You don’t see them often anymore, but open air meetings were a big part of The Salvation Army. William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, began preaching on street corners at an early age. His goal was to bring hope to the millions of people living in poverty.
Sixty years ago, an open air, Salvation Army meeting caught the attention of 8-year-old Paula Hester as she was walking down the street with her mother. Since that time, she has been active in The Salvation Army.
The meeting, and particularly the brass band, fascinated her and drew her to the Charlotte church, or Corps, as it’s called in The Salvation Army. Since then, she has continued to go to the services, including the local Corps during her time in Raleigh and Durham.
“If it hadn’t been for The Salvation Army, I don’t know where I would be today,” Paula says. “My family was low-income and my dad was ill, so it was not easy. The Army helped me grow up.”
The Salvation Army was where she learned to play the horn, which she continues to play today. She is currently a member of the Corps and Divisional bands. As a child, she loved the “Sunbeams” program, music camp and summer camp.
“I didn’t have a lot growing up, The Salvation Army was an escape. I went to the music and youth camps and loved it! It was good for me to grow up in that setting.”
She became a Salvation Army solider at the age of 14, and she even thought about becoming an officer a few years later.
She has remained an active volunteer at whatever Corps she has been associated with. Throughout her years she has done almost everything a volunteer could do for The Salvation Army. She has tutored youth, taught classes, and volunteered during different programs like Corps Cadets and Sunbeam. She will never forget when she volunteered in Goldsboro after the hurricane, which devastated the eastern part of North Carolina last year. "I went to bed exhausted at night but very happy that I could help out during this time." She has even helped out during Christmas time, lending a hand at the Christmas Center and ringing the bell at one of the Red Kettles.
Paula is so invested in these efforts that she gets great joy from attending the ceremonies recognizing kids she’s worked with.
“The kids are fantastic. It makes me feel good when they recognize me and appreciate what I have done for them.”
“The Salvation Army has done so much for me; this is my way of giving back. It’s also part of the job of being a Christian, to be able to help the children in the community. I provide what I can. It’s a blessing for me to help out, see the children grow up, see how they have matured, and see them become Christians and know you are part of that.”
The open air meeting 60 years ago did what William Booth wanted it to do. A soul was saved and countless lives have been changed as a result.