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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
There are many stories illustrating the passion and conviction of our founder, William Booth. But one in particular sums up his vision:
The story goes that General Booth, in the early 1900s, was preparing to send his annual Christmas telegram to Salvationists around the world. Senders were charged by the word, so in an effort to use The Salvation Army’s limited funds wisely, General Booth sent a one-word telegram that would convey the Salvationists’ mission and encourage them to continue doing good.
The word he sent was: “OTHERS.”
Today, we can look back at 150 years of ministry and see the impact that serving others has made on our world. Similarly, as we look back at 2014, we see not only the good that was done in the past year, but the steps that have been taken to ensure that The Salvation Army will continue to lead the way, doing the most good for 150 years to come. Serving, feeding, sheltering, loving, uplifting, and saving others.
After our humble beginnings 150 years ago, The Salvation Army now serves in 127 countries worldwide. In 1880, the first official delegation of The Salvation Army arrived in America. Today, as the only charity to offer services in every ZIP code in the United States, we serve more than 30 million Americans every year. That includes 58.4 million meals, nightly shelter for 10.8 million people, treatment for 200,000 people in 142 rehabilitation facilities, more than 400 after-school programs, and immediate and long-term assistance following disasters to 382,000 people. Every year.
Throughout our history, we have brought help and hope to others, without discrimination. From natural disasters to personal disasters, we have been there to lend our hearts and our hands to those who have been brought to their knees.
Ten years ago, The Salvation Army mounted the largest disaster relief effort in our history, serving the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Five years ago, Americans poured out their generosity in response to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti, which left 300,000 dead and a million people homeless. Today, The Salvation Army continues to support Haiti’s recovery through long-term housing, health care provision, and integrated community development.
Our responses are immediate, but our mission is long-term. We are not simply looking for quick-fix, temporary solutions. Instead, our goal is to change lives. For good.
That goal is playing out in 26 Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers across the country. Eleven years ago, Joan Kroc made a historic $1.5 billion bequest to The Salvation Army, which provided for a variety of cultural, educational, fitness, and social programs in neighborhoods that have historically lacked those opportunities. Today, researchers have quantified the positive social and economic impact those Kroc Centers are creating for their communities at $258 million annually.
In every program, every corps, and every community, we are seeing results. Lives truly are being changed, all thanks to the generosity of our donors and the tireless work of our officers, employees, and volunteers. And yet, as we continue to thank God for His blessings and the fruit He has produced through our work, we also look forward, knowing that there is still good yet to do. There are still many others to serve.
While The Salvation Army is built on long-standing traditional values, we are also well aware of the changing world around us. Technology, social media, and the outlooks of younger donors provide new opportunities for us to reach out to those who want to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
One way we accomplished that in 2014 was through our #RedKettleReason campaign. Centering on our well-known and well-regarded red kettles, we encouraged donors to use videos, tweets, and other social media to share their #RedKettleReasons – the reasons why they give to The Salvation Army. More than 66,000 reasons were shared, spreading the word about the good The Salvation Army does throughout the year. Red kettle donations in November and December increased 6%, garnering over $144 million, despite an 8.9% decline in retail traffic during the season. And online donations were up 16% versus the previous year, raising almost $25 million.
In addition to our efforts to enlighten and welcome new donors, we are also taking the lead in informing the conversation and decision-making about poverty. In 2015, we will release the Human Needs Index – a much-needed tool that will not only accurately measure need nationally and at the state level, but will also help show patterns and track trends in real time and over time. This helps advance the ability to combat poverty from anecdotal notions to evidence-based solutions. More than ever before, we will be able to use our knowledge, our breadth, and our understanding to help those in desperate need.
The ministry that William Booth began in 1865 is alive and well. And its focus is still as true as the day it began. So we look forward to what lies ahead, knowing that with God’s help, we will continue to serve Him by serving others.