Larry Pope called the Howard County Service Center office in November to see if there were any volunteer opportunities. He is a retired government worker and found that he had free time on his hands. Pope was directed to come in and talk with Windy Chavis, the center director.

Chavis went over the list of volunteer opportunities available during the holiday season, which included bell-ringing, staffing the Angel Tree at the mall, helping to set up the warehouse and sort toys, or even “adopting” a child for Christmas. Pope wanted to do everything!

He began by ringing the bell two or three times a week, and was out almost every day by the end of the season. He helped to set up other volunteers at their kettle locations. Pope adopted a family for Christmas and helped when he could in the warehouse. He even got his gym to collect toys for the Angel Tree program.

Once the season was over, Pope was so encouraged by the work The Salvation Army does, that he decided to become a weekly volunteer. He donated items to our Family Pasta event in April and volunteered all day.  Each week, he comes in ready to do basic housekeeping and help in the office. Pope has even decided to help sponsor a child for camp with the hope that he can do more.

“Many times Mr. Larry just looks around to see what is needed and goes out and purchases the items without being asked. We have been blessed to have Mr. Larry join our team of active volunteers. He brings lots of energy and he even likes to bring us cupcakes from his favorite little bakery,” said Chavis.

volunteers holding gifts at warehouseMost people’s introduction to volunteering with The Salvation Army of Central Maryland is through helping at the warehouse during the Christmas season. Truly, an army of volunteers is needed to turn around the thousands of Angel Tree gifts that come in from corporations, civic groups, individuals, and mall/store donation points.

About five years ago, a couple of young adults, “K” and her fiancé, volunteered for the first time. As they came in their second and third years, they realized there always seemed to be a shortage of coats for the Angel Tree recipients, so “K” rallied the troops at her place of employment one Thursday, and by Monday, we had several dozen coats.

Now married and with a growing family, the young couple began bringing their children to family days at the warehouse and continues to provide coats each year. This past year, the children were old enough to help pack boxes to ensure other area children could have gifts to enjoy the holidays!

This past Christmas, a student body leader from an area college contacted us aboutIMG_0937 hosting an Angel Tree on her campus. When she was a child, she had been a recipient of Angel Tree gifts, and still had a treasured item from those days in her residence hall room. When her mother was able to get back on her feet, she instilled in her children the importance of giving back, selecting angels from the tree any year she was able in order to give Christmas to children in need, just as she had once been able to provide Christmas for her children with the help of those who had given to the Angel Tree. That spirit of giving back has now continued to another generation.

Growing up, Jameel McClain, his mother, and his three siblings turned to The Salvation Army for food and shelter. When Baltimore became his home after earning a position on the NFL Baltimore Ravens, Jameel immediately began giving back, working with the Boys & Girls Clubs, encouraging youth in our shelter, and hosting an annual Thanksgiving dinner for 53 (his jersey number) families. Upon moving to the NY Giants this year, Jameel has already connected with The Salvation Army in the Greater New York area, and has committed to continuing the tradition started in Baltimore. The Salvation Army of Central Maryland is honored to continue to partner with Jameel in his efforts to give back to the community and give hope to those growing up in similar circumstances.

53 Families Playlist on YouTube:

53 Families web page with NFL Network video of Jameel’s story and community efforts.