Paying It Forward

Apr 26, 2024 | by Syed Adib | Margherita Teta

There are a lot of times I look at the soup kitchen, and I see myself in that line. If I didn't have the soup kitchen, I didn't know what would have happened to me.

- Captain Ramesh, New York Temple

Paying it forward is a compassionate act where an individual chooses not to repay a favor directly, but undertakes an act of kindness for others, thereby creating a ripple effect of generosity, extending beyond just repaying a favor. When we help others, we inspire ongoing acts of generosity within our community. At The Salvation Army, we witness these effects every day. Through our diverse programs and services—providing meals, shelter, and support to those in need—we encounter countless stories of individuals inspired to give back to the community that supported them during their times of hardship. Many of our officers and employees have benefited from The Salvation Army's services and are now dedicated to continuing this impactful work. Below are inspiring stories from some of our officers, highlighting their transformative experiences of receiving help from The Salvation Army and paying it forward in their communities.

Lt. Esther Mobley 

Lt. Esther began motherhood at the early age of 16. By the time she turned 20, she had four beautiful children. Her first experience with The Salvation Army was when she needed help around the holidays with Thanksgiving baskets and Christmas toys for her children. Soon, she started sending her children to the after-school program as well. They would rave about their experience and be excited about the next time they could return. Despite experiencing financial hardships and emotional distress, Esther knew she had The Salvation Army at her back and would go back regularly for her children's enrichment and her own sense of community.

Four months after being introduced to the Army, Esther started volunteering regularly before being hired to teach an after-school program. She helped to sign children in and clean the gym at the end of the day before she took on a more permanent role of monitoring children in the after-school program. Today, she runs The Salvation Army Stapleton Corps and Community Center in Staten Island, where she pays it forward by letting everyone who comes through The Salvation Army's doors know that they are family and that "no matter how hurt or broken they are, The Salvation Army will love and accept them."

Captain Ramesh Sukhdeo

Captain Ramesh's journey from India to the United States was a quest for a better life. However, upon arrival, he was met with homelessness and a severe illness due to the harsh winter conditions. One day, a stranger who saw Ramesh’s condition directed him to The Salvation Army in East Harlem. Ramesh found himself at the Manhattan Citadel Community Center, where he received a warm meal and, despite not being Christian, attended a service. Moved by one of the sermons, tears rolled down Ramesh’s face. From that moment on, he kept going back to The Salvation Army to volunteer his time at the soup kitchen and attend church services.

Despite his financial struggles, Ramesh found refuge with a church member who treated him with love and kindness, becoming like family for eleven years. He now dedicates his life to paying forward the kindness he received from The Salvation Army. "My heart is in the soup kitchen," Ramesh shares. "If I had the last dime in my pocket, I would spend it there. The Salvation Army brought me here, where I serve 500 people a day. There are moments when I look at the soup kitchen line and see myself. Without it, I don't know where I would be today."

Chaya Jugenheimer

Chaya Jugenheimer, the Program Director at The Salvation Army of Spring Valley Corps and Community Center's after-school program, has a personal journey that resonates with many. Her relationship with The Salvation Army began at age eight when she first participated in their day camps, youth councils, and summer camp.

As a teenager, Chaya started giving back by volunteering at Spring Valley, teaching dance classes, and assisting students with their homework. She pursued higher education, earning a degree in Inclusive Childhood Education. Returning to The Salvation Army, Chaya now leads the After-School Programs at Spring Valley, guiding children and mentoring staff just as she was once supported during her formative years. Chaya sees her role as bringing light to the children who enter The Salvation Army's doors.

In light of National Volunteering Month and Pay It Forward Day, help your community and spread kindness today by volunteering your time at a local Salvation Army or donating to one of our many programs that supports a cause you believe in!

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