’You’re just one paycheck or accident away from being broke and needing help’: Salvation Army caseworker shares story

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Amanda Bowen, Salvation Army family caseworker in Hannibal, works to ensure families in need access to the resources in the community they need to thrive. Salvation Army provides financial assistance to struggling families and a food pantry families can access once every 30 days. | Photo courtesy of United Way

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Amanda Bowen, the Salvation Army family services caseworker in Hannibal, joined the Salvation Army in August 2020. When people in the community turn to the Salvation Army for help, they connect to the Hannibal native.

“It is hard to ask for help,” Bowen said. 

She knows this personally.

“We say all of the time, you’re just one paycheck or one accident away from being broke and needing help,” Bowen explained. “That happened in my family.”

Bowen remembers being in middle school and her dad being injured, preventing him from working. Her dad couldn’t read or write, so he was limited in the jobs he could have. He worked as a commercial fisherman and in a scrapyard, but when he had an accident at work and his foot was crushed, he couldn’t earn a paycheck — resulting in the family being in a financial crisis.

Bowen remembers her mom working up to three jobs and walking to get to them because they didn’t have a vehicle.

Her parents filed bankruptcy. They lost their home.

“It was a nightmare,” Bowen recalls. “But, I’ve seen it on that end of things.”

This part of Bowen’s life now helps her in her role at Salvation Army. When families in crisis see her, she understands them. She has been in those tough situations.

People and families will need help to pay a bill or get food, but Bowen takes time to get to know them and works to learn more about their situation. She knows there is often more to the story and a reason why people need help.

“Their stories are unique,” Bowen said.

Bowen wants to ensure she can connect families to every community resource she knows about while wrapping support around them. She daily connects people to resources beyond the walls of the Salvation Army.

“We really do try to give a hand up. It’s not just a pantry or getting a bill paid,” Bowen said. “It is, ‘What can we do to help you become successful in your life?’”

Bowen has endless stories about local families she has connected with the resources they need to overcome the difficult situations they face. Families and people may be homeless or facing eviction, without income, need help moving into a new place or don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Bowen utilizes the resources the Salvation Army has, such as utility assistance, rent assistance, energy assistance, medication assistance and their food pantry. She also works to ensure clients are connecting to other agencies and resources that can provide the help they need.

She has helped connect a veteran, who was about to be evicted, to a VA loan to become a homeowner. She helped someone living in a condemned house without utilities move into an apartment through another agency. She has helped endless people receive financial assistance from other local community agencies to keep a house or buy a house.

Bowen works to help people so they can thrive.

“A lot of people just need your time,” she said.

As the local face of the Salvation Army, Bowen ensures people who turn there for help throughout the year receive the help they need.

“I don’t want anyone to feel judged or condemned when they come in my office,” she said. “I want them to feel comfortable.”

Bowen’s passion and willingness to assure her clients get the help they need is why United Way selected the Salvation Army as a United Way Community Impact Agency and a beneficiary of United Way’s Be a Light Campaign.

Community members and businesses are encouraged to partner with United Way to be a light to people who rely upon the programs United Way funds. People interested in financially supporting the efforts of United Way can give online at unitedwaymta.org or by mailing gifts to P.O. Box 81, Hannibal, Mo., 63401.

Executive Director Denise Damron joined the United Way in February 2018.

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