StoriesCARRIE | OLIVER | THOMAS | ANGEL | SHANNON |
From the age of five, she had been sexually abused by her mother's boyfriends. At six, she saw her mother commit murder. When her mother was incarcerated, she went to live with her father. Carrie had already failed first grade; her father didn't enroll her in school at all. When he acquired a new girlfriend, Carrie was sent to live with her grandmother, then with an aunt. After only a few days, the aunt entered a drug rehabilitation program and Carrie was placed in foster care.
Following brief stays in two foster homes and then two psychiatric hospitals, Carrie came to Salem. On the first day she said she wanted to die by being run over, and Salem staff had to peel her off the caseworker's car. But an hour and half later her struggle was over: she understood that the staff at Salem cared for her and would keep her safe. She blossomed under the care of her houseparents.
Three months after her arrival, her mother was released from prison. Carrie began to have supervised visits with her mother, and by the end of the school year both of them had stabilized enough to plan to be reunited. Carrie had earned A's in all her major subjects, and the local school recommended that she skip the next grade.
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OLIVER - FROM KINDERGARTEN TERROR TO MODEL STUDENT
Oliver almost shut down his classroom in the public school, singlehandedly, as a kindergartener. How can a five-year-old be that unmanageable? Oliver's ceaseless motion and constant biting, kicking and scratching left little time for anything else; instruction became as difficult for his teacher as learning was for his classmates.
Finally, in desperation, he was referred to Salem School. There, specially trained teachers and counselors helped him learn new patterns of behavior through the Transitional Education program. Oliver made great strides in his new environment, and was ready before long to return to public school.
On his last day at Salem, he announced joyfully to Education Director Todd Mechem, "I not bite or kick now. I learn how to read and write.
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THOMAS - A LESSON IN FAITH
Seven-year-old Thomas came to us in the fall from a psychiatric hospital where he had been placed following a suicide threat. He had been discharged once, and then readmitted in order to ensure his safety.
Thomas entered the Shelter at Salem and was enrolled at Salem School. Bright-eyed, inquisitive and outgoing, he responded eagerly to the love he found here, sharing his excitement with anyone who would listen, including the horses in the stable. He longed to move into one of the group homes and extend his stay.
When he learned that his caseworker was making arrangements to place him elsewhere, Thomas began to pray that he would return to his foster family rather than face another new situation. During daily devotional times at school, his request was always the same. Still, as Education Director Mr. Todd pointed out, “You never know for sure how serious a child’s prayer request might be. Sometimes kids say things just because the other kids do.” But when Thomas heard one Friday morning that someone was coming to take him away, his prayers were immediate and urgent: “Please let it be my foster parents,” he begged.
Confirmation was received a bit later that the foster family was indeed enroute to Salem to pick him up. Thomas’s reaction was instantaneous. He wrapped his arms around Mr. Todd as far as they would reach and began to sob with relief and joy. Then he grasped two handfuls of shirt, looked up into his face, and said earnestly, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that God doesn’t answer prayers, Mr. Todd. Because He DOES!
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ANGEL - A PERSON OF CONSEQUENCE
Angel spent much of her early life locked in her grandmother's closet. When she was finally rescued and placed in a foster home, she said goodbye to the closet and hello to a life of discrimination: while her "siblings" ate roast beef and fried potatoes, she dined on bread crusts and water.
Like a lot of kids when they first arrive at Salem, Angel initially wolfed down her meals as though she would never eat again. Starved for affection and without the benefit of either nurture or socialization, she became a child at the age of 13 when she found safety at Salem. Despite a very high intelligence and a keen imagination, her personal habits were close to infantile. On hand and knees, she pretended to be a horse; lapsed into baby talk; sought attention in any way she could; ate everything she could lay hands on.
Being a four-year-old and a teenager at the same time is not easy. But Angel responded to the love and structure at Salem, gradually exchanging her childish behaviors and appearances for those of a young lady. By 16 she had lost 100 pounds and developed a personal style befitting the individual of consequence and of giftedness that is Angel.
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"I am so glad that you have entered my life," Shannon wrote to her houseparent. "I am so happy that you care about me. You have given me strength to love and forgive others... you show me what is right...
"You are like a mother to me."
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DonorsBOB | KATHY | Sam |
BOB - NEW DONOR, PARTY HOST
"Bob" called the Executive Assistant last week to recount his introduction to Salem. "I've always wanted to support abused and orphaned children," he told her. "There I was, driving down the road listening to WCBC Radio [Cumberland], when I heard the Salem kids talking about what they'd like for Christmas..." Suddenly it clicked: here was Bob's chance to put his money where his heart was. He told himself, "Just DO it!" and called Alice to ask how he could help.
An orphan himself, Bob has become the latest in a long line of volunteers who host Salem kids at the legendary Christmas party thrown by WCBC each year. Now in its 15th year, the event turns girls into princesses and boys into princes for an evening of singing, friendship, food and Santa. Bob and "his" child will exchange gifts, talk and eat together throughout the evening. By the time Santa arrives, he will watch his child walk to the stage with all the pride and anticipation of a parent, and rejoice with the same heart as wonderful gifts are opened ecstatically.
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KATHY - DENTAL ASSISTANT, MARKETER PAR EXCELLENCE RICHARD - DENTAL PATIENT, NEW DONOR
Kathy is a dental hygienist in Bethesda who delights in talking to her patients about Salem while she is working on them. One such audience recently was Richard, who called Salem a few days later stating that he likes to make charitable contributions at Christmastime.
Richard especially likes to help children because “a crime against a child is the most horrible crime you can imagine”. He had in fact been thinking about finding some kids to help. And then, while cleaning his teeth, Kathy started talking about Salem. She spoke about her mother, who has supported Salem for many years and, along with her sorority, visits regularly. When he heard all of this, Richard said to himself, “There’s your cue--do something!”
And he did, sending a check from his business to make Christmas a little brighter for the kids!
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Sam - FAITHFUL FRIEND
"I believe that a life committed to God is directed by Him in even the smallest detail (Proverbs 3:5, 6). Every circumstance in my own life was such that, when introduced to Salem by a friend, joining the mission of Salem required little volition on my part—I couldn’t have chosen otherwise. Coming from a family whose heritage started at the foot of the cross, I was surrounded by love and protected by many prayers. Seeing the kids at Salem, who may so often have been deprived of that love and protection in their childhood, could not help but stir the heart with compassion.
"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD... (Psalm 127:3), and I am totally convinced that this is the sincere belief of the staff at Salem. As a consequence, there is a reverence for those young lives that creates in the staff a passion for teaching and nurturing that will endure throughout the life of each child. They are indeed renewing life with love.
"It is a delight for Judy and me to share our time and resources with the mission of Salem. God has returned to us blessings far exceeding anything we have done and our lives have been enriched by association with such a worthy ministry."
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