Changing Lives

Money raised by your textiles donations helps support the vital work of The Salvation Army. The following stories show just how important your help is and what a profound impact it has on people’s lives. Thank you for your support.

Care, compassion and companionship - reaching out to vulnerable older people

Joyful reunion - grandmother and grandson reunited after 33 years

Keeping precious memories alive - comfort for those suffering memory loss 

Love thy neighbour - invaluable support for older people in Portsmouth

A fresh start - offering care and practical support for those with addictions

Sense of belonging
- giving children a sporting chance in Belfast

A much-needed break - providing a sanctuary to lonely older people

Hope for the homeless - vital assistance to those living on the streets in York

Tackling problems - helping to improve damaged family relationships






Care, compassion and companionship: Nora and Mike’s story

Making their golden years truly golden

Nora was approaching 90 and had nothing and no one left in the world. Living all alone in her isolated cottage, days would go by without any contact with another human being. To make things worse, after years of hard work she was living in poverty, with only an outside toilet and no running water.

Mike was only 20 years younger than Nora, but hadn’t been able to leave his home since suffering a debilitating stroke. He couldn’t feed himself, struggled to speak, and was cut off from the world, robbed of his independence and completely dependent on others for care.

What happens to people like Nora and Mike? All too often, they are left to struggle on alone, with little support or human companionship. But at The Salvation Army Day Centre in the Norfolk community where they both live, they’ve regained the hope that they’d almost given up on.

For both, it’s been life changing.

After years of loneliness, Nora is picked up every morning by the centre’s bus and spends the day with the first friends she’s had in years. She also gets a nutritious meal and a proper bath twice a week while her clothes are laundered, which has made such a difference not just to her health but also to her self respect.

After so long with so little company, Mike is really enjoying some male companionship. It’s a joy to see, though he can barely speak, he’s made real connections with the others who come to the centre. He loves to watch them play draughts – pointing out where they should put the pieces. He’s even started to say some of their names.

The Salvation Army runs 26 centres like this around the country, providing vital help to older people like Nora and Mike – offering them the support they urgently need and helping them to feel part of a community again. 

Joyful reunion: the world’s happiest grandmother

After 33 years apart, Mavis finds her grandson at last

Losing contact with family is one of the saddest things that can happen to an older person. And in this day and age – as couples split up and younger people move to other parts of the world – more and more older people are left behind with only their memories for comfort.

This was the situation Mavis found herself in after her son and his partner split up 33 years ago. She had doted on her grandson Glenn-Darren, but after he moved to Canada with his mother, they completely lost contact. Mavis had hoped that they would write, but year after year passed and she didn’t hear a thing.

We believe in family

For some families this might have been the end. But The Salvation Army believes that family is important – and for over a century its Family Tracing Service has been working hard to help families that have been divided to find each other again and rebuild broken relationships.

Desperate to see her grandson again, Mavis contacted The Salvation Army and was thrilled when, after just two months, we were able to give her a telephone number and the wonderful news that Glenn-Darren would be happy to hear from her.

She was overjoyed. “I didn’t hesitate,” she remembers. “I phoned him right away. I didn’t know what to say, so I just said – hello it’s your grandma from England, it was absolutely brilliant!”

The family were finally reunited early last year, when Glenn-Darren came to visit. “It was unbelievable seeing him after 33 years,” remembers Mavis. “We had such a good connection, it was like we’d never been apart.”

Reconnected after so long, grandmother and grandson are determined not to lose contact, and Glenn-Darren now gets in touch every week. “I couldn’t have been luckier with the family I found!” he told The Family Tracing Service.

Keeping precious memories alive

Memories are precious, especially in later life. So for older people, who may be feeling vulnerable already, memory loss and the first signs dementia can be extremely distressing and traumatic

For someone experiencing memory loss, the world can become a frightening and confusing place. They may become uncertain about where they are, what time it is or who the people are around them. And to make things worse, they might also find it hard to communicate and ask for help. But while an older person may find it hard to remember what they did yesterday, their more distant memories are sometimes still vivid and clear. And seeing familiar items from yesteryear may in fact bring real comfort at what can be a very bewildering and upsetting time.

At The Salvation Army’s Eva Burrows Day Centre near Glasgow, staff have helped older people feel safe and secure, by creating a ‘Reminiscence Room’ – decorated to look like a family living room from the past.

The room contains a variety of familiar household objects from the 1930s, 40s and 50s – including a Singer sewing machine, a working record player and a 1930s radio, as well as replica packages of Chipso soap powder, Lipton’s tea and Fry’s chocolate.

According to the Centre’s administration manager, Cathy Lang, “Many clients who have dementia and short-term memory loss can remember their mum having these items at home. We have found this to be a calming environment for the individual and has a feel-good factor for all that use it,” she said.

