Salvationist Podcast

Lt-Colonel John Murray, Territorial Secretary for Communications

May 15, 2020 Salvationist Season 1 Episode 1
Salvationist Podcast
Lt-Colonel John Murray, Territorial Secretary for Communications
Chapters
Salvationist Podcast
Lt-Colonel John Murray, Territorial Secretary for Communications
May 15, 2020 Season 1 Episode 1
Salvationist

Welcome to our first episode of the Salvationist COVID-19 Response Podcast, a series where we talk about how The Salvation Army is responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Today we have the privilege of talking to the Territorial Secretary for Communications, Lt-Colonel John Murray.  

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to our first episode of the Salvationist COVID-19 Response Podcast, a series where we talk about how The Salvation Army is responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Today we have the privilege of talking to the Territorial Secretary for Communications, Lt-Colonel John Murray.  

Brandon
Hi, my name is Brandon Laird, and you are listening to a Salvationist.ca podcast. Stories and news from The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory. Welcome to the first episode of the Salvationist COVID-19 response podcast a series where we talk about how The Salvation Army is responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Today, I have the privilege of talking with the territorial secretary for communications, Lieutenant Colonel John Murray. For more than 20 years, John has led public relations and development teams for The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda. He also spent time leading the international headquarters communications team in London, England. John, thanks so much for joining us today.

John
Brandon great to be with you and thanks for the opportunity to not only connect but engage around the Army's response in terms of COVID-19 and congratulations on this,  the first podcast for THQ Communications, well done.

Brandon
Thank you very much. Let's get right to the questions. How is The Salvation Army handling the pandemic across the territory?

John
That's a great question. I think The Salvation Army's response has been swift and fluid, and I think importantly it's also been nimble. Right out of the gate The Salvation Army responded and worked with government partners right across Canada and Bermuda in establishing the necessary protocols and work-from-home policies and things like that. The important thing for people to remember is that The Salvation Army's ministries right across the territory have continued without interruption and I think that's very important. When you think of the social service work that we do, more than 1.9 million Canadians being helped last year by our organization and more than 400 communities, that work has gone uninterrupted. Similarly, when we look at our church or corps work, people were very quick to embrace technology and go to digital and virtual worship services and, of course, we have our own worship service weekly here at THQ that we shoot in the chapel, with social distancing, minimal staff, and, of course, you can visit Salvationist.ca to see those worship services every week. And then the piece of course is that at territorial headquarters and divisional headquarters we're now working from home and that has been without interruption. The Salvation Army has simply dispersed our workforce, if you will, right across the country. Instead of coming into buildings like most Canadians would, we're now all working from home. Recognizing, Brandon, that that also brings its own uniqueness and challenges, especially when people have young children, when you have dogs, when you have a spouse working at home and we're all engaging on Zoom calls and trying to stay connected. But the response has been terrific and The Salvation Army has continued on without missing a beat in the important work that we do and that's helping Canadians coast to coast to coast.

Brandon
Thanks for that great overview, John. The second question I have for you is, how has the Salvation Army adapted its operations to continue serving the vulnerable during COVID-19?

John
That also is a great question because when you think of The Salvation Army, a lot of people immediately turn to our shelters and when you think of the response right across Canada with the shelter work that we do, we've had to work with public health and augment our response, working out social distancing within facilities, trying to build in six feet apart you know for bed space and things like that; it has been a challenge there is no question about it. A lot of our facilities, as you'll you will appreciate, have not necessarily been designed for that, but we work with public health team city officials right across the country to work out the best possible case plans for our direct version of service. When we think of our community meals, because many of our residential programs also have community feeding programs and where people would come in every day to have lunch, have dinner, and it's much more than food, it's about connecting with people. It's about socialization, it's about talking to counselors who are available work life plans and things like that. We've had to stop those community dinners within the context of the facilities, but as I said at the outset, The Salvation Army is very nimble, Brandon. So what we did is we deployed 27 of our emergency disaster units right across Canada and those particular units are literally feeding people every day, seven days a week, and communities right across the country and that's an amazing response to community need. When I think of the community and family services work that we do, our food banks have been extraordinarily busy right across Canada, because you'll appreciate that there are a lot of Canadians who have been laid off as a result of the pandemic and they turn to turn to organizations like The Salvation Army for help. So we've increased and seen incredible output from our community and family services operations. One great story is from a corps in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, where the Premier of Newfoundland actually contacted my counterpart and colleague Major Rene Loveless in Newfoundland, saying we have all these truckers coming off the ships every night with with goods and food and different things. What they were finding is when they get to Port aux Basques they've got a 10 or 12 hour drive into St John's, and of course to other communities. Everything across the island was closed and so they asked The Salvation Army if we could actually feed the truckers in Port aux Basques so when they get off the ferry they could come to The Salvation Army and there they get an amazing full course turkey dinner. The lieutenants there are doing an outstanding job in partnership with community volunteers and  other organizations and that's also in partnership with Marine Atlantic, so those are a few examples of how The Salvation Army has very quickly responded to this pandemic. Obviously we're dedicated to those that we serve in the communities where we live and work, and this will be ongoing or, we suspect, for weeks and months to come.

