Members of the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Dolphins Women’s Organization (MDWO) visited the Miami Salvation Army on Thursday to spend time with some of the shelter’s residents.
The 38th Street branch of the Miami Salvation Army, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary serving the Miami-Dade community, houses 216 residents regularly – these are individuals and families that need a boost to get back on their feet, and The Salvation Army is there to lend a helping hand.
On Thursday afternoon, there was what Salvation Army Director of Development Judith Mori called a “full house,” a group of about 100 people, on hand to enjoy a warm meal and some Valentine’s Day fun.
“It’s very special and it’s very important for them to know that society hasn’t forgotten about them, and especially that the Dolphins are here to support,” Mori said. “Having them helps us set the mood, and also it creates the sense of community we always look for in this situation.”
Members of the Miami Dolphins Women’s Organization spent some time in the kitchen, helping put together a special Valentine’s Day lunch. When everything was hot and ready, residents lined up one by one, grabbed a tray and met with the players.
As the cafeteria filled up, Marshall, Garner, Gray and Tyms began to pass out some Valentine’s Day treats, spending one-on-one time with almost everyone.
Garner enjoyed the opportunity to put a smile on the faces of those he interacted with.
“It’s nice to spread love in the community here,” Garner said. “Just come out and try to make people safe on Valentine’s Day, make them have a good day – give them some candy and hopefully a little bit more joy in their life.”
The impact of what the Salvation Army residents receive extends beyond simply a steady meal or a place to stay; this is a safe haven where they are expected to dedicate themselves to whatever may be ailing them. Each man, woman or family is assigned a coach that makes sure they remain motivated to accomplish some sort of goal, whether that’s finishing up their education, securing a steady job or something of that nature.
For one day, the Dolphins were able to be part of this process. With their help, a normal Thursday afternoon turned into a festive one.
If it were an ordinary day, the residents may have been more reserved, less likely, perhaps, to interact with each other while they ate. But Thursday was different – laughter filled the cafeteria, bouncing from wall to wall, cameras flashed, nearly everyone had a smile on his face.
There was a tangible synergy that Mori said is key to raising spirits at the shelter.
“It creates a sense of community because they get together, they share things, they share a picture, they share a smile and they laugh together and therefore they create real friendships,” Mori said. “This is very important because this is a safe environment, so it’s good for them to be friends with people who are also going through the same situations and need to be motivated together.”