Connecting with Community: Ruth Lilly Women and Children's Center

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - When you see Salvation Army bell ringers out in front of stores this holiday season, think of a woman I'll call "Emily."

Emily is in her late 50s, and could be any one of us. She retired early from a her job in 2012 to focus on the health of one of her children. He had emotional issues, and she thought he needed an advocate. For herself, Emily figured she would take a new job - maybe something part time - to help her families pay the bills.

What Emily didn't expect was a series of events that took her life to a low point.

"I never figured that...I figured I'd get a job and just continue my life and be able to stay in my apartment," she said. Her marriage hit the rocks, her son's health got worse, her husband became abusive, and her own health fell apart. She lost her marriage, her home, and her own sense of well-being. She ended up living on the street, with only the Salvation Army stepping in to help.

Emily went to the Ruth Lilly Women and Children's Center at 504 North Alabama Street, where she met case worker Jacqui Harden. Jacqui is a good listener, even when what people in her office have to say is hard to hear. Homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence, as a caseworker at the center, she's heard it all, and her job is to try to help.

"I consider it a wrap-around service," Harden said. "We help with anything. Whatever their barrier is, we help them overcome that barrier."

Last year, the center helped nearly 2,400 people by giving them and their families a safe place to stay, three square meals a day, new clothes, childcare, and referrals to help them change their lives for the better. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We're here to help them make that change so that change is what's going to help them in their future gonna help them later on," Harden said.

Although she has had a difficult time, Emily still has goals. Including, she said, "to get financial independence, whether through a job or whatever is necessary, because right now there are some things with my health that need to be addressed first."

As it has since its founding in 1865, the Salvation Army is committed to standing with Emily and others as they find their way forward. That takes money, nearly $12 million a year, more than half of which comes from donations.

They hope you consider that when you hear the Salvation Army bell-ringers from now through the holidays.