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.

September is National Preparedness Month

The emblem of SATERN features a radio tower.

Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) Works with Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) to keep the World Safe

When William H. “Bill” Feist III got his Novice and General amateur radio license as a high schooler in 1968, being part of The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) wasn’t part of his game plan for his future – in fact, the all-volunteer organization of licensed amateur radio operators – didn’t even exist until 20 years later.

As a teenager, amateur radio (also known as ham radio) was an interesting hobby that brought Feist’s interests in electronics, people and communication together.  As an adult, he realized it was a calling.

“There’s no doubt this is what God has called me to do.  There are all forms of ministry and disaster relief work is one of the forms of ministry,” Feist said.

Feist became involved in SATERN in 1994, was named a statewide SATERN Coordinator in 1995, became a Divisional SATERN Coordinator in the Northern Division (Minnesota and North Dakota), and has been The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory SATERN Coordinator since 2008. Since 2016, he has also served as the National SATERN Liaison.

“It’s an interesting and fulfilling job. I work with the four disaster coordinators – Eastern, Southern, Central and Western Divisions.  Each is a separate entity. Each has multiple divisions. We have nine divisions in the Southern Division,” Feist said.

Major Patrick E. McPherson created The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network. He remained the national SATERN Director until his retirement in 2011. He died in May 2016, just a week before he was to be awarded the Exceptional Service Award by The Salvation Army National Headquarters for his leadership in developing and leading SATERN.

Amateur radio is used to talk across town and around the world – even into space. So, why not use it to help people in times of disaster thought Major Patrick E. McPherson when he proposed it to The Salvation Army in 1988.

“Major McPherson, who was the EDS Director for the Heartland Division at the time, created SATERN to support The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) program with emergency communications.  As a result, SATERN operators are EDS volunteers with a specialty in emergency communications.  Each SATERN volunteer is an amateur radio operator who has been licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after learning electronics and radio theory and relevant FCC regulations and then passing a FCC test to obtain their license.  SATERN volunteers may be a Salvation Army officer, soldier, or employee.  However, most SATERN volunteers are community members who are licensed amateur radio operators whose only connection to The Salvation Army is through SATERN,” Feist said.

Feist, too, has served as an EDS Director for The Salvation Army. In 1998, he was hired as the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) EDS Director and became an Assistant Divisional EDS Director for the Northern Division (Minnesota and North Dakota) in 2000. In August, 2004, Feist became the Divisional EDS Director and SATERN Coordinator for the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi (ALM) Division.

“My amateur radio call sign is WB8BZH.  An amateur radio operator’s call sign is very precious to that operator.  The operator is the only person in the world with that call sign.  It is unique and specific to that person who has worked hard to study electronics, radio theory and government regulations in order to take and pass the government test required to become a license amateur radio operator.  This is true of amateur radio operators worldwide,” Feist said.

There are about 2 million amateur radio operators in the world, and U.S. citizens represent nearly half of that number – over 800,000 at last count.

Richard Carey (left) and Mark Griggs (right) operating the SATERN station during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“SATERN first went on-the-air on Saturday, June 25, 1988 with four amateur radio operators – two from the U.S. and two from Canada.  Two months later, SATERN responded to its first international disaster by providing emergency communications from Jamaica to the United States during Hurricane Gilbert which killed 341 people in the Caribbean and Central America.  SATERN was a critical element in passing emergency messages between Atlanta, Georgia, and Jamaica,” Feist said.

From those original four amateur radio operators in 1988, SATERN has grown to have a registered membership of over 4,300 amateur radio operators in the continental United States and another 180 registered international members.

Nearly 30 years later, SATERN’s purpose continues to be “To provide The Salvation Army and its Emergency Disaster Services ministry with emergency and auxiliary communications and technical expertise.”

SATERN has three primary missions, Feist explained:  (1) Manage emergency, priority and health and welfare messages – usually via amateur radio but also by other means when that is more efficient; (2) Provide operational and tactical communications; and (3) Provide technical expertise.

