. It provided a good foundation for my life and it continues to today. My parents started in it when they were teenagers before they were married. It’s where we went to church,” Blythe said.

His parents are Lars and June Blythe of Paducah.

“My parents still go. They are 80 and 78. I’m 60. My wife, Molly, and I attend the First Baptist Church of Paducah,” Blythe said.

BlytheWhite, a Paducah, Kentucky, firm offering tax, financial planning and accounting services, participates yearly in Red Kettle drives and the Angel Tree program.

Exposure to beliefs and values are one of the strongest influences parents have over their children. The way in which parents expose their children to values is important.  For example, if parents value education and teach values that improve society, it increases the likelihood their children will embrace these values.

Blythe explained this is exactly what happened in his own life.

“I was involved with the youth programs at The Salvation Army. I did the summer camps. Our family was a normal American working class family. We never lacked a meal. We weren’t wealthy and my dad worked at a plant. My mom worked at The Salvation Army Thrift Store, then later as a bookkeeper and in social services. My dad used to work The Salvation Army’s emergency canteen. My mom was the young people’s Sargent Major. To me, it’s just life,” Blythe said of being a child growing up in The Salvation Army family.

“When I was in college at the University of Kentucky, I had exhausted everything I had saved for college by the end of my third year.  My mom told me about The Salvation Army program where they loan money to college students. I applied for it and they loaned me $3,000. That loan allowed me to finish school,” Blythe said.

The Salvation Army offers the program because it believes a college education is an investment in the future. According to the organization’s website, it makes the loans available to its members “in the hope of a better future with Salvationists prepared to lead in their communities, in their work places, in their churches and in their homes.”

Lars Blythe and his wife, Molly Blythe, have made fundraising for The Salvation Army a family tradition.

Blythe’s gratitude to The Salvation Army for that no interest loan has been immense.

“I repaid that loan in four years and my wife, Molly, and I started an accounting firm,” Blythe said.

Now every year he “repays” the loan again to The Salvation Army of Paducah.

“We donate at least as much as my scholarship every year as our way of giving back since we’ve achieved success. Our firm also commits to a day of ringing bells around Paducah every Christmas season and we adopt an angel tree and support a family every year,” Blythe said.

Lars and Molly Blythe and their daughter, Catherine, and her husband, Andrew DuPerrieu, also serve on the advisory board of The Salvation Army of Paducah, Kentucky.

The Blythe family is an example of how parents directly teach their children values through religious education, teaching right from wrong, rules and expectations. Indirectly, parents socialize and instruct their children by example. Children watch their parents interact with others, make choices, and this impacts how they develop their moral self.

“I believe in the ministry of The Salvation Army and the services they provide. We have a lot of hurting people, like all communities. It’s a family tradition. My kids are supporters. It’s a family acknowledgement of the role The Salvation Army has played in our lives,” Blythe said.

With more than 1 million nonprofits, making a decision on where to donate can be difficult.

For Lars Blythe, the decision is easy.

Lars and Molly Blythe enjoy University of Kentucky basketball games.

“The Salvation Army provides the best return on any investment of any charity. I like that the donations go directly to people who benefit. The Salvation Army does that,” Blythe said.

The ideas communicated by parents to children and supported within the home help to develop good habits being formed by their children. The Blythe family is a great example of three generations of a family actively involved in doing what they can to make their community and the world a better place.

When he’s not working, Blythe says he likes spending time with his family – especially his growing number of grandchildren who are sure to be the next generation helping their community.

“To me, it’s just life,” Blythe said.  What a wonderful life it is.


Lars Blythe enjoys celebrating the good in life.

If you are a college student interested in applying for an educational loan through The Salvation Army, contact your home Corps Officer for application procedure details and go to,

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to for additional information.

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 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.