MORGANTOWN — In 1865, The Salvation Army was created. Since that time, it has been “an international movement” with Christian roots. These Christian roots carried the organization throughout the years. Since its inception, The Salvation Army continues to serve, adding another purpose to its business.
The “Pathway of Hope” is a new nationwide program incorporated to provide a more intimate experience to help families instead of one person at a time. It is a broader spectrum to help people in many different ways.
The goal of the Pathway program is to work with families in need, whether it is finding a job, providing food or other basic needs. The families then choose what they want to work on by setting goals and breaking them down into steps.
According to April Shaver, Pathway of Hope coordinator, each family is different and “varies a great deal” since each comes in with different needs and goals.
“They don’t have to know the plan before they come in, they just have to know that there are things that they want to change,” Shaver said.
Shaver said they work to help each family find its goal by reaching out for more support from other organizations.
Shaver expressed her joy for those families who graduated from the program.
“We’re very, very proud of them, and they have demonstrated within the last year that things can go wrong and that they were able to fix and take care of those things and work through those problems on their own,” Shaver said.
Shaver said the program is designed to work with only a couple of families at a time, but it can create relationships between The Salvation Army and the families that also help each family grow while working towards their objectives.
“I really get to know them — they become my kids,” Shaver said.
A lot of the programs the Salvation Army provides can be limited, but according to Shaver, this program can become limitless in a sense that it offers more options to families that will help them reach their goals.
“We can help them stabilize and get control of their lives,” Shaver said. “It’s very exciting for us to be able to do that.”
Shaver added that with the goals they set, the families go beyond what they have in mind to accomplish.
“Not only are they meeting those first few goals but they’re going so much further and above and beyond what we all expected, including them,” Shaver said. “It’s pretty amazing to watch.”
After the families graduate from the program, Shaver asks them to come back and continue in the program, but from a different perspective — by helping and mentoring other families.
“Another part of the plan is to bring these families in to be sort of mentors for new families to keep them involved,” Shaver said. “Everyone has been willing to come back.”
Shaver said she is pleased to be a part of the new program and helping each family achieve their goals.
“This is a way of lighting somebody’s path and being able to help them with their goals — I am really glad to be a part of it,” Shaver said.
Shaver said families like Autumn Sweeney’s have been great. When Sweeney first started the program, she was living in a tent on a hillside in the winter. Now, she and her husband both hold steady jobs and live happily with their kids. Sweeney said she has come far since starting the program in April 2017.
“Without the program, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Sweeney said. “We were definitely in rock bottoms basement.”
Sweeny said the program was flexible to fit their needs in a way they could reach their goals. And they developed lasting relationships.
“They worked with us in our mindset and our abilities, and they helped us reach our goals,” Sweeney said. “They were like our second family to be able to do that.”
Sweeney said she learned a lot, with the most important lesson being to pay it forward.
“They taught me to help others a great deal — and it’s not just walking in The Salvation Army, it’s the mindset of life,” Sweeney said. “It’s not about a hand-out it’s about a hand up, and that’s a big mindset in my life.”