Planting the Seeds of Hope and Faith in a Forgotten Neighborhood: An Albany Story
Behind the quaint exterior of Albany, Georgia, lies a small, tucked-away neighborhood. Overlooked and faced with challenges, this part of town is typically missed by even those most familiar with the city. Anita Ross, a resident of this area and long-time member of The Salvation Army of Albany Church, lives in the Holly Homes Apartment Complex as a single mom with her two teenage sons.
With more than two decades of residency in this community, she was no stranger to the fact that the people in this area – her neighbors included – were struggling and could use a hand. Given the secluded nature of this neighborhood, the needs of the individuals living there were not always seen or served in the past.
"I've been living here for over 20 years," said Anita. "Holly Homes Apartments is a low-income residential area, but it's filled with good people – good people who need help."
Anita described her own living situation as "not having a lot," but after previously receiving assistance from the church and community to get her on her feet, she wanted to extend that same kindness to the rest of her neighbors. After voicing these thoughts to her church's congregation, a plan was put in place to help nourish the bellies and souls of those who needed it the most: the residents of the Holly Homes Apartment Complex.
With the assistance and funding of another neighboring organization, Anita and The Salvation Army of Albany organized an event on December 12, 2020, at Holly Homes where free food (specifically chicken, string beans, mashed potatoes, bread, cake, and water), prayer walks, and assistance would be provided to residents.
"When we first arrived, we were a bit discouraged," said Captain Rebecca Sullivan of The Salvation Army of Albany. "No one came outside, so we decided to play music and knock on some doors. Shortly after that, people were coming one by one – especially young mothers with babies!"
Although the residents of Holly Homes were not expecting The Salvation Army to stop by their neighborhood, word spread fast. By the end of the day, 257 hungry people had been fed and prayed with. Anita and all 21 Salvation Army church members ensured that everyone's needs were met while following CDC guidelines to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, including the mandatory wearing of masks and gloves, social distancing, and contact-free assistance.
Anita was thrilled to see the turnout, especially regarding the younger folks who showed up and inquired about The Salvation Army and the Lord. Seeing the excitement in their faces compelled her to extend her arms and publicly praise God. It filled her heart with hope for the younger generation in her community who traditionally had a pattern of getting mixed in with the wrong crowd. She wanted to help them shift their focus and teach them to prioritize giving over taking.
"The younger people in this neighborhood need to see that joining gangs is not the only way to live," said Anita. "There are other ways to feel a sense of belonging – like through helping others with a family-oriented organization like The Salvation Army. Most people see The Salvation Army as an organization that just provides vouchers or Christmas toys, but The Salvation Army is a place of open arms – a place of God."
After the event concluded, Anita's joy and sense of peace could barely be put into words. Seeds of hope and faith had been planted into her community, and the success of the event illustrated the potential for her neighborhood to blossom and evolve in the future.
Anita gives all glory to God because without Him, she says she nor The Salvation Army would be able to continue Doing The Most Good by sharing the gospel and tending to those who were seemingly forgotten.