The Salvation Army, once known as the Christian Mission, is part of the evangelical universal Christian Church, founded in 1865 in the United Kingdom by William and Catherine Booth.
Before officially forming the Salvation Army, Booth was a traveling evangelist and converted thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards to Christianity. Converts became soldiers of Christ and were known then, and now, as Salvationists. The Salvationists advocated for their cause throughout the British Isles, in some cases facing real battles as organized gangs attacked them.
Despite the persecution, approximately 250,000 people were converted under the ministry of The Salvation Army between 1881 and 1885. The first meeting of the Salvation Army was held in Philadelphia in 1879 and was recognized by President Grover Cleveland in 1886.
Today the Salvation Army’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name, without discrimination.
As of 2010, the Salvation Army operated in 122 countries and provided services in 175 different languages. The Salvation Army is recognized by its logo, the Red Shield, which has its origins in Salvation Army work during wartime. Salvation Army officers serving in the Red Shield Services during wartime performed many functions including the Doughnut Girls of World War I who served refreshments to troops in the trenches.
The Salvation Army spearheads a variety of programs including community and fellowship programs, disaster relief, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, prisoner rehabilitation, elderly services and Christmas charities – including the well-known Red Kettles. The ministry also sponsors youth camps where children from low-income families enjoy outdoor activities and new experiences. Children learn new skills and self-reliance while trained counselors help them to become strong, mature young adults.
In terms of disaster relief services, the Salvation Army is usually among the first to arrive with help after natural or man-made disasters, including the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Hugo, and Hurricane Andrew. Since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the Salvation Army has allocated donations of more than $365 million to serve more than 1.7 million people in nearly every state.
The Salvation Army also supports Adult Rehabilitation Centers known as ARCs, which assist in alcohol and drug rehabilitation. These centers are funded by revenues earned from its thrift stores or charity shops. It is here that people donate used items such as clothing and toys which are later resold to the public at a discounted price.
There are many ways to become involved or give to the Salvation Army. Give time by volunteering at the organization; donate clothing, furniture, and household goods to thrift stores, or donate a used automobile, which will be used to help rehabilitate men and women in the ARC programs. Finally, a monetary donation is always welcome.
Published or updated April 4, 2013.