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Salvation Army works to feed, clothe, care for people in need

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Dec. 3, 2001
After 13 years in the U. S, Air Force, Joe Mur was called to a different branch of service.
For eight years now, he and his wife, JoAnn, have served in the Salvation Army. He has served as captain of the Salvation Army in Meridian for 21/2 years. They previously worked in New Orleans and Birmingham.
Mur felt the Baptist church he faithfully attended in Panama City wasn't fulfilling the directive of Christ to reach out to others, to feed and to clothe.
Mur said his wife was called to the Salvation Army ministry at the same time. And after a "series of small miracles that were unmistakable," Mur said, "all the doors began to open at once."
Bell-ringer program
Mur met recently with The Meridian Star editorial board to talk about the Salvation Army and discuss its efforts to help feed and clothe the needy during the Christmas holiday season.
For most people, the image most commonly associated with the Salvation Army is that of people ringing bells next to kettles outside of stores while taking donations during the holidays.
Some bell-ringers are volunteers, others work for the Salvation Army at $6 an hour. The job is important because money raised through those contributions goes to the organization's general fund, usually making up about 20 percent of the local Salvation Army budget.
This year Mur hopes to raise $45,000 through the bell -ringer project.
Christmas Cheer program
The Salvation Army's Christmas Cheer program includes the Angel Tree and Christmas Basket campaigns both of which deliver toys and food to families in need.
This year's Angel Tree program will deliver toys to more than 1,100 children 15 and under in Lauderdale, Kemper, Newton and Neshoba counties.
Locally, Angel Trees can be found at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, Bonita Lakes Mall, at various bank branches, other businesses and some area churches.
People take an angel from a tree. On the angel, they will find information about a child enrolled in the program including their needs, their clothing size and their Christmas wish.
Mur said the Salvation Army screened 700 families to participate in the Christmas program. They were chosen based on poverty level, their expenses and whatever income they may have.
Mur said this year's holiday food distribution will weigh in at four to five tons of food. Food and toys will be delivered by the Salvation Army on Dec. 19 and 20.
Salvation Army mission
In Meridian, the Salvation Army operates a homeless shelter with 20 beds. The shelter serves two meals a day. Mur said the first two days of lodging are free; after that, beds go for $5 a day.
The Salvation Army also rents rooms through its traditional housing program. Mur said most of the people being helped in that program are working full-time.
Mur said the Salvation Army helps anyone it can: "We deal with every type of personality, every disorder and addiction you can imagine."
He also said the Salvation Army sends several people a year to the organization's adult rehabilitation centers.
The Salvation Army also runs two thrift stores in Meridian. The organization has served 6,000 meals and distributes food to 150-200 families a month through its food pantry.
Salvation Army background
The Salvation Army began in the East End of London in the mid-1800s. The international headquarters of the organization are still there.
Originally affiliated with the Methodist church and founded by William Booth, the Salvation Army's first mission was to take drunks off the street by placing them on a wagon. That is where the phrase, "falling off the wagon" originated.
Today the Salvation Army is in 103 countries.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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