Red Kettle Volunteer Reconnects with Faith While Facing Hardships of 2020

Jan 20, 2021 | by Stephanie Rex

Melissa was making a good living as an industrial painter at the cracker plant in Beaver County when her entire world came to a halt after the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“I am a perfect example of how you can go from being on top of the world to the bottom of the bottom in a matter of months,” Melissa said. “All that matters is God – he comes into your life when he sees fit.”

A single mother raising a 4-year-old son, Melissa had difficulty finding childcare even before the pandemic began. After daycares and schools closed as a result of safety measures being taken, she was forced to stay home with her son, losing the only income she had.

In need of emergency food assistance to feed her family, that is when she connected with Major Cynthia Foster at The Salvation Army Westside Worship and Service Center – and her life was forever changed.

“Just getting me in the door is what helped me. I received meals there for two months for my son and it just opened my eyes that what I was truly lacking in my life was God. Major Foster showed me that just with her presence,” Melissa said.

Determined to stay busy and to give back as she waited for ten long months to receive unemployment benefits, Melissa became a volunteer bell ringer during the 2020 Red Kettle Campaign: Rescue Christmas.

“I worked 60 hours a week for three years and I did not want sit around and do nothing,” she said. “I just wanted to help, so I decided to volunteer.”

Also receiving Christmas Assistance this year to brighten the holidays for her son, her experience of going from the top to the bottom allowed her to reshape the priorities in her life.

“Having nothing, and not knowing what the future holds – God was the only way. Ringing the bell was my way of letting people know that God will take care of us.” Melissa said. “2020 was life changing for me with the ups, downs, and what I did with it. I have a new purpose in life. In the future, I will again have the chance to have a good job – while sharing my faith with other people.”

Melissa recently received her unemployment benefits after a long wait, and she hopes to return to work by the spring.

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