September 29, 2004

Building hope in the community

By TRAVIS B. BRYAN Jr.

Special to The Eagle

A homeless veteran needs a place to spend the night. A small family of three loses their home to a fire. Spring floods damage or destroy 120 homes in Hearne. A young single mother cannot feed her three children. A college student is behind on her rent. An elderly widow cannot pay for her glaucoma medicine. Hundreds of grade school kids have no adult supervision when school lets out; many get involved in gangs and drugs. A lonely widower lies in bed in a nursing home all but forgotten by his family. With kids in tow, a woman flees her abusive husband. The stories go on. The need goes on. Hope fades.

In a world filled with war, disasters, crime, drugs, hunger, poverty, disease and many other ills, it is good to know that we can count on a dedicated, quiet army of God’s soldiers to offer aid, comfort and hope.

I refer to the largest civil army in the United States, the Salvation Army — 3.6 million strong. In 2003, the Salvation Army served 33 million people nationwide, including 11,000 in the Bryan-College Station area.

This army may be large, but it sure is quiet. Not many people know what it really does. Many people think of the Salvation Army as those uniformed people with the red kettles, ringing a bell and asking for donations at Christmastime. They have a general idea of what the Salvation Army does, helping the poor and such. Well, the Salvation Army is much more.

First of all, it is a Christian church and a charity that earmarks directly to social services about 83 cents of every dollar raised.

Second, it is built from the bottom up. In other words, locally based churches, known as corps, and smaller satellite centers are the “front lines” where programs and services are created that are uniquely tailored to the needs of the local community.

Third, the Salvation Army of Brazos County provides the following programs and services:

Family Social Services — crisis intervention through food vouchers, clothing, household items, rent or mortgage assistance, utility assistance, limited transportation (gasoline vouchers or bus tickets), emergency prescriptions, emergency shelter, counseling, referral and networking

Youth Services — opportunities for children to participate in summer camping experiences, as well as weekly character-building programs

Senior Services — reaching out to neglected seniors through volunteers who make periodic visits to hospitals, nursing homes and private homes distributing personal articles, writing materials, magazines, electric fans and gifts

Holiday Seasonal Services — helping less fortunate families during Thanksgiving and Christmas through the distribution of holiday food baskets and Christmas gifts for thousands of children and their families

Disaster Services — providing emergency services and disaster relief to victims of natural and manmade disasters in the form of food, clothing, furniture, other available goods and spiritual comfort.

The need for these services, and additional ones, continues to grow. If current trends continue, by 2010, the Salvation Army of Brazos County will be responding to more than 20,000 requests for service annually. That’s almost a 100 percent increase from the 11,000 served in 2003.

The Salvation Army of Brazos County is growing to the challenge. To serve more people and offer more programs — such as an after- school program, a summer day camp, family transitional housing, and life management training — the Salvation Army of Brazos County recently borrowed money to purchase the St. Paul’s Methodist Church facility at 2506 Cavitt Ave. in Bryan. To further its mission, the Salvation Army of Brazos County has undertaken a fund-raising effort, known as the Building Hope Campaign, to raise $800,000 for the purpose of acquiring, remodeling, equipping, programming and staffing its new home. The army has already raised $289,259. It still needs to raise $510,741 to meet the goal.

For 47 years I have been helping the Salvation Army serve the less fortunate of Brazos County. The other day someone asked me why I have supported the Salvation Army for so long.

“Because I believe in God,” I replied. “I believe in God’s word and it is written in Matthew 25:40 that the King will say ‘Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ ”

Now I really didn’t say it exactly that way. It’s just the way I like to remember it. After all, I am a banker, not a preacher. He knew what I meant.

Today I am asking you for your help in doing the same.

I am honored to serve as chairman of the Building Hope Campaign. Please join me in helping the Salvation Army of Brazos County lift others by contributing to the campaign.

• Travis B. Bryan Jr. is senior chairman of the board of First National Bank of Bryan.

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