Stories of Changed Lives


Just Thankful

Sirina Washburn, 22-years old was foreclosed from an apartment building that was not owned by her. She paid her rent but the landlord couldn’t make the mortgage payments. With no where to turn, Sirina is a resident of The Salvation Army’s Women & Children’s Shelter. This bright & intelligent young lady is not

letting her situation weigh her down. Checking regular to see if she received any hits from her posted resume, she continuously looks for employment and attends the life skills classes at the Learning Enrichment Center.

“If it wasn’t for The Salvation Army, I don’t know where I would be,” said Sirina. She is grateful that she is getting this chance to rebuild her life. “Just knowing that there are kind and generous people out there, strengthens my faith. The people that give to The Salvation Army, help me. For that, I’m just thankful”

Waiting on her approval from Youth Builders, a partner of The Salvation Army, Sirina hopes to enter the construction industry to build homes for low income families and individuals.

Lastly, Sirina says “When I’m back on my feet, I’m going to be on the other end of this. I’m going to be the one giving.

Please help others like Sirina get on their feet. A donation of any amount will help us help the good people who come to our door just looking for a little help during tough economic times. Please give.

Our Helpful Place

The following award-winning essay was prepared and submitted to the Ace Hardware Essay Contest by Lee County’s Grant and Contract Specialist, Kristie N. Smith.

Within my walls families are sheltered, fed, and given hope of a better tomorrow; a place where people without a home, employment or optimism find nutrients for the body and the soul. Within my walls, mothers somberly walk through my doors toting young children and their possessions in plastic bags. A place where those who are down-trodden are embraced, uplifted, and nurtured to break the cycles of poverty and addiction. I am The Salvation Army and just as I have rehabilitated many, the rooms that bring families together and my roof that provides them shelter needs renovations to continue restoring hope in those that need me the most.

Over 2,600 essays were submitted to the Ace Hardware Foundation for review. Of these, only 10 organizations are selected to receive the grant award. The Salvation Army of Lee and Hendry Counties received word on October 29, 2008 that they were one of the top ten organizations that would be awarded, the only submission awarded in the entire state of Florida.   

With this generous gift, The Salvation Army of Lee and Hendry Counties will renovate the newest addition to their Transitional Housing Program, The Edison House. Used for years as office space, The Edison House will soon serve as a place where individuals who have successfully completed one of The Army’s residential programs and are now stably employed can live in while they get themselves back on their feet. While living in The Edison House, as with all transitional living facilities, the resident will pay a nominal rent allowing them to save money for down payments and security deposits for their own permanent housing.

Additional Transitional Housing facilities have been a main priority on the agency’s master plan for many years. There is significant need in Southwest Florida for such resources as community members are faced with rising unemployment and a waning economy. However, the repairs needed on this building were extensive and would have taken years for The Army to complete due to significant budgetary constraints and lack of resources.

Through the receipt of this grant and the hard working staff, The Salvation Army of Lee and Hendry Counties will be able to continue serving those in need in our community through the additional Transitional Housing facility that will soon be available. “We are truly blessed and humbled by this extraordinary gift” said Major Art Penhale, Corps Officer of The Salvation Army of Lee and Hendry Counties. “This will allow us to add much needed beds to our Transitional Living Program and serve many more families in need every year.”

The Salvation Army…making a difference one life at a time. Please join us and make your community a better place.

Making lemonade out of lemons...

The Smith girls, Sophia, Emma and Brooke heard about the families displaced by the Tropical Storm Fay flood waters in Bonita Springs the fall of 2008.

The girls knew they had to do something and that they did. They sold lemonade on their street.

They talked to their friends and their family, their teachers and their church and collected funds to go to the families.

The girls’ mother, Christine Dore-Smith, beamed with pride as they handed their hard earned money. She wrote a check and had all the girls sign a special letter to the Tropical Storm Fay families.  

Consider the creative ways you, your family, and your community could band together to help The Salvation Army. Visit our How You Can Help page for more ideas.

Neil's Story

The Police Officer let Neil out of the back of the squad car and they walked up to new The Low Demand Shelter/Triage Unit together. The officer noted that Neil actually thanked him for bringing him to this new facility, which never happened when he had taken the many men like Neil he has seen over the years to the local jail. The officer spent about ten minutes doing a simple intake with the case manager, remembering the four hours he used to spend booking at the jail for one intake, half of his entire shift. He left shortly after his paperwork was completed, exchanging pleasantries with the staff and even waved goodbye to Neil. Not having actually arrested Neil for an open container after he found him walking the streets downtown with a bottle in one hand and all his wordly possessions in the other, the goodbye was a pleasant one.

