A Pathway Forward, Michael Hill’s Salvation Army Story

Michael Hill was on the wrong path.

“I was on my way to hell, and I was enjoying the ride…”

After a stint in prison, he wanted to better himself. Through Pathway Forward, a community-based program to help men and women leaving federal prison transition back into the community, The Salvation Army provided accountability, a warm bed, and a path toward education and employment.

Michael Hill Pathway Forward

Hill described Pathway Forward as “a security blanket” that helped him realize he wasn’t alone.

The Pathway Forward program is a community reintegration program for individuals who are returning to the community following incarceration. The program provides an invaluable service, not only to the individuals it serves, but also to our society by reducing crime, making our communities safer and preventing recidivism and repeat offenses.

Thomas Murphy’s Salvation Army Story

Whether it’s gumbo, seafood, fried chicken or “pretty much anything fried,” Thomas Murphy loves to cook it.

He was raised by his grandmother in a cafe in Noxapater, Mississippi, where he started working at 8 years old. He always loved cooking, so he did a lot of it.

Working for the railroad in 1978, Murphy ended up in Chicago. His wife passed away after battling cancer for seven years, which propelled him into his own battle, struggling with heroin addiction.

“You don’t really know who to turn to for grief. So you reach out for something, and I just reached out for the wrong thing.”

Homeless, living in a tent on Wilson Avenue, Murphy turned to The Salvation Army where he found his place again, as a chef.

Today, Thomas Murphy is the head chef at The Freedom Center.

He always loved cooking, and now he gets to do a lot of it.

New Freedom Center Opens on Chicago’s West Side with Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

With cheers and shouts of joy from hundreds of community residents, city representatives, donors and supporters, The Salvation Army recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Salvation Army Freedom Center in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood. Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., 27th Ward, joined Captains Merrill and Nancy Powers, Freedom Center directors and Metropolitan Division and Central Territory Salvation Army leadership to celebrate the opening of the state-of-the-art campus.

“I woke this morning and told my husband that next to our marriage, this may be the most exciting day of our lives,” said Captain Nancy Powers, co-administrator of the Freedom Center.

The massive 6-acre campus will house the Harbor Light Center substance rehabilitation program, the Pathway Forward community-based corrections program and a corps community center. The campus will also serve as the base for the Mobile Feeding and Outreach program. The Freedom Center will offer solutions to some of the biggest societal issues and challenges faced today by families, youth, our neighborhoods and our city – addiction, crime, homelessness and violence. At the ceremony, individuals who have benefited from these programs shared how The Salvation Army transformed their lives.

Alderman Burnett welcomed the Freedom Center to the neighborhood and said he would do whatever he could to help The Salvation Army. “This community has embraced The Salvation Army,” he said. “The Army came in and began working with the people immediately. They came in feeding people, talking to people on drugs and alcohol trying to encourage them to do something different, getting involved with the community. The Army really showed they wanted to be a part of the neighborhood.”

The Freedom Center has the potential to make a tremendous impact on the West Side of Chicago, as well as on the city as a whole, with a particular emphasis on addressing the serious issues of violence, crime reduction and unemployment. Helping to build a safer community will be a priority for The Freedom Center. The corps community center is expected to serve an estimated 22,500 people each year, including many young people.

“The Freedom Center, and particularly the new corps community center, presents us with an extraordinary opportunity to dramatically improve the lives of children and teens on the West Side who need a safe haven and positive alternatives to gangs and drugs,” said Lt. Colonel Charles H. Smith, Metropolitan Divisional Commander. “The corps community center will offer after school programs, summer camps, educational and recreational opportunities for young people. The Freedom Center will serve as a beacon of hope on the West Side, providing worship services, job training and access to a broad range of social services for families and local community residents.”

“This is such extraordinary work, that it speaks for itself,” said Vance Henry, from the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office. “Our neighborhoods need what you do. As long as the City of Chicago has partners like you, our city will move forward.”

After the ribbon cutting, guests were invited to tour the facility and enjoy a luncheon prepared by a chef whose life was transformed by the Army’s programs.

To learn more about The Salvation Army Freedom Center visit www.salvationarmyfreedomcenter.org.

Watch the slideshow below to view more photos from the event.

Check out photos from the open house event!


High School Red Kettle Challenge

Attention High School Students (and parents): This holiday season, donate your time to ring bells at The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle locations. It’s fun and easy to do!

Compete with other Chicagoland schools to collect the most money to help those in need in your community. The high school with the most donations wins prizes, bragging rights, and the traveling trophy!

Get more details at: http://www.salarmychicago.org/kettlechallenge/


Let the Music Begin

Ted Johnson, principal of Volta Elementary School in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, wanted to start a music program for the children. But like so many other budget-strapped schools, he just didn’t have the money.

And in a school where 94 percent of the students come from low-income families, the money wasn’t likely to come from parents, either.

So The Salvation Army came to the rescue . . . as it has for many of Chicago’s public schools. Continue reading “Let the Music Begin”