Gilberto Rivera had been hopeless, homeless and suicidal before he met the Salvation Army.
Standing in front of a room full of Chelsea officials, business leaders and supporters of the Chelsea/Eastie Salvation Army branch on Monday at noon, Rivera told about how he has been steadied and his ship re-righted for the past year after finding revival in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), which is based in Saugus and supported in part by the Salvation Army store in Bellingham Square.
“I was with no hope in my heart because I came from jail, the streets, homelessness – suffering,” said Rivera. “I didn’t have hope. I would pray to God and Jesus, why me? Why did you take my family, my parents, away from me? Why can’t I stop with the drugs and alcohol? One day, by the grace of God I woke up in a hospital. I told the doctors if they couldn’t find a place for me, I was just going to commit suicide. One person there told me he could get me a place at the Salvation Army because he had been there before himself. He told me not to kill myself, that there was hope. I didn’t believe him.”
However, Rivera did find his way to the Salvation Army, and after a year in the ARC, he is employed and doing well. Most importantly, he has hope and said he wants to help others.
“I don’t have a father or mother, but to be honest, I have you guys,” he said. “If we don’t help each other, every single one of us could fall. Yesterday, I was in prison; today, I am here eating lunch at the table beside all of you guys. I made a decision. I decided to live my life.”
Following Rivera’s testimonial, there wasn’t a dry eye in the function room at the Wyndham Hotel, and applause erupted.
Capt. Scott Peabody pointed out that the program is more powerfully understood when a participant speaks, and he also pointed out that it was just one of many programs that are active in the Chelsea community.
The annual Awards Luncheon is the annual kick off to Salvation Army Week in Chelsea, which entails several events and an open house at its headquarters on Chestnut Street. Peabody highlighted the Meals on Wheels program, the food pantry, the after-school program, the homeless program and the summer camp program – among many others.
“The Salvation Army could not do all of this great work without the community members – the Army behind the Army,” he said.
Also included in the luncheon was two special awards that are presented annually to outstanding supporters of the Salvation Army.
This year, Shelagh Mahoney of Eastern Minerals and Dennis Cataldo of Cataldo Ambulance were honored with the Community Awards.
Both were present with their families and accepted the awards humbly.
Also present was Major David B. Davis, who oversees the region and is based in Canton. He harkened back to one of the Salvation Army’s first generals, who had said they would do the most good for the most people in the most need.
He said they still follow that principle.
“Whatever you give to the Salvation Army, you can trust us that we’ll do the most good with the resources you’ve provided,” he said.