“Not all, but many SATERN volunteers have a wide range of technical skills including Internet technology, knowledge and experience with generators, electronics, satellite communications, expertise with other forms of radio communications besides amateur radio, drones, computer programming and many more.  SATERN volunteers come from a wide variety of professional backgrounds including doctors, nurses, Internet technology (IT) professionals, emergency management professionals, the military, law enforcement, lawyers, mechanics and almost any other profession imaginable.  The commonality is that each of these SATERN volunteers brings their individual professional skills to a disaster operation in addition to their amateur radio skills,” Feist said.

A map shows the continental United States SATERN operations.

SATERN has served at the local, national and international levels in many disasters.

“Over the years, SATERN has become an international leader in providing health and welfare message support during both national and international disasters.  Several amateur radio partners involved in emergency communications regularly refer other amateur radio operators and groups to the International SATERN Nets for this service so that they can concentrate on their unique missions,” Feist said.

When asked if any disasters stood out for him personally, Feist was quick to respond.

“The Red River Valley Flood.  In April 1997, SATERN provided emergency communications support for The Salvation Army in Grand Forks following a devastating flood that inundated 85% of the city resulting in the evacuation of 50,000 people from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and another 10,000 people from East Grand Forks, Minnesota. SATERN remained active in this disaster for several weeks. It then helped The Salvation Army negotiate, install and manage a more permanent commercial radio system that was used for several years afterwards. They also helped personnel with managing a relatively new and – at that time – unfamiliar communications device called a cellular phone,” Feist said.

A map shows the international SATERN operations.

He was the SATERN Coordinator for North Dakota at that time. In the three weeks he served at the disaster site, he saw firsthand the devastation flooding can have on the human spirit.

“Flooding is often not covered by insurance so they had nothing to rebuild.  Of all the different kinds of disasters, as an employee and a volunteer, floods are the disasters I hate the most because folks are often on their own with the help from The Salvation Army and other organizations being the only help they receive. Floods are probably the hardest to raise money for.  The needs are so great because most people don’t have flood insurance. It’s the worst of both worlds,” Feist said.

Another flooding disaster in 2005 – Hurricane Katrina – was the single most notable SATERN response, Feist said.

“The SATERN Network received over 61,000 missing person requests that came into the network at an overwhelming rate of 20 messages and inquiries per second.  In spite of the massive challenges presented by this flood of requests and with the help of SATERN volunteers who were IT professionals and commercial companies that donated their time, personnel and resources, SATERN managed to locate 25,508 people in the disaster area. SATERN also handled numerous requests for emergency assistance that saved lives during one of the worst disaster in U.S. history,” Feist said.

Spring, summer, fall and winter, the need for SATERN’s skills and response never stops – as does the need for volunteers.

“This year, the first few months were nonstop. From Christmas to March, every week it was something.  We can always use volunteers and amateur radio operators in disaster services.  It is the ministry and it is worth considering,” Feist said.

Also on Feist’s mind for National Preparedness Month is the need to remind citizens to be prepared personally for unexpected disasters.

“I encourage people to have a family disaster plan so everyone knows a place to meet outside the home so they know how to find each other.  Everyone in the family needs to know: Where do they go? Who do they call? A disaster kit is important, too.  The Red Cross has good resources for that,” Feist said referring to http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/be-red-cross-ready/get-a-kit.

Even the August 21, 2017 Great American Solar Eclipse didn’t escape the SATERN leader’s attention. The group partnered with the American Red Cross and the American Radio Relay League to provide a national communications link for local Red Cross units across the U.S. in the event of a communications failure during the eclipse.

Bill Feist became the National SATERN Liaison in 2016.

“We are always preparing and training officers and volunteers and making sure equipment is working and plans are in place, coordinating with other organizations and the government,” Feist said.

Bill Feist is a man with a plan, dedicating his life to encouraging others to be prepared and help their fellow human beings in times of disaster – certainly this is a calling from God he has heeded well.

If you are interested in learning more about The Salvation Army’s National Emergency Disaster Services, go to: Disaster.SalvationArmyUSA.org  To learn more about the national and international efforts of SATERN, visit:  SATERN.org.  If you are interested in receiving the weekly SATERN Newsletter, contact National SATERN Liaison Bill Feist for additional information at Bill.Feist@USS.SalvationArmy.org.