The Power of Transformation

Community camp proves transformational for a Louisville girl with autism

 

Jamie Hall was like so many other moms whose kids were headed off to Camp Paradise Valley for community camp back in June; wondering would her child make friends? Would her daughter be ok so far from home? But what was different is that her 9-year-old daughter Jazmine has functional autism and with that was the fear that she would be susceptible to meltdowns due to sensory issues. “I was both excited for her but nervous at the same time. I was worried she’d have a meltdown over the heat or trying foods she wouldn’t normally eat at home, or petting animals. Would the counselors know how to accommodate her?” For nearly her entire life, Jamie struggled to get Jazmine to eat anything other than chicken nuggets and when it came to animals, Jazmine would immediately run in the opposite direction, even small household pets like kittens and puppies.

 

But after five short days down in Burkesville, Kentucky, Jamie knew her fears were unfounded as soon as Jazmine got off the bus back in Louisville. “She came running into my arms and started telling me all the things she did while at camp, things like jumping off the boat into Dale Hollow Lake, and eating foods like lasagna, shrimp, bacon, celery and meat, even petting a cow; I was astounded.” Making new friends also came easy to Jazmine, both on the ride down to camp and while she was there. “I liked it because the other kids were a lot like me and they really didn’t care about our differences. They were like, “that’s okay.” Jazmine said everyone at camp was different, but they all got along. Her transformation continued at home too says mom. “She wanted to go to bed at a decent hour and spends her time reading her bible before bed instead of watching television like she’d normally do.” “She became a lot more spiritual at camp and even asked us to get an adventure bible and study books. I don’t know what they did or how the counselors managed to break through, but clearly I need to take some notes.”

 

Jamie, who works part-time at The Louisville Area Command, had struggled to find a camp she could afford for Jazmine during the two years she’s lived in Louisville. That’s why she’s so thankful for the opportunity the Army’s camping ministry provides to families like hers. “This was Jazmine’s vacation and we’re so grateful she had something fun to do for the summer, but this was an experience that went well beyond our expectations.” Jazmine admits it was a little difficult to come home because she was having such a great time but she says she was looking forward to it so she could give her mom and dad a big hug. There’s no question what the plans are for next summer says Jamie. “She’s already talking about going back to camp and getting over some of her other fears like diving off the diving board. She may not accomplish it, but I know she’s not afraid to face her fear and at least give it a try.” These are the types of memories that will last a lifetime and as they often do, change lives forever.

A “Star” Shines Bright

A fading “star” shines bright once again thanks to help from The Salvation Army

 

Imagine what life would be like if over the course of a few days you lost your eyesight; plunging your world into total darkness for two weeks. That’s what happened to Zaraya Gholston back in the Fall of 2016 while holding down a job as a restaurant hostess and trying to find stable housing for herself and five year-old son. “It was the most terrifying thing I’d ever experienced.” Zaraya has just recently moved to Louisville to be closer to her mother whom she’d not seen since the age of three when she moved from Long Island, New York to the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama with her grandmother. “I had a wonderful life growing up in Montgomery. I was very involved in my church singing with the choir and was part of a competition step-dance team that gave me the ability to travel quite a bit; that’s why I got the nickname of “Star”, often being front and center with nearly everything I did.”

 

IMG_5825In Louisville, Zaraya was looking to put down roots, and being the determined go-getter she always was, began working to support her family, often with multiple jobs. But when she lost her sight due to complications from diabetes, that also meant the inability to work and keep a place of her own. “I lived with a boyfriend who was unsupportive, my mom couldn’t help and I tried living with my sister for a short time, but after her home was violently broken into one day, I knew that was no longer an option.” Always strong in her faith, Zaraya began to regain her sight nearly overnight, stumping the medical professionals she was working with. Zaraya credits her strong faith in Jesus and the many prayers she received from friends at her church. But The Lord wasn’t finished answering her prayers says Zaraya as she says He led her to the doors of The Salvation Army and its Transitional Housing program. “I really had to swallow my pride at first because I’m the kind of person who’s willing to work as many jobs as possible to make it on my own, and not live in a shelter, but in all honesty, it was a blessing.”

 

Zaraya and her son Azerean moved into the furnished apartment in late February of 2017 and almost immediately knew that God helped her at the right time and the right place. “This was the first time in a long time that I could finally breathe, knowing that when my door closed each night we didn’t have to worry about feeling unsafe, or being mistreated; I had total peace of mind and stability.” Now Zaraya and her son have their own place, thanks to the help of her counselors who gave her the help she desperately needed. “This is my big comeback, getting back to being the “star” I was once before.  Sometimes life is just life and it doesn’t always go the way you planned it, but thanks to The Salvation Army, they gave me a “hand-up” which is exactly what I needed.”

Pathway of Hope

Rebecca Hatfield – Pathway of Hope

 

Rebecca Hatfield had given up on life. She was broken emotionally and spiritually after years of addiction leaving her and her family virtually homeless. But thanks to The Salvation Army and the Pathway of Hope program, Rebecca is repairing the wreckage by allowing God to guide her along her path to recovery and self-sufficiency.

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