by BETH ALTENA
A Salvation Army donation truck will be parked at Ric’s Food Center, 6767 Belding Road from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on September 22. For the third year in a row the public is invited to pull up and donate clothing, furniture electronics, appliances and household goods, receiving help unloading and a receipt for a deduction on this year’s taxes.
According to Salvation Army Public Relations Director Diane Taber, people may not realize what exactly they are helping to achieve with the simple step of cleaning out no longer needed, gently used items and giving them to the Salvation Army. In addition to stocking the eight West Michigan Salvation Army stores, where customers can pick up good-as-new items for pennies on the dollar of what they originally cost, donations are literally saving lives and rebuilding souls.
Taber said she herself represents what has always been the organization’s main focus: helping individuals break away from the grips of addiction and allowing them to turn their lives around. The Salvation Army focuses on their local Adult Rehabilitation Center where people who are caught up in alcoholism or drug addiction can turn to for help.
“I am like a lot of people who had a good upbringing, a good family, a good education,” she described. “I didn’t have any alcoholism in my family, but I got it.”
Tabor said the Salvation Army began in the late 1800s in the slums of London where William Booth was determined to bring the word of God to those who were not allowed in the doors of churches.
“Those were the drunks and the prostitutes mostly,” Taber described.
She said another basis of the organization was Booth’s belief that “you can’t preach to a man with a toothache,” so caring for people’s physical well-being had to be part of bringing them to faith.
Even the common phrase to be “on the wagon” came from the earliest years of the Salvation Army. Taber said the organization went through the slums with horse-drawn wagons and those in need of food, clothes, caring and a spiritual second chance literally got on the wagon.
The Grand Rapids Adult Rehabilitation Center is a place where people can go and either stay six months to one year and receive the care to beat addictions and rebuild faith. Taber said she had been through many rehabilitation programs that didn’t ultimately help her quit drinking.
“I lost everything. I lost my job, I lost my marriage, my family didn’t know how to talk to me anymore,” she described.
She said she knew the damage she was causing by her behavior, but couldn’t stop on her own. She opted to stay in treatment for the full year and couldn’t be more enthusiastic and grateful at her sobriety and her rebuilt faith and self-esteem.
“When I was at my worst, my darkest days in my forties, I never imagined I could be this happy again,” she stated.
Taber said she took advantage of the work therapy and job training—an important part of the program. After completing her year in rehabilitation, she stayed with the Salvation Army to mentor others and worked for the organization part time. Today she is full time there and an enthusiastic spokesperson for what the Salvation Army can do.
“The donations of goods and sales at our family stores is the only funding the Salvation Army receives,” Taber said. “It’s a win-win for all. The donations go to a huge warehouse, which supplies all eight stores. It keeps the donations coming and going. People can clear out their closets and donate and go to the stores and shop for treasures.”
She pointed out that other groups that hold sales for fundraisers, from family yard sales to sports organization, churches and schools, are welcome to donate the didn’t sell items to the Salvation Army.
Other good works the organization offers are the services of their Angel Tree division, which offers physical and spiritual comfort in emergency relief. Taber said the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree personnel were among the first at ground zero for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“They were at ground zero in half an hour and stayed for nine months,” she said. “They served food for millions and held hands and offered spiritual support.”
Taber said she will always be grateful for the Grand Rapids Addiction Recovery Center, where she “learned how to live sober,” adding, “You go through the everyday ups and downs of recovery, which, the first year can be ‘hellatious.’ You work through that on a day-to-day basis.” Taber said as addicts pass milestones, they earn more and more freedom—after the first 30 days you can leave the building, eventually earn weekend passes out, and gradually work through the five levels of the program.
This summer there were 20 graduates of the program, and Taber said she is proud to know that 15 are at jobs back in the workforce. “The whole goal is to follow the plan God has for us,” she said.
Taber said her year of rehabilitation was followed by a stint as resident manager for the women’s program, where she helped people follow the rules and served as someone for them to talk to. Now she is greatly enjoys doing public relations for the Salvation Army.
“I lost everything when I was drinking and then this past summer my apartment burned down and I lost everything again. I can’t say I would change anything in my past though. I would never want to go back and be as hurtful as I was, but this is the path that brought me back to God. It feels so good to be sober and working and feel good about myself again. My family says, ‘We have Diane back.’”
Taber said she appreciates all Ric’s offers to the Salvation Army. Ric’s also works with other local assistance programs, such as Lean on Me, which picks up close-dated food and produce every single day of the year, and Mel Trotter Ministries, which has a donation box on site at the Rockford Ric’s.
Store Director David Brickner said the family-owned company has always done all it can to give back to the community. “This is also a good time of year for people to donate. It’s back to school and the weather will be changing, so kids need clothes,” Brickner said.
“When we ask for help, David never hesitates. Ric’s is so generous and willing to do all they can for the community,” Taber said. “They are just wonderful to work with and we greatly appreciate them.”
Find a link to Ric’s Food Center on the Salvation Army’s website and read about others who, like Diane, have beaten addictions with the help of the Salvation Army—works all funded by donations. Keep an eye out at home and if there are some items that are in good shape but realistically you aren’t likely to use again, consider dropping them off at Ric’s on September 22.