Brandon
Wow, it's so encouraging to hear how we're still doing what we've done in the past but we're also adapting to the new needs in this season.

John
Absolutely.

Brandon
The third question I have for you today is, where do you see The Salvation Army's mission and values guiding us during this pandemic?

John
Well, you know you think about hope, you think about dignity, you think about service, you think about accountability, I'll add a few more, accountability, transparency... I think of The Salvation Army and what we're doing, I think our workers on the front lines in particular are living those values every day. When I think of hope, when I think of service, when I think of dignity, how people are responding in crisis times, when I think of the work of the Toronto Grace Hospital and how they're managing in response to COVID-19, when I think of our long-term-care facilities, and you'll know that long-term care has been in the news, especially in Ontario. But our front-line workers are continuing to provide incredible care, so service in a very dignified way and very difficult circumstances and, in doing so, they are providing hope, hope for a residence, hope for the staff, hope for the families who now for almost two months have not been able to visit their loved ones whether it's in a long term care facility or our hospital, here in Toronto. That's similar right across the country where there have been protocols and no visitation limits, but you know we're grateful for partners like here in the City of Toronto, for example, Sunnybrook Hospital, the Toronto Central LHIN who have come alongside to to work with us, support us, and engage together in response to the pandemic. So I think our values are being lived out every single day in what we do in response to the pandemic and that's what we celebrate. But it's also, I think, what we would expect from our front-line workers, our officers, our volunteers, our staff and they certainly haven't disappointed in any way.

Brandon
That's one of the good things about mission and value statements. They really do help guide us and it's good to see them in place in this season as well.

John
Absolutely.

Brandon
So the fourth question I have for you today, John, is, how has the pandemic changed the way people give their time and resources to The Salvation Army?

John
I think the COVID-19 response from donors across the territory has been outstanding. There was a very, very quick indication from people that they wanted to connect with The Salvation Army and help. We have a very loyal donor base and they reached out saying we want to make donations in support of Canadians and we want to make donations in support of The Salvation Army to work internationally in response to COVID-19 as well. One of the things that we saw early on was the incredible response to our e-philanthropy program and e-campaign, which is now over $1 million. We have, of course, direct mail, and the COVID-19 response for direct mail has been absolutely outstanding. At our 1-800 number SAL-Army, our call centre, the phones have been ringing off the hook there and people wanting to donate. Of course, I would remind our listeners and those watching that you can also donate at Salvationist.ca, right there, and make a donation to the COVID-19 response. So, we're very encouraged, we're very grateful, we're thankful for Canadians and it doesn't stop there. When we think of organizations like McCain Foods, when we think of Walmart, when we think of Loblaws and other national organizations, multinational organizations for that matter, who have been reaching out to The Salvation Army and connecting with us. I think of McCain's donating 150,000 pounds of potatoes to Sydney, Nova Scotia and that's been replicated right across the territory. That's outstanding work and outstanding partnership. When we think of our volunteers, Brandon, that's a whole different kettle of fish, just because of the reality of visitation protocols, social distancing, and wanting to follow rigidly those protocols, to protect people. While we do have volunteers in Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Newfoundland, across the territory helping, certainly that program has significantly been scaled back just to the reality of the pandemic. We want to keep people safe, but volunteers are the army behind the Army. They are important partners in the work that we do and I know a lot of people continue to connect with their volunteers virtually. I think of our advisory boards and how now we're meeting virtually. Those people, they want to stay engaged, they want to know what's going on, they want to know how they can help and support The Salvation Army, and they want to help us to continue to live out the values of our organization of hope, service and dignity. I think of other institutions where they take care and compassion and being there for people in their time of need and that's what drives The Salvation Army, that's what drives our volunteers to work with us. I think that's what actually drives donors to make donations, because they recognize that they're helping The Salvation Army live out our values and mission right across Canada and Bermuda.

