One of the most impactful worldwide charity organizations was born 152 years ago on this day: The Salvation Army.
William Booth, revivalist minister based in the East End of London, began his career following Christ in 1852. He preached throughout the meandering streets and alleyways as a nomadic evangelist for several years, and in 1865, found work in a Quaker graveyard.
Booth gained a following in rapid succession, and, by 1874, had 10 full-time workers, 1,000 volunteers, and 42 evangelists then under the name of “The Christian Mission.”
With an expanding vision of battling poverty and spreading the Word of God with military-prowess in mind, Booth built his Mission molded from British army factions. Booth’s followers referred to him as “General,” and his converts became known as the “volunteer army.”
The name “volunteer army” was short-lived however, and in 1878, William, aided by his wife Catherine Booth, renamed the “volunteer army” to The Salvation Army.
Breaking through the barricades of violence, persecution, and mockery from gangs whom The Salvation Army faced while on a campaign throughout the British Isles between 1881 and 1885, they managed to convert approximately 250,000 people. In that same time period, the first U.S. branch was chartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Branches across U.S. states exploded like wildfire, and The Salvation Army was welcomed heartily and even recognized by President Grover Cleveland in 1886.
Despite losing William Booth in 1912, The Salvation Army’s mission did not halt. The organization was succeeded to his son, who found that his leadership was needed more than ever when the Great Depression struck the United States.
The Salvation Army gained more recognition and appreciation as an international charity organization when people witnessed them play pivotal roles in food and shelter provisions during the struggles of Great Depression and both World Wars.
To this very day, The Salvation Army holds the same vision as they did so many decades ago, and now boasts around 1.5 million members across 127 countries. They continue to provide their services of hunger and disaster relief, homeless shelters, senior and veteran aid, and charity stores.
One man truly can make a difference.