By Sean Barron
Many of those who live in Kenya’s slums subsist on less than $2 a day and are surrounded by disease, abject poverty, hunger, squalor and ramshackle housing.
What for most Americans is a routine trip to the kitchen for water often is a cumbersome, backbreaking walk of several miles in unrelenting heat for many Kenyans.
But in the midst of despair is hope, thanks largely to the efforts of the Salvation Army, an organization official noted Wednesday night.
“There are many things we can apply here in America from people who are so far away from and foreign to us,” said Col. Steven Howard, divisional commander with the Salvation Army’s Northeast Ohio Division.
Howard was the keynote speaker for the Salvation Army of Mahoning County’s 2013 Annual Civic Dinner Wednesday at The Lake Club, 1140 Paulin Road.
The gathering calls attention to the agency’s mission of serving those who suffer from addictions, hunger, homelessness and other maladies. It also recognizes local organizations and individuals for their community service.
Howard and his wife, Col. Janice Howard, worked five years overseas on behalf of the agency, including more than two in Kenya, he told his audience of community-service members, volunteers and others.
While in the impoverished African country, the Salvation Army helped open schools, build and operate a compound and community center for children to give them a basic education and nutritional meals, taught basic hygiene techniques and set up handwashing areas, Howard said, noting that the organization is in 126 countries, most recently expanding into Cambodia.
The Salvation Army also helped many adults learn marketable skills. For example, women, some of whom suffered from AIDS, learned to cut magazines into small pieces and roll them to make beads that were sold in tourist shops throughout the country, as well as in the U.S., he noted.
It was vital that the organization tailored its efforts to the needs of each community, Howard said. So certain workers assisted with building wells in dry areas, some of which hadn’t received rain in three years, he said. The also noted that the agency set up a school in 1946 for blind children, many of whom had been considered a curse to their families.
Salvation Army workers also provided care to people who had been bitten and infected by sand fleas, which can cause deformities to victims’ feet.
“That small act of treating people who were hurting made a big difference in their lives,” he said.
Maj. Elijah Kahn, Mahoning County service coordinator, recalled having served at Ground Zero shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In the days, weeks and months after 9/11, countless people from all walks of life wanted to assist others, which was in keeping with the Salvation Army’s daily mantra of positively impacting communities, he explained.
Honored at the dinner for his service was Frederick J. Stillwagon, owner of the Youngstown Clearance Center in Boardman, who received the Others Award. Recipients of the Distinguished Community Service Award were Gus J. Giannios, owner of the Yogurt Corner in Youngstown; and General Motors Lordstown complex.
Additional remarks were made by Tim Clayton, Mahoning County Advisory Board’s chairman; Becky Keck, Youngstown State University’s SMARTS director; and Damon Maloney, a reporter and anchor for WKBN-TV 27, who also served as master of ceremonies.
Proceeds are to go toward sending underprivileged children to camp this summer at Camp Northeast Ohio Salvation Army.