Brandon
Another question I have for you today, John, is the federal government announced in April it was giving $100 million to charities with The Salvation Army being on the list to receive $5 million. How is this donation going to benefit the people we serve?

John
Thanks for the opportunity to unpack this one a little bit. The Salvation Army was identified as one of five organizations that Agriculture Canada, the minister and her team, identified us to work with them very quickly at the outset of the pandemic in response to food and food security. We did receive $5 million of initial grant and that money was quickly distributed to divisions across the territory and then disseminated right down to our 240 community family services operations. So that it's impacting Canadians at the point of need for food and food security and we have been working with the minister's office. I'm on calls a couple of times a week along with Major Glenda Davis who is the head of our territorial social services program here at THQ. Glenda and I have been working in partnership with the minister's team and in response to not only how this money has been used, this $5-million, and reporting back already how it's been disseminated, how it's impacting Canadians at their point of need, but having deeper and further conversations around how The Salvation Army can help in future with additional resources that have been made available by the federal government through Agriculture Canada. So this opportunity is allowing The Salvation Army to have conversations, to be a tables to engage with all levels of government in new and fresh ways and The Salvation Army is privileged to respond to COVID-19 the way we are. We're very grateful to the federal government, Agriculture Canada to all of our provincial partners across Canada, and municipal partners as well. When we when we think of the cities, the important work is done in shelters on the front lines and, as I mentioned, our long-term-care homes and seniors' homes across Canada. So, those partners in the work that we do, helping us live out the values in response to this unprecedented pandemic and providing, providing care to those who need it most. We're grateful for the financial arrangements and partnerships that our government agencies have made for The Salvation Army during these days.

Brandon
Thanks, that's encouraging to know how that money's being used. The last question I have for you today is, can you share an encouraging story of how The Salvation Army is helping in the pandemic?

John
You know, I think there's just been many heartwarming stories that I've seen that I've read. If you follow us on Facebook, on Twitter, visit our Instagram accounts through THQ communications, visit Salvationist.ca you will be able to read about so many ways that The Salvation Army is impacting people and how positively they're responding. But there have been a couple situations because of the visitation restrictions, Brandon, in our seniors' homes, in particular. We had a lady just this week who celebrated her 100th birthday in the William Booth Care Home in Regina and the staff threw a big 100th birthday celebration. You can see pictures of her online and The Salvation Army workers are there supporting this woman in this really incredible and amazing moment in the middle of the pandemic that's going on. If I transition for a second to Toronto, to our Meighen Health Centre, we had a resident yesterday who turned 106 and I said to somebody, "That's worthy of a celebration. You only turn 106 once." It's like turning 100. But amazing birthdays and they've turned into amazing celebrations with family, social distancing, bringing balloons and cakes for the staff and things like that, celebrating with their loved one. Then we've seen some of our reunions at different facilities. They've driven by and supported in parades with cars, beeping their horns at 7:30 every night along with people in community, thanking our front-line healthcare workers. I heard a great story  yesterday where a quartet from the North Toronto Community Church band, the band that I happen to play in as well, although we haven't played now for quite a while, a quartet including the Ewing sisters and their brother-in-law Reuben Schmidt went and played outside of the Meighen Health Centre for the residents here in Toronto. They played out of the tune book, they played beautiful worship songs and songs of the church, familiar songs in the church for the residents. They played outside at both the front and back of the building and those are encouraging things. People are going the extra mile in these days and we see it from British Columbia right through to St John's, Newfoundland, and up in the territories and right across Bermuda as well. The response has been encouraging. They're difficult days for many people but we take hope and we continue to live out those values of hope, service, dignity. We look forward to continuing to help people at their point of need and will be there throughout this pandemic and long after the pandemic is gone when we continue to live and work in this new way of living. But I'll be honest with you, I'm connecting with people more now,  Brandon, probably than ever and in very deep rich and meaningful ways and for that we're very grateful. 

Brandon
Thank you, John, for taking time out of your day to give an update and share some insights on what's going on. These are unusual times and it's encouraging to hear how The Salvation Army is meeting human needs and being a transformational influence in our territory.

That's all we have time for today. Thanks for listening to the Salvationist COVID response podcasts. For new episodes, be sure to visit Salvationist.ca/podcast. For more Army news, visit Salvationist.ca. And if you would like to get the news delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for the weekly newsletter at Salvationist.ca/newsletter.