Meet the Unsung Heroes of The Salvation Army
Since the beginning of the pandemic, The Salvation Army has been on the frontlines providing support and comfort to those in need, but who are these selfless individuals who have given up their time and well-being to fight for our neighbors? Below are just a handful of the hundreds of Salvation Army employees who are helping us do the most good when it’s needed the most.
Anabel Sanchez, our Interim Divisional Social Services Director, oversees the division’s food pantries, rental and utility assistance, child and youth services, senior affordable housing units, and homelessness programs. She has been with the Army for 6 years, but her propensity to give dates much further back.
“I grew up in a family that was very generous and giving to others. It was normal for me to save my clothes to give them to another family member and for me to get “hand me downs” as well. It was normal for my mother to put money together for a family member that was struggling. I grew up surrounded by people who were “fixers” by nature. People would come to them asking for assistance to solve their problems. My Nana would never admit to this, but she ran a transitional living facility from the back of her house. She would counsel the parents, babysit their children, and rented the garage to them for an affordable rate. She did that for my mother and she was highly influential to me as a child. My Nana was what we would call a Social Worker. As I grew older, I saw that what we do in the Salvation Army is what my Nana did for many families that lived in her garage from time to time. A lot of what I do now is because I witnessed my Nana do for others.”
Loyda has been the Programs Coordinator at our Aetna Bridge Home for 6 months now. Before working at The Salvation Army, she was a manager at a movie theatre. She says the communication skills she built at her previous job help her assist homeless residents staying in our shelter. “We would look at their goal at work and outside of work and see how we could connect both and help them build strong skills to be able to make their dreams come true.” This fundamental need and ability to care for others seems to come second nature for Loyda.
For her, the most rewarding part of the job is the special connection she can build with every individual. “I have seen how sometimes the smallest gesture can bring a smile to their faces. I enjoy knowing that my work is making a difference in people’s lives.”
Loyda herself has faced domestic violence and homelessness, but given her experiences and growing up in a household that always put God first, Loyda knows He was preparing her to help the homeless community.
Maria, is the Director of The Salvation Army’s LA Daycare program which has been serving working families for 100 years. Maria has been part of the LA Daycare program for 26 years. Growing up, Maria saw how selflessly her mother would help out her neighbors by watching their children. and play a pivotal role in helping them grow up to be kind, independent adults. With the example of her mother ever present in her heart, Maria embarked on a professional career as a teacher at LA Daycare. She was eventually promoted to office admin, Assistant Director, and finally Director. Maria says that she still looks forward to “coming to the center every morning, knowing that someone needs guidance and support and making a different little by little”. Thanks to Maria and the rest of the volunteers and employees at LA Daycare, hundreds of families and children are getting the support they need.
As our LA Red Shield Director – located in the Pico Union District near downtown Los Angeles - Francisco is responsible for providing a safe, energetic and loving environment for families and children who come to the center. He has been working with The Salvation Army for 18+ years but his ties to this local community center go further back.
As a child, Francisco had a passion for sports. At the age of 13, he first came to LA Red Shield to join its basketball travel team and later, developed a love for competitive swimming. When he was 17, Francisco obtained a lifeguard certification and began working as a part-time lifeguard at LA Red Shield. Since then, he’s gone through various job titles and responsibilities such as head lifeguard, Aquatics Coordinator, Aquatics Director, Athletics Director, Assistant Program Director and now LA Red Shield Director.
After years of mentoring youth and providing support for families, Francisco admits that “there is no grater joy than to hear a ‘thank you’ or seeing a smile in our youth.” Throughout the years, Francisco has made an impact on so many lives and we can’t thank him enough for the amazing work he does every day.
Melinda, our Community Programs Director at the Long Beach Corps, plays a crucial role in launching, funding, and running the programs that help thousands of our Long Beach neighbors. From an early age, Melinda was invested in doing God’s work, growing up as a preacher’s kidin Montana and now as a pastor’s wife – you might say she was born for work with families in need.
Due to the new realities of the pandemic, Melinda initiated a distance learning assistance program for students struggling to find resources for online classes. With a can-do attitude and an intimate understanding of her community’s needs, Melinda has provided students with socially-distanced classrooms to work in, technical assistance from local volunteers, room to relax and play during breaks, and lunches provided by the school district.
Without our volunteers and staff who are out on the frontlines, none of the work we do would be possible. Support your local Salvation Army volunteers, officers, and staff here and tag someone who has helped you through this pandemic in our most recent Facebook post
About The Salvation Army: The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for 127 years in the United States. More than 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing, and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. About 82 cents of every dollar raised is used to support those services in 7,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to www.calsouth.salvationarmy.org.