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After fire destroys Salvation Army unit in Florida, Church steps in

A longstanding friendship with the Salvation Army in Kissimmee, Florida, meant the Church offered help when a fire gutted its facility in November

The arson fire that gutted the Osceola Christian Ministry Center in November 2023 wasn’t the building’s first brush with misfortune.

The ministry center in Kissimmee, Florida, which serves as a local Salvation Army facility, took a hit on last year’s Christmas Eve when two people shattered the front door and stole hundreds of dollars in donations, WESH 2 News reported.

So the Nov. 6 fire was especially “traumatic” and “difficult,” Salvation Army Captain Ken Chapman told WESH 2 News.

However, “I always believe God has a bigger plan than we do,” he said. “We’re not going to let this incident stop us from helping the people in this county that need it the most.”

And with assistance from community members and organizations — including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the local Salvation Army unit has continued serving the homeless population, even while they are displaced themselves.

Sam Haught, communications director for the St. Cloud Florida Stake, said the relationship between local Church members and the Salvation Army unit in Kissimmee goes back about 20 years.

Kissimmee Salvation Army director Andrea Ruiz stands with members of the St. Cloud Florida Stake presidency.
Kissimmee Salvation Army director Andrea Ruiz, center, stands with members of the St. Cloud Florida Stake presidency. | Sam Haught

They have often worked together serving meals, but Haught said the St. Cloud Florida Stake has helped in other ways, such as hosting a large donation drive when the Osceola Christian Ministry Center was robbed.

So when the Salvation Army unit lost virtually everything in the fire, it was only natural that the Church stepped in to help.

Haught said the Church’s regional humanitarian arm approved a grant for Kissimmee’s Salvation Army unit, giving them much-needed funds for meals, water bottles, hygiene kits and other items for their homeless clients.

“We were the first church organization to be able to respond in that way,” Haught said, adding, “We were just really happy to be able to do it.”

He added that people can donate to the Kissimmee Salvation Army at bit.ly/3NaHxiy.

St. Cloud Florida Stake President Johnathan Gooch said the Salvation Army is a wonderful organization that serves the community in significant ways.

“Our congregations in Osceola County have a long-standing relationship with them and feel privileged to help during this time of need,” he said.

Haught said watching their Salvation Army friends’ resilience has shown local Church members how good their community is.

Despite their own hardships, the local Salvation Army continues giving, he said.

“What I really like about this Salvation Army service center is that they provide people who are trying to improve their lives a way to do it,” Haught said, adding, “I think that it shows that this is an organization that we should be friends with.”

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