Neil xxxx was the first person ever brought to the new Low Demand Shelter/Triage Unit in Lee County, Florida, a collaborative partnership with multiple agencies and service providers and a product of years of lobbying and advocacy. A partnership between It is a pre-arrest diversion program that provides a voluntary alternative to incarceration and inappropriate emergency room utilization for individuals who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis and are experiencing homelessness, are indigent and/or are intoxicated.

The Low Demand Shelter’s philosophy and mission is simple and effective; provide an alternative for law enforcement to arresting an individual who has been picked up for a minor, non-violent offense or to utilizing the emergency room for someone who is experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Many who are considered to be the “chronic homeless” are taken to local jails for offenses like open container, trespassing or loitering. With no comprehensive services for the overnight stay associated with these types of offenses, the individual would be released the next day, having made no progress towards stabilization and getting off the streets. In addition, individuals who are Baker Acted or Marchman Acted, are typically brought by law enforcement to the hospital or to the jail. Instead, at the Low Demand Shelter, each person is given a full mental health screening and physical assessment, given something to eat and a place to “sleep it off” or rest for the evening. In the morning they have the opportunity to meet with a case manager and talk about how to make changes in their life.

If the individual chooses to engage in stabilizing his or her life the case manager will walk them through the process of accessing mainstream resources, getting new identification documents, engaging in employment assessment and placement, housing placement or placement into a local residential program to get them off the streets and reintegrated into society.

The partner agencies provide a myriad of services from mental health assessment, counseling and medication therapy to securing new clothes and work equipment for the newly released individual. The Salvation Army of Lee and Hendry Counties has worked closely with the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, Lee County Department of Human Services, The United Way, Lee Mental Health Center, Lee Memorial Hospital System and Southwest Florida Addiction Services to make this effective model a reality. Partners participate in the administration, staffing and facility operations in a collaborative manner, with each group taking ownership for one main aspect of the Low Demand Shelter’s operations and regular assessments on operation and effective service delivery.

With less than one year of operation, tangible benefits have been reported in the community already due to the operation of the Low Demand Shelter. In a nine months comparative study, the community has already seen a 55% reduction in the number of jail days served comparing the 9 months prior to the facility’s opening and the nine months since the opening. This significant percentage represents the number of individuals who would have been incarcerated and processed through the Lee County jail, but were instead taken to the Low Demand Shelter. Of those individuals served at the Low Demand Shelter, 76% were successfully linked with mainstream resources and 27% were placed in housing or in a residential program. Law Enforcement Officers also reported direct r

This is a letter from Neil.

I was fortunate to be brought here by a wise police officer who can think outside the box.  He could have taken me once again through the revolving door of jail for a minor misdemeanor, but he saw the beauty of the new tool he’d been offered, the Low Demand Center.  He could envision getting me off the street and out of his hair permanently.  I see now that I am in his debt.

I am the first client.  In the short time I’ve been here I’ve come to understand the Center is an amalgam of 26 disparate groups and agencies who collectively not only recognized the plight of the homeless but organized, staffed, and funded a solution.

Personally, I have a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, and a B.S. in Chemistry.  I have years of experience in forensic and clinical toxicology, and as a chemical engineer in design and manufacture.  A long cascade of tragedies, personal misfortune, and outright bad luck brought me to my knees and left me without the support or resources essential to extricate myself from the street.                                                  

We hope you have been inspired by this small handful of stories that represent the stories of hope and promise we hear each week at The Salvation Army. Because of your donations, community change is possible. If you are moved to send a donation that make these programs possible, please give online. It allows us to quickly and efficiently process the donations and use them right away in the area of greatest need. Thank you for your prayers and support.

 About Us

90¢ of every dollar raised by the Lee, Hendry, Glades Counties Command is used to sustain life-changing programs that bring hope to hurting souls.

The Salvation Army assists more than 33 million individuals throughout the year in the United States – over 6 million of those during the holiday season alone.

What Others Are Saying

Executive Compensation - what do top officials make at charities?
Scroll through the list researched by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and find The Salvation Army. This list confirms that your donations to The Salvation Army go to programs and services, not to bloated executive salaries.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
November 16, 2013

"One of the top 10 charities that that gives supporters more bang for their buck."
Forbes Magazine,
December 2003

The Salvation Army is “America’s favorite and most trusted charity” according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy


FB-Icon-50Twitter-Icon-50You Tube Icon50