Snapshots of how gifts change lives
There’s a story behind every person served by The Salvation Army. Some are deeply troubled, having dwelled at rock bottom for days, months or years. Others have always done things right, but are trapped in situations beyond their control. Still others are jubilant, having discovered a new life filled with hope, happiness and God.
You can meet some of these people right now thanks to a Salvation Army volunteer named Chris Gerber. In December, the avid photographer stopped by our Harbor Light Shelter in Minneapolis to photograph residents and learn more about their lives.
“The more the public can know about the human side of The Salvation Army’s work, the better,” said Gerber, 57, a financial advisor based in Edina, Minn.
Gerber hopes his project either spurs people to get involved with The Salvation Army or provides affirmation to current supporters.
“I wanted to use my skills to further God’s kingdom,” he said.
Harbor Light is Minnesota’s largest homeless outreach facility, housing an average of 500 people every night. Here are some of the people it serves:
Aaron is enrolled in a Harbor Light residential treatment program called BOLT (Basics of Life Training). He arrived there voluntarily last fall after being released from prison.
“I was about to go back to my old ways of hustling and living with women, because at least I’d have shelter. But heaven as my witness, I was praying for a new way of life. Then, as I was coming up over this hill (in downtown Minneapolis), I met this person who knew about The Salvation Army – she said go there, they have a Bible study going on. I walked in and couldn’t stop smiling. From there, the ball was rolling.”
Nanette has been sleeping at Harbor Light off and on for 12 years. She struggles with chemical use but has been trying hard to stay clean. On the day she was photographed, she was proud to report she’d been sober two days. She likes to sing and dance, and her dream is to be a gospel singer.
“(Harbor Light) is a place I can stay when I can’t stay with my sober friends. They have good church and good food.”
Cliff came to Harbor Light for rehabilitation about five years ago. After graduating, he began working in Harbor Light’s kitchen.
Today he helps serve hot meals to hundreds of people every day. He lives in a Minneapolis apartment.
“I came here because I felt like I needed more spiritual guidance. After I graduated, I’ve been sober ever since. I feel better now. A lot better.
David came to Harbor Light because – as many former drug users say – he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. After saving his money, he hopped on a bus from Ohio to Harbor Light and enrolled in the BOLT program.
“I was getting high, and I just got tired of it. In the BOLT classes I’ve found a lot of stuff I need to work on. I didn’t think I needed classes, but when you go to them, you realize you’ve been in denial. It’s nice to sit and absorb.”
Later this year, Gerber plans to shoot photos of people at other Salvation Army locations. It’s his way of connecting donors with the people their dollars support.
“A portrait can tell a lot about a person,” said Gerber, whose passion for photography is evident on his photo blog.