Salvation Army holds ‘Pathway of Hope’ graduation ceremony

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UPDATE (JULY 19, 2020 7:59 p.m.):

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Salvation Army of Marion, Monongalia and Preston Counties held a graduation ceremony on Sunday afternoon for its 2020 Pathway of Hope graduates.

The Pathway of Hope initiative works with local families to address challenges like unemployment, unstable housing and a lack of education. Three families are in the 2020 class, the Harwood, Newson and the Squires families. And their accomplishment was celebrated with food and speeches.

Jessica Dunlevy, Advisory Board Chairperson, speaks at the graduation ceremony

The families were all helped along by April Shaver, a social worker with the Salvation Army, who said the program is effective because families can work toward their own goals, not those ascribed to them by the Salvation Army. Shaver said they typically work with a family for about six months to a year and use a specific metric for determining when a family is ready to graduate.

“Once a family has gotten to a point where they are now stable, they’ve met their goals and then they have that moment of a problem coming up and they’re able to handle it on their own,” Shaver said. “That’s when we decide that they’re worth graduating so that we know that they’re ready to go out on their own. It’s kind of like being the village to help raise each family.”

Graduates lining up to get some food at the graduation ceremony

Shaver said the length of time it takes each family to graduate varies because it’s all dependent on their goals. Some families have bigger goals or a lot of challenges in their way, so it may take two years.

She said she started working with the program in the fall of 2016 and the goal is to graduate four or five families a year before taking on new ones. That way, Shaver said, the Salvation Army can focus a lot more attention on each family. For that reason and many more, Shaver said she is happy to be part of the Pathway of Hope initiative.

“I actually thoroughly enjoy doing it,” Shaver said. “I’m very proud of our families that are graduating right now. We graduated some last year and I’ve been working with this program since the end of 2016 and we’re just starting to get the solid benefits. But even the families that graduated last year still call up and say ‘hey, this is happening,’ and they’re very happy. I’ve seen a lot of benefits from the program for the families and I am just so proud of them because it’s what they do, it’s not what I do.”

There are still a couple of families that the Salvation Army is working with right now, Shaver said, and the hope is to get them to graduation as soon as they’re ready. She said all this is part of the Salvation Army’s mission to help as much as is needed without discrimination.

“It’s just the Salvation Army’s mission to help anywhere there is a need and this a new way of doing it and I think it’s pretty phenomenal,” Shaver said.

The Salvation Army said the initiative is made possible through community partnerships and donors. Major donors are the Hott Foundation, Brown Foundation, Hazel Ruby McQuain Foundation and the United Way of Preston and Marion Counties.

Each family receives a bag of gifts upon graduating and those are provided by several organizations that donate things like gift cards. This year the donors were the Salvation Army Advisory Board, Jimmy Johns, Coombs Flowers, Casa D’Amici, MPB Print & Sign Superstore, UniversiTees, Christian Help and Walmart.

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