Beyond the Red Bell

The Salvation Army in Louisville is changing lives all-year long, not just during the holidays

By Mattie Townson

Majors Kathy and Roy Williams. Photo courtesy of the Salvation Army.

When we think of the Salvation Army, many of us automatically conjure up the image of the red bell that represents the well-known Red Kettle Campaign — but the nonprofit is so much more.

Major Kathy Williams and her husband Major Roy Williams have been with the Salvation Army since 1983. After living in seven locations working as soldiers for the organization, the two transferred to Louisville to be area commanders three years ago. In this role, the two have had the opportunity to oversee all of the Salvation Army’s work in Louisville – ranging from the classic Red Kettle Campaign to the lesser-known Pathway of Hope program, which The Voice highlighted last year in a story you can see here.

“The Salvation Army is here for the community, the community is not here for the Salvation Army. The army can do whatever it wants if the community supports it.” said Roy. “Here in Louisville, I believe that people here really love what we’re doing. When we put on this uniform, people respect us because of the hard work done by people before us.”

Both Roy and Kathy share responsibilities. He is in charge of the fundraising aspect of the Salvation Army through the Red Kettle Campaign and other sources along with the day-to-day area command responsibilities. She is in charge of the Angel Tree program at Christmas and the ministry side of the army. Both play a crucial role in the success of the organization’s mission – to meet the human needs through charity and giving while also sharing Christian values.

Through the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, they are able to raise funds to support the army throughout the year. What many don’t see is the work that the institution does to support individuals and families at times other than Christmas.

One of the Salvation Army’s most successful programs in Louisville is called the Pathway of Hope. This program, led by caseworkers at the Salvation Army, meets clients exactly where they are and helps them brainstorm a plan that will help get them out of poverty and follow through with their dreams and goals.

Roy recalled the story of one client who finished the program about a year ago. When the client started, all she wanted was to have hot food for her family. Now, after completing the Pathway of Hope program, she is following big dreams that she didn’t even know she had.

“When they first start with us, their dreams are so little. Once the case worker works with each client, they start to believe that they can do better for themselves.” Roy said.

The client who was struggling to have meals for her family has now found her passion for sewing and made her way to New York fashion week showcasing her styles inspired by her children.

“Our little saying here is ‘hope, stability and success.’ They are the three things, and we believe that people come here and they are almost without hope,” said Roy. “We ask ourselves, how can we, as the Salvation Army, change the quality of their life?”

Along with the Pathway of Hope program, the Salvation Army has fostered other notable programs outside of the well-known Angel Tree and Red Kettle campaigns. The new and exciting Chefs for Success program allows interested clients the opportunity to study at culinary school for 10 weeks. Program participants are given the ability to build their resume through a rigorous culinary curriculum. At the end of the 10 weeks, participants are encouraged to search for a job or apply for a grant that allows Chefs for Success participants to receive funds to attend the culinary institution at Sullivan.

“Every class, we give the chance to share how the program changed their life. Every class, someone says ‘I have never completed anything. This is the first time I have completed anything in my life.’ You can just see how proud they are of themselves,” Roy said.

Another program that the Salvation Army provides over the summer gives children the opportunity to participate in summer camps completely free. The Salvation Army sends 150 kids from Louisville to a week-long summer camp called Paradise Valley in Burkesville, Kentucky, while also maintaining the Salvation Army’s own summer day camps in the city at the Salvation Army churches for seven weeks from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Through the summer camps, the Salvation Army has been able to combat food insecurity and summer learning loss while also ensuring that the children have fun and enjoy their summer.

“When we were at camp, we liked to ask the kids what they like best about camp. Most of them like the swimming pool or the lake or any of those fun traditional summer camp activities that you think of when you think of camp. We asked an 8-year-old what he liked best about camp and he said, ‘I like that I get to eat three meals a day here.’” said Roy.

Through all of these programs, people in the community’s lives are changed for the better. Major Roy and Major Kathy Williams have had the opportunity to see these changes first-hand through personal interactions. For them, that’s what makes the Salvation Army so worthwhile.

“We are here to meet the needs of those who come to us,” said Roy, “and we do everything we can to change the quality of their life.”

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