The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible, and its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to meet human needs in Jesus’ name – without discrimination. The Salvation Army, founded by William Booth, a Methodist minister who began an evangelical ministry in the East End of London in 1865, has been supporting people for 156 years. Booth established mission stations to feed and house the poor and in 1878, changed the name of his organization to the Salvation Army. On May 3, The Salvation Army Bahamas celebrated its 90th year of service as a vital lifeline for the most vulnerable in the country.
As they look back on 90 years of service, Major Clarence Ingram, Salvation Army divisional commander, said they continue to celebrate God’s faithfulness and the kindness of the Bahamian people in helping those in need.
“As we look to the future, we pledge to continue to provide support and do the most good,” said Ingram, the 24th Salvation Army divisional commander for The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Division of The Salvation Army – Caribbean Territory, who is expected to retire on June 30, having served 34 years.
Whoever takes the helm after Ingram, will continue The Salvation Army’s mission to provide assistance through an array of social services ranging from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, schooling and employment for the blind, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children.
In 2019 alone, The Salvation Army Bahamas assisted more than 46,000 persons in need, served more than 38,000 meals, donated more than 7,000 grocery parcels and vouchers, and provided counseling and referrals for more than 1,600 persons.
Daily, they said, people’s lives are changed for the better because of The Salvation Army Bahamas and its cadre of volunteers who reach out to help – whether providing relief in the wake of catastrophic natural disasters, or fulfilling their mandate to feed the hungry, provide comfort to children in need, and shelter for the homeless.
The Salvation Army Bahamas is widely known for its work with the blind and visually impaired. The School for the Blind had its beginnings in Grants Town in 1948 and the Workshop for the Blind (adults) began a year later. Both the school and Workshop have had several locations over the years before their current locations on Mackey Street and Ivanhoe Road, respectively.
The Salvation Army’s community programs include:
• The Salvation Army Erin Gilmour School For The Blind
• The Workshop for the Blind
• Grants Town Learning Center (After-school Education)
• Grants Town Seniors Club
• Women & Children’s Emergency Shelter
• Mackey Street Learning Center (After-school Education)
• Mackey Street Seniors Club
• Mackey Street Thrift Store
• Freeport Welfare and Family Services
The organization’s programs and services meet people where they are, providing practical and relevant help, empowering them to overcome their specific challenges.
Ingram said the critical work of The Salvation Army in restoring hope and dignity to men, women, and children would not be possible without the help and support of its volunteers and donors.
The organization “staffed” by hundreds of volunteers and donors, continues to make an indelible impact.
In 2019, The Salvation Army said 528 volunteers donated more than 10,000 hours of their time to the organization. And that people can help The Bahamas Salvation Army continue to do what it does by becoming a volunteer; offering in-kind donations of food, clothing, books, furniture, or anything else; service donations; or making financial contributions of any amount.
Felix Stubbs, chairman of The Salvation Army advisory board, expressed gratitude to The Salvation Army’s donors over the years and stressed the importance of unity in ensuring that those who are less fortunate receive much-needed assistance.
“The critical work of The Salvation Army in restoring hope and dignity to men, women, and children would not be possible without the help and support of our volunteers and generous donors. Together, we can better understand and meet needs, ensuring that all vulnerable people have a chance to make their lives a little better,” said Stubbs.
The Salvation Army’s rich history in The Bahamas began in 1931, with Colonel Mary Booth, then-Territorial Commander for The Salvation Army in the Caribbean, who was on her way to Bermuda from the Territorial Headquarters in Jamaica, when the ship she was sailing on made a stop at the port in Nassau. Booth disembarked the vessel, and a quick tour of parts of Nassau coupled with passionate pleas from several residents was all it took for her to decide that the work of The Salvation Army was needed in The Bahamas.
On her return to headquarters in Jamaica, she sent two Salvation Army officers to begin the work, which officially commenced in Nassau in May 1931. The Salvation Army started its religious and social service programs in Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, in 1932, and Freeport, Grand Bahama, in 1985.
In The Bahamas Salvation Army’s 90-year history, there have been 12 Bahamian-born officers who have contributed over the years to the work of The Salvation Army – captains Mae Kemp, William Ward, Aljoural Fawkes, Eric O’Brien, Joyce Smith, Deatrice McCartney and Naomi Bain; as well as majors Reginald Sands, Lester Ferguson, Vernitta Hepburn and Marylee Johnson; and Colonel Franklyn Thompson.
The Salvation Army Bahamas is one of the largest non-governmental direct providers of social services in the country. The iconic crimson and white shield has been a symbol of help and hope in The Bahamas, and the organization’s services and volunteers are a vital lifeline for those most vulnerable.
Captain Mae Kemp
Captain William Ward
Captain Aljoural Fawkes
Captain Eric O’Brien
Captain Joyce Smith
Major Reginald Sands
Colonel Franklyn Thompson
Major Lester Ferguson
Major Vernitta Hepburn
Major Marylee Johnson
Captain Deatrice McCartney
Captain Naomi Bain