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Longtime volunteers an integral part of Salvation Army

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Updated: 12/03/2013 3:40 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Sunday may be the first day of the week, and a day of rest, but it also serves another purpose at the Salvation Army offices in Tupelo, a day to give back to others.

A truck full of toys loaded by volunteers that day will go on to become a part of the organization’s Angel Tree program.

While that’s a small part of the outreach efforts the Army provides, the end result -- officers say -- is encouragement.

"People not only come here for a meal or a place to stay, but they also come here for hope," Salvation Army Lt. Jervonne Hinton said.

Hinton isn’t just talking about residents helped by the organization. Volunteers -- which make up the lifeblood of the Salvation Army -- take something with them as well, like volunteer and women’s auxiliary member Ruth Green.

After her husband passed away, she turned to the Army for strength.

"The Salvation Army was so encouraging and complimentary of what I do, and that really got me through a rough point in my life," Green said. "So I know from first-hand [experience]."

You might say hope also brought this man to Tupelo more than a half-century ago.

Heywood Washburn came to the All-America City to work in the booming furniture industry in 1955, but a friendship with chapter founder Jim Ingram got him a spot on the Salvation Army Advisory Board.

"And there are now only two of us. Jennie Lynn and I are the only two original people involved in the advisory board," Washburn said.

More than forty years later, he remains there still.

"I feel like I’ve done so little, but I do want to be useful with whatever time I have left and I enjoy getting involved and helping people."

While he may be somewhat modest about his contribution, Green says he’s a perfect fit.

"He just fit right in with Tupelo," Green added.

The advisory board for the Salvation Army serves as a voice, a bridge between the community and the officers. It’s in this way, Washburn says, he can continue to make a difference.

“I appreciate the work they do, and the camaraderie we have on the board. We have a lot of interesting people on there who share our love for the Army and what God’s called them to do," Washburn said.

In fact, he says volunteers like Green -- who has been coming there for the last sixteen years -- give them the resources they need to barrel ahead.

That’s why in recent years, the Salvation Army has expanded its reach past shelters and meals for shut-ins. These efforts include helping those who stay at the facility to not only volunteer themselves, but to expand their own horizons.

"[We] help them to become interested in furthering their education and working a full-time job, even going to school at night until they are graduated."

All of this, they say, echoes the spirit of the organization, that they’re all helping each other make a difference, even if that’s in each other’s lives as well.

"Most of our people who come to our shelter don’t have a family. We let them know that we’ll be their family," Hinton said.
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