(Sacramento) -- In the past year, one disaster after another has rolled through California. Facing those disasters head-on and heart-first was the Merced Corps of the Salvation Army under the direction of Capt. Ryan Miller and his wife, Marjorie.
Capt. Miller not only helped guide the community through all the specific crises surrounding Covid-19, he was at the forefront of helping those impacted by the worst wildfire season California’s history.
Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, is proud to honor the Merced Salvation Army as the Non-Profit of the Year for Assembly District 21.
“When the pandemic struck in full force, community organizations had to be prepared to step up,” said Gray. “In the midst of this a horrifying sickness, people were unable to find enough to eat, or they were losing their homes, their jobs or their businesses. Through it all, the Salvation Army was there, looking for and finding solutions.”
Capt. Miller credited the dozens of volunteers who set aside their own concerns in order to help others. Hundreds if not thousands more donated to the Army’s efforts.
“You don’t always see it until disaster strikes,” said Capt. Miller, “then the true nature of people comes out. We saw how that nature of caring for other people came forward in so many ways -- people were sacrificing because they realized other people don’t have housing; they realized people were hungry, or people needed a clean pair of socks.”
This year, the Army has distributed some 27,500 items to those in need including thousands of food boxes and prepared meals at Breakfast at Sally’s (a long-standing tradition). The Army administered a grant that provided rent assistance to families and for others it paid utility bills.
At the same time, the Army continued its usual programs – education, counseling, worship services – on West 12th Street.
In all, the Salvation Army was able to raise and distribute around $1 million for Merced.
The Army also responded to the SCU Lightning Complex Fire. Capt. Miller is the Army’s regional catastrophe coordinator and was called to Santa Cruz to help coordinate the lodging and feeding of those displaced.
“That was tough,” he recalled. “Usually, I run the meetings with the federal assistance teams, but it was hard to do it virtually.”
Miller was called back into action when the Creek Fire struck east of Fresno. “I’ve done fires, floods – all those sorts of things. At the root, it’s the same.”
The pandemic, however, was different. “I don’t think anybody realized how long it would be that we would have to keep going. We’ve done five times the number of services that we did before it hit. That was the difficult part, the longevity of it.”
Merced has been especially hard-hit with 32,000 confirmed cases and 474 deaths.
Gray called the Army’s leadership instrumental. Miller deflected the credit to the community.
“It was great to see this community band together,” said Miller, who is being transferred to Puyallup, Wash., later this month. “You know Merced is such a great community. People would go to the grocery store then just drop off food on their way home.
“And even though people couldn’t come out to volunteer, a lot of them let us know they were praying for us and that was encouraging.”
The Merced Corps of the Salvation Army will be recognized during California Non-Profits Day, June 23 at the State Capitol.