Via Michele Borbely, Caseworker for Salvation Army – Horry County Social Services:
When people in our community are in need, they come see me. I work to provide emergency food, clothing vouchers, energy and rental assistance (when funds are available), and assistance with burn-outs.
This past year was a very busy time for the Salvation Army Social Services, with many sad, happy, and inspiring stories. There is one story in particular that stands out and really conveys what the Salvation Army Social Services is all about.
In October 2011, an elderly gentleman walked into my office for utility assistance. He has never asked our Salvation Army for assistance before and was very thankful that we were able to meet with him. As he sat down, he extended his hand, smiled and said, “My name is Joe Smith.” As I took his hand and introduced myself my heart began to break; this gentleman had to be at least ninety and one of the nicest people that has ever walked through my door. Before we even began the intake process I knew he was someone who would appreciate anything he received, and I was so happy we had EFSP (Emergency Food & Shelter Program) funds available to help him.
To begin the intake process I logged into my Charity Tracker account and typed his name in the search bar. I could see that he was a client of CAPS (Client Assistance Program, SC) in the past, and there was something posted in the notes section. It was note posted by CAPS stating that Mr. Smith was the oldest living Navy Seal and that he served in WWII! All I could think was what an honor it was to have this man sitting in front of me; I knew I had to do everything in my power to help him.
I went over the general information with Mr. Smith (address, income, expenses, number of individuals in the household, etc.). Mr. Smith and his wife live in Conway and receive Social Security and a very small amount of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.
Throughout the process Mr. Smith just smiled and made a few jokes. As I called his electric company to see how much he needed to guarantee service for an additional thirty days, all I could think was, “Please let me be able to help him.” I think I smiled bigger than Mr. Smith when I told him we were going to be able to pay his whole bill of $203.84 through the EFSP Phase 29 funds.
As I filled out the paperwork, Mr. Smith began to tell me that when he was a teenager all he wanted to do was join the service, and his mother said, “Absolutely not,” so he ran away from home. He hitch-hiked across the country to California. Once he arrived on the West Coast he had nothing, not a dollar to his name.
He continued to tell me how someone told him to go to the local Salvation Army in San Diego. There they were able to provide the young Mr. Smith with a hot meal and warm bed before he enlisted in the Navy. He went on to say today was the first time since that day that he had ever asked the Salvation Army for help. He said how grateful he was that at both times in his life, we were able to assist him.
As I pushed the tears back and handed Mr. Smith his ID, he said that this was the best birthday gift he has ever received. How had I missed that today was his 88th birthday? It just made me even happier that we were able to assist him.
Days like this one are the reason I went to school to become a social worker. I was so happy and excited to be able to assist this sweet, gentle man that served his country, that made the world a better place for me…I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. It is people like Mr. Smith that make my job worth doing. Even though I have to turn down more people than I assist due to lack of resources, the ones that I am able to help are always so grateful.