By Julia (Robinson) Mitchell-Hoffman
One could say that the Salvation Army Northeast Corps in Philadelphia’s Frankford section is where we grew up. In the 1970’s, there was a group of us that were there every moment possible. Kevin was best friends with Bobby (Moony). There was Emma, Genie, Dana, Terry, Donna and myself. My brothers and one sister also came to the corps but not as active as myself. There were many others as well and I am sure I am forgetting someone here.
There were many adults that had an impact on us from the older woman Ethel who would get up and pray on Sunday Mornings. We all groan because she would pray for 10 minutes. Through her we learned much about the value of true prayer warriors. There was Marion who always was kind to us bratty kids. There was Helen who played the piano and always had kind words for us. There were countless officers (the Wilson’s and the Kramer’s)who worked with us. But there was NO ONE quite like Franny. She was always there for us, always loving us and always caring.
I think it is kind of funny to think back on those days because on:
• Mondays there was Busy Bees, the community center was open (The gym room with a full size basketball court, a game room with pool tables and Ping-Pong and all sorts of activities to do, a pottery classroom with awesome crafts to do, and so much more). There was always homework help available. The community center was open Monday thru Fridays and often on Saturdays.
• Tuesday would bring about Girl Guards , Band (free music lessons by some awesome musicians), Tambourines and Women’s club called Home League.
• Wednesday was Boy Scouts, Sunbeams, Choir and voice lessons, bible study and a rap session.
• Thursdays includes Corps Cadets, Teen Group, cub scouts.
• Fridays were always special times with pizza parties, local adventures, and all sorts of awesome treats.
• On Saturdays Franny often took us on trips.
• Sundays was Sunday School, Church, League Of Mercy, trips to the ice cream polar or out to dinner, evening rap session and praise meetings.
This does not even begin to touch on the overnight trips and week-long excursions to New York, other corps and to Camp Ladore.
For so many of us it was a safe haven and without this place we might not have survived our childhood. It gave us hope at a time when life was complicated. It provided us a place to grow, learn, explore and develop morals and a sense of self. It helped to establish a foundation in which we could build a lifetime relationship with God and cultivate social skills that provide many stepping stones in relationships with others, this world and even within us. We laughed together and we also shared tears. We got along and picked on each other. But we cared for each other and would help each other when one was in need. We learned how to cooperate and to be empathetic. We learn the value of all people and learn to be tolerating of difference. We came to understand the value of friendship and of doing for others. We explored issues such as prejudice and came to understand how we could be the change our community needed. We raised money for trips and learn the value of being responsible. We were held accountable when needed and praised when we made choices that were in the best interest of all.
As I say good bye to my friend Kevin today, I am reminded of how much we grew together. I am thankful for those days in which we felt safe, loved and cared for. I am honored to call him a friend.
Link to Kevin Miller obituary here.