VALDOSTA, GA (September 6, 2023) — Hurricane Idalia struck South Georgia with the unrelenting force of a Category 2 hurricane, leaving behind a trail of destruction that included fallen trees, severed power lines, and widespread devastation. For some individuals in Valdosta, Georgia, this disaster compounded their daily struggle for survival as they grappled with homelessness.
As one turns onto Charleston Avenue from East Gordon in Valdosta, Georgia, a hundred-year-old live oak tree once stood as a symbol of nature's resilience. In the fierce grip of Idalia's winds, this majestic oak was brought low, upturned, torn, and twisted. In its final struggle and act of defiance against Idalia, the noble arbor snapped electrical wires from their supporting poles, casting a nearby homeless shelter into darkness.
Lowndes Associated Ministry to People (LAMP) serves as a beacon of hope for the homeless, catering to eight Georgia counties, including Lowndes, Brooks, Echols, Lanier, Cook, Tift, Colquitt, and Berrien. Amidst a neighborhood marred by abandoned homes and creeping neglect, LAMP stands firm and shines as a beacon, offering shelter, sustenance, and a safe haven for men, women, and children in need.
Across the street from LAMP, an abandoned home slowly surrenders to the elements, its windows and broken and cantered blinds bearing witness to the passage of time. Nature reclaims its territory as grass and shrubs encroach, while remnants of manmade and natural debris rest upon the roof. In one corner of the yard, a long-forgotten satellite dish stands, overshadowed by towering shrubs.
Lavette Wade, LAMP's Housing Supervisor, recalled the dire circumstances in the wake of Hurricane Idalia, saying, "It was terrible. We had to navigate through darkened rooms with flashlights, checking on our residents. The heat was unbearable; I had never experienced anything like it."
Although utility crews in South Georgia worked tirelessly to restore power, it took five long days before the lights came back on at the facility, which housed over 50 people at the peak of Idalia’s impact.
During this challenging time, The Salvation Army received word of the situation at LAMP and swiftly dispatched one of its canteens (a mobile kitchen) to provide nourishment, refreshments, snacks, and hygiene kits to the residents.
Bridgett Henry and Cheryl Cook arrived at the LAMP facility in their Salvation Army canteen from Marietta, Georgia, and assured Ms. Wade that The Salvation Army had heard about their situation and was there to help.
"The Salvation Army is a Godsend," Lavette Wade remarked as she surveyed the heartwarming scene of the familiar red and white Salvation Army truck getting set in place to serve at the front of the LAMP facilities.
As Bridgett and Cheryl began setting up to distribute hot meals, drinks, and breakfast and lunch boxes, a few residents emerged, eager to lend a hand with meal distribution.
Raya Oberle expressed her gratitude, saying, "I love The Salvation Army. I'm not surprised they're here—they help everybody." Raya had a prior association with The Salvation Army from participating in their Adult Rehabilitation program in Las Vegas, Nevada, several years ago.
Shamika Shaub, another LAMP resident who had arrived just two days before the hurricane, added, "It is a true blessing that you are here."
With the help of a third resident, Debbie Bell, a spontaneous volunteer group of LAMP residents and Salvation Army fans was born.
These three women quickly forged a strong connection with Bridgett and Cheryl, and together, they worked tirelessly to set up the food distribution. As the aroma of hot meals began to fill the air, initially hesitant shelter residents ventured outside, attracted by the promise of nourishment and community support.
Word spread quickly, not only among shelter residents but also throughout the surrounding neighborhood. What began as a trickle of people soon swelled into a small flood.
Though their presence at LAMP was brief, The Salvation Army had made a significant impact, doing what they do best—extending a helping hand to those in need during their darkest hours.
The good news for shelter residents and LAMP was that power was set to be restored by the following day, allowing life to return to normal for this ministry to the homeless. This meant not only the comfort of hot meals but also the relief of air conditioning for the shelter's grateful residents.
Their time spent together may have been just a brief afternoon, but The Salvation Army's unwavering dedication shone brightly as they provided vital assistance to those facing adversity.
How You Can Help
The best way to support The Salvation Army’s disaster preparation and response efforts is by making a financial contribution, which allows The Salvation Army to meet immediate and long-term needs. During emergency disasters, 100% of designated gifts support specific relief efforts.