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Katrina worker's business savvy helps her help fellow survivors

By Major Frank Duracher

Southern Spirit staff

Gail Sherman has extensive experience in marketing, particularly as manager at several retail stores in the Gentilly area of pre-Katrina New Orleans. That experience qualified her to come to work at The Salvation Army, and enabled her to deal with the most difficult challenge in her life thus far, she said.

Her home was also in the Gentilly area, but everything was lost in the extensive flooding following the storm. With no home and no job, Sherman and her family were among thousands scattered across the country. She and husband Terry ended up in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"When we evacuated, we literally left with nothing," Sherman said. "I grabbed a pair of shoes, but only realized after we'd left that the shoes didn't even match!"

She applied for a job at The Salvation Army in Colorado Springs as a Katrina Aid Today caseworker. Major Don Gilger hired her, and her personal restoration began because of the positive connection she felt working at the Army from the first day. Her exile from her beloved New Orleans lasted for many months, extending well into the latter half of 2006.

"He was such a blessing to me because he knew when I needed prayer," Sherman said of Major Gilger, the Colorado Springs corps officer. "And that was often because my thoughts were at home in New Orleans, as well as a deep concern for my family's future."

Sherman loved working with other Katrina-displaced families staying in Colorado Springs. It helped her cope with her own concerns. Plus, her expertise in dealing with customers while she was in the retail business proved to be a great advantage.

"I've been in retail for most of my life, and as manager I'd always have to deal with angry customers - never the happy customers!" she said with a laugh. "It seemed easier for me to deal with families who were angry or scared because Katrina had hurt them so badly."

Finally able to return to New Orleans, it was difficult for her to leave Colorado - but she believed that God had still more in store for her. The family is rebuilding their home in their old neighborhood, and Sherman was interviewed by the Army's LTR (Long Term Recovery) program manager for Louisiana, Dorothy Newell. Sherman began work as KAT volunteer resource coordinator at the New Orleans Area Command.

"I knew in my heart that everything had changed forever," Sherman said of her return to New Orleans. "But my work at The Salvation Army both here in New Orleans and in Colorado Springs helped me in dealing with my own personal tragedy because of Hurricane Katrina.

"Now I want to continue to help others rebuild their lives as well."

What is the most good?

By now, every command in the territory will have stored its kettles, tripods, aprons and bells and begun to clean out the area where toys and other Christmas gifts were distributed. The bookkeepers across the territory will be busy finalizing kettle income against expenditures and making their reports to DHQ and THQ respectively.

How would you describe the effectiveness of your 2006 Christmas outreach, both in distribution terms and income opportunities? Was the corps able to serve more families, or did less sign up for help? Will the total income through kettles and other methods show an increase over previous years? What about your expenses? Were you able to obtain more volunteers and therefore pay fewer bell ringers and other workers? If so, did your net income increase?

However you "assess" the 2006 kettle season, comparisons are there to be made. Many depend on "kettles" to fund regular corps programs throughout the year. As you make your assessment, ask yourself the fundamental question of WHY we do this each and every year. Well, maybe that's initially so obvious! Many corps could not fund its programs (seasonal and otherwise) without a regular Christmas income.

As you have read in my earlier columns, about 90% of the American public knows of the Army only by the kettle, bell and other Christmas relief that we can provide local communities. This is a fact and therefore a stronghold by which we must allow public awareness and confidence to grow. Corporate America has supported us throughout the 2006 season with various online and in-store programs. Even the Target Corporation has initiated several ideas which may benefit our clients throughout the year. Our 2005 TV commercial was successfully repeated on several networks along with an effective television message from the country's largest retailer, Wal-Mart.

Consider a question asked by a retired General of The Salvation Army. Hearing of the many, many thousands of families helped by this one corps over Christmas, he asked the corps officer how many of those families he led to Christ.

"Doing the most good," our national branding promise, is a personal daily reminder (not just at Christmas time) that many of those who receive material help from us also need a spiritual foundation, which begins with an invitation to seek Christ in all His fullness. The "most" good cannot be the bag of groceries or the sack of toys. It has to be a much more meaningful way of life.

Our National Commander announced on national television (New Year's Day Tournament of Roses Parade - the pre-show on the Travel Channel) that The Salvation Army is making a pledge to the American public by "Doing the most good" in providing essential needs and building a spiritual foundation. Thank you, Commissioner Israel Gaither, for your wonderful example to God, every Salvationist, employee, volunteer and donor. We also pledge to "do the most good" in its truest sense.

Finally, across the territory how many Christmas recipients, volunteers and temporary workers now know that The Salvation Army is pledged to "doing the most good" as an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church? How many now know that the Army's message is based on the Bible, its ministry motivated by love for God, and its mission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination?

Now that would definitely be doing the most good!

New Orleans Men's Club getting back in business

Not long after the New Orleans Citadel Corps reopened on Oct. 1, Major Michael Hawley and a handful of men decided to try reorganizing the Men's Fellowship Club. Starting out as a monthly meeting, the group is steadily growing - attracting 10 men to a meeting held before Christmas.

"This is yet another sign that the city and our corps is back," said Hawley, the Greater New Orleans area commander and corps officer. "Sure, we're taking baby steps, but it's in the right direction and we intend to invite other men, and we plan to participate in divisional events for men in the coming year."




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