Love thy neighbour

How a Salvation Army scheme in Portsmouth is helping older people live in their own homes for longer

It’s heartbreaking when an older person is forced to move out of the home they love – and may have lived in for years – simply because they cannot cope with everyday tasks like cleaning, shopping and simple repairs, and they have no family nearby to help.

Thanks to The Salvation Army’s innovative Good Neighbours Scheme in Portsmouth, vulnerable older people are getting the help they need to stay in their homes and retain their independence for as long as possible. It’s staffed by a team of volunteers who lend a hand with everyday tasks and provide much needed companionship to those who live alone and may have little other human contact.

Thanks to the selflessness of 100 volunteers, over 200 older people in Portsmouth are holding on to their dignity – and the homes they have lived in for so long.


A fresh start: Kevin’s story

‘I’m beginning to live life again’

Growing up with two alcoholic parents, Kevin never knew life without substance abuse. He started experimenting with glue when he was only 9 or 10 and progressed to alcohol abuse – which led to several stretches in prison.

When Kevin met his partner, he thought he could put his addictions behind him and focus instead on raising a family. But when the children were still young Kevin suffered a relapse and the downward spiral started again. Then a few years later, his partner died tragically – and the young children were taken into care.

Without his family, Kevin was completely lost. For 12 years he was in and out of hostels, trapped in a lonely world of homelessness and addiction. Eventually, when Kevin ended up seriously ill in hospital he finally realised that things had to stop.

Initially he struggled, but when he got a place in the local Salvation Army hostel things started to look up for him. With care and practical support he began to address his problems. Every day requires commitment and effort, but as he proudly states, ‘Right now, the future looks bright.'

After years of addiction Kevin has managed to turn his life around and is planning to join a voluntary group to help him make new friends.

Sense of belonging: giving children a sporting chance in Belfast

‘Above all our emphasis is on fun’

Growing up in a poor community can be tough for a child. With no safe places to go to make friends and have fun, some vulnerable young people may find themselves drawn into drinking, drugs and crime.

But in the Sydenham area of East Belfast, the local youth now have another option: a football coaching session organised by Sydz Kids, a local Salvation Army project for children and young people.

Once a week, 7 to 16 year olds can burn off excess energy and learn to work together as a team at the local football pitch. Under the tutelage of former Northern Ireland football player Mark Lennox, the youngsters are – literally – having a ball.

Mark says, ‘The kids enjoy football so much and just to see the smiles on their faces is so rewarding. We’re offering an activity to keep the young people off the streets, but above all our emphasis is on fun.'

The Salvation Army provides youth centres, summer camps and summer schools all over Britain, helping youngsters develop skills, confidence and a sense of belonging in their community.


A much-needed break: Agnes's story 

‘You can’t walk through these doors and not be inspired’

The Salvation Army centre in Bedworth, West Midlands, an area hit hard by the recession, is a godsend to older and other vulnerable people who live in the area.

It includes a drop-in centre, a small shop and a community café, where everyone is welcome. With many of the shops in the town boarded up these days, it’s one of the only places where lonely people can get together and enjoy a cup of tea and the conversation and companionship they crave.

Agnes is a regular face at the centre. Her son, in his forties, has severe learning disabilities and renal problems and needs constant care. For Agnes, time at the centre offers a much-needed break.

They picked me up when I was down,’ she says, ‘You can’t walk through these
doors and not be inspired.'

Centres like Bedworth provide sanctuary to thousands of lonely older people. Your support enables them to offer a warm welcome and much-needed companionship, to some of our most vulnerable citizens.


Hope for the homeless: supporting those on the streets in York

Being out on the streets is dangerous at any time of year, but in the winter months, the cold and wet can be deadly. The Salvation Army’s local homelessness project team works alongside York City Council to find accommodation for those who have none – including those who have been sleeping rough.

Of course, getting people somewhere to stay is just the beginning. The project also arranges food parcels and clothing to help them settle in and offer essential life skills and useful advice on benefits and employment, to ensure they never become homeless again.

James, who was homeless for two years, is now in full time work.

Thanks to The Salvation Army, I was able to move into my own flat, get help with my finances and secure a full-time job as an assistant chef,’ says James. ‘The help and support from my Salvation Army officer has been tremendous – in fact I see him more as a friend.'

Our homeless project teams offer vital assistance to those on the streets to help them get their lives back on track. 


Tackling problems: Debbie's story

“When I come here I feel safe because I know you’re my friends”

Debbie, 12, was a gang member in an area of London where violence and knife crime among young people is common and she also had a difficult relationship with her mum. She joined a youth club at a Salvation Army community centre but it soon became clear that Debbie was very troubled so support was given, including one-to-one counselling, to tackle her problems.

With money raised by your clothes donations Debbie has been given the help to make real changes in her life. Her relationship with her mum has improved, she has dropped out of the gang and she still comes to the centre to see her friends. 

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