The Salvation Army has been acting as a rescue organization since superstorm Sandy, in addition to its regular job of providing food, rent and utility assistance, a senior center and community programs. Before the storm struck, Maj. Jose A. Guzman, assigned in July as corps commanding officer in Freeport, was developing an emergency program to deliver meals and medical services to people in need. The Salvation Army had just won a grant for emergency vehicles. During the storm the new program was put to the test.
Since then, Guzmán has been setting up distribution centers for food, cleanup kits, water, blankets and toiletries. "It has been a trial by fire," he said.
After The Salvation Army recruited Guzman, 47, from Puerto Rico, he spent 15 years as an accountant and auditor. He's been posted in 15 U.S. locations.
What happened the night of the storm?
Firemen and police officers brought people through our doors, and they had no shoes, half of their clothing on -- most of them all wet, muddy. So immediately I had to make some contacts, and thank God there were two business owners that were watching their businesses. They asked, "What do you need?" And I said, "I need clothing for these people." In an hour they were back with a lot of clothing. Then we had to bus the people to the shelter in the storm.
What did you learn?
We really haven't developed a body of volunteers here. I have to develop more contacts for when people need food or need their medicine. I need to be able to grab the phone and call a CVS or Walgreens or a supermarket and say, "We need chicken. We need toiletries." And they will be willing to give us a donation.
What do you need now?
We need gift cards, monetary donations, more volunteers to assess [people's] situations and refer them to other agencies to help them further.
Bell ringers and Christmas kettles seem to be everywhere. What's their role?
My goal is to reach $162,000; that will fund many of the programs that we run.
How do you approach problems in a way that's unique to your leadership style?
One of my jobs is to give [people] the tools and encouragement to move forward, not just by giving physical things but also providing a listening ear.
What are some key things that you do to ensure that you meet your goals?
I try to monitor all my key people. I try to ask the right questions.
What's your favorite thing about the holidays?
As I service the people and look at the faces of children, when I'm able to put a smile on their faces and let them know that someone cares, that God cares for them -- that makes my holidays.
NAME: Maj. Jose Guzman, corps commander of The Salvation Army in Freeport
WHAT IT DOES: "We are in a lifesaving ministry of service to address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of individuals. Our hearts to God, our hand to men, we serve people without discrimination."
EMPLOYEES: 9 full time, 4 part time
ROLES THEY PLAY: Assist with church responsibilities and social service programs, public relations and fundraising, coordinate emergency services, transport seniors and meals
BUDGET: $1 million