More Than a Bell
The Salvation Army of Orange County
During the holiday season, you can see their volunteers located in front of grocery and retail stores, the bell ringers with red buckets wishing people a peaceful season and accepting donations. You may also be familiar with the organization’s thrift stores or the additional charitable work it does around the holidays. However, long after the holiday season has ended, The Salvation Army continues to contribute to communities in meaningful ways.
And for 97 years, the Salvation Army of Orange County has worked to provide top services to assist and uplift the Central Florida community.
One of the ways in which The Salvation Army of Orange County assists the community is with its diligent work in housing. More than 600 people in the Central Florida area sleep under a Salvation Army roof nightly. The organization runs two shelters, with 116 beds in the men’s shelter and 62 beds in the women and children’s shelter. The organization also houses more than 300 senior citizens in the William and Catherine Booth Towers, independent living facilities for low-income individuals. The tower facilities currently have a two-year waiting list.
The organization also has an adult rehabilitation center, a residential program for men that uses work therapy and counseling for recovering addicts. Some of the work therapy jobs include assisting drivers with picking up furniture donated to The Salvation Army, sorting the donations and preparing them for resale.
The program has had a lasting effect on many, noted Maj. Ted Morris, who remembered a young man who was rehabilitated thanks to the organization.
“Because of his addiction, his teeth were greatly damaged, leaving him to only eat soup or soft foods,” Morris said. “Throughout the program, he was able to find recovery through faith and met benefactors who enabled him to get a new set of teeth. He’s now working full time, a member of The Salvation Army’s church and happily married. The couple is expecting a child soon.”
A Call to Serve
Morris has been involved with The Salvation Army for 32 years, the last two in Orlando. His family has been involved in the organization for four generations, including his brothers, who serve in different parts of the country. In addition to running The Salvation Army of Orange County, Morris and his wife are also co-pastors of The Salvation Army church. He found his calling to serve at the age of 15.
“I was reading the Bible one day, and I sensed God speaking to me. He told me there was no better way I could serve him than to be a minister in The Salvation Army,” said Morris. “That was in June 1975, and from that day forward my life has been working towards that goal, and I’ve never doubted that calling. Of course, some days have been difficult and other days have been rewarding, but there has never been a doubt in my mind this is what God wants me to do.”
Working within the organization, Morris has moved around to different parts of the United States, including cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Louisville and Mobile. He has also served in different capacities within the organization, ranging from pastoral ministry and teaching in the organization’s seminary to being the chief financial officer for Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee. However, for Morris, the most exciting thing about being in Orlando is interacting with the people who are receiving assistance.
“One time I had a meeting downtown, so rather than drive, I decided to walk, and one of the men in our shelter stopped me on the road and talked to me about some issues he was having,” Morris said. “If I hadn’t taken that walk, he wouldn’t have stopped me and I wouldn’t have learned about his life and what he was dealing with. Actually talking to people in the program and helping them is invigorating.”
In addition to the work done with the homeless and housing, The Salvation Army of Orange County has been a source of local disaster relief. When citizens of Puerto Rico left the hurricane-afflicted island and came through Orlando International Airport, volunteers were there to provide meals, clothing vouchers for children and hygiene kits. The organization also helped with relief efforts for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The Salvation Army of Orange County is also able to assist people through its “canteen” — a stocked food truck that can serve up to 1,000 meals a day. Working with city officials, the truck was utilized after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June 2016, as the organization served three meals a day to first responders. During the nine days it was on-site at Pulse, The Salvation Army served more than 6,000 meals.
While known mainly for the red buckets and bell ringers outside stores during the holiday season, The Salvation Army does far more, providing services that benefit the community throughout the year.
Want To Learn More?
For more information on The Salvation Army, please visit www.salvationarmyorlando.org.