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The Salvation Army Celebrates 85 Years Of Transforming Lives
published May 2016

With the help of God and the support of the community, we have had the privilege and honor of helping thousands upon thousands of needy people in Hidalgo County throughout the past 85 years. Behind all the numbers are stories of transformation, including that of former shelter client, Casimiro Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was drunk and high the day before his brother kicked him out of the house. His addiction to cocaine and alcohol had led to many family disputes. But this time, the dispute resulted in Rodriguez's homelessness and rude awakening. With nowhere to go during the summer of 1993, Rodriguez looked for a bus in McAllen that would take him far away from the Valley. With his backpack and a suitcase in hand, he got on the first bus he saw, not realizing that it was for local transportation only. But small talk with the bus driver led Rodriguez to an unexpected destination, The Salvation Army (TSA). The bus driver insisted that Rodriguez would get the help he needed at TSA by first checking into the shelter. Knowing that he would not get much farther on that bus and that he indeed needed help, Rodriguez followed the bus driver's advice. He checked into the shelter and met Mr. Willie, the shelter manager at that time. "He showed me he was there for me," Rodriguez said of Mr. Willie. "I'm grateful because I reached out my hand for help and TSA gave it to me."

Rodriguez stayed at the shelter for two months. Then, upon Rodriguez's request for rehabilitation, TSA sent him to a Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center in Tyler, Texas. The four month program not only transformed Rodriguez, but allowed him to start working again. He stayed in Tyler working as a custodian for TSA for about four years. Within his first year there, he remembers the TSA shelter opening its doors to people who lost their homes to a hurricane that hit nearby Houston. He helped give out meals, blankets and hygiene items. "I humbled myself," Rodriguez said. "I saw a lot of the need and realized life is too precious; you can go like this (snaps his fingers) at any time."

When Rodriguez found out that his father was ill in McAllen, he decided to move back to the Valley. He ended up working for TSA in McAllen as a custodian and then as a donation truck driver for about eight years. In 2008, TSA Divisional Headquarters in Dallas dispatched the McAllen Corps canteen, or mobile feeding unit, to Texas City and Galveston for Hurricane Ike relief. Rodriguez drove the canteen to the area and stayed there for three weeks delivering meals that the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers cooked daily for Hurricane Ike victims.

"While delivering meals over there, I met a wealthy banker with his family, his wife and three kids," Rodriguez recalled. "The lady was crying. They had lost their home and everything in it. But I told her that she didn't lose everything. She had her family right there with her." Today, Rodriguez enjoys sharing his testimony and words of hope to others. Since his rehabilitation in 1994, he has been sober and drug-free. Rodriguez confesses that it has been difficult for his family to trust him again. But his advice to those who struggle with addictions is that "nothing is impossible with the Lord."

We invite you to join us in celebrating National Salvation Army Week, May 9-14. You may find the complete schedule of activities at facebook.com/salvarmymcallen. We also invite you to help us help others. To give a monetary donation, you may send a check payable to The Salvation Army to the following address: PO Box 4766, McAllen, TX 78502. You may also visit with us in person at 1600 N. 23rd St. McAllen, TX 78501 to discuss with us how you would like to get involved.

Thank you for your support!