Roxanne Strong at The Salvation Army Austin

The Salvation Army Gave Roxanne a Place to Start

by Mary Rosewood

“I’m just so grateful to the Lord. I’m grateful to The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army gave me a place to start.”

Roxanne Strong at The Salvation Army Austin - A Place to Start

“Salvation Army, where we’re doing the most good. How may I direct your call?”

Roxanne cheerfully answers the phone at the downtown Austin shelter with these words. When a person in crisis walks through our shelter doors asking for help, Roxanne is the first calm, caring person they meet at The Salvation Army. She stays busy: filling out paperwork for new clients entering the shelter, creating badges for them, answering questions, providing directions, giving out sack lunches, handing over the clipboard for laundry sign-up.

“I am proud to have this real, normal job. I work for The Salvation Army, Monday through Friday from six to three,” Roxanne says.

“I love my job. I LOVE it. I love it,” she adds. “I’m right in the hub of the building. It seems like everybody comes to me for all kinds of help. I try to encourage clients. My experience might be the one thing that helps that person or gives them some strength to go on.”

Grateful for Her Job

Roxanne does not take having a job for granted.

“It was the bottom of bottom” is how Roxanne describes her life in 2007 when she arrived at the shelter after spending ten years as a homeless drug addict.

At age 15, Roxanne began smoking marijuana. Within two years she was using cocaine and speed, then smoking crack.

As her addiction tightened its grip, Roxanne walked out on her six children, thinking that she was protecting them. But this decision led to years of living in cheap hotels, sometimes on the street, then in the woods.

Roxanne struggled to be sober. She tried different treatment centers. She attended Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous. The programs would work for a while, but she just wasn’t getting what she needed.

One day she ran into her now-grown son; unsure of what his mother might do, he stayed in the car and showed Roxanne her one-month-old granddaughter through the window.

“I had been praying and praying and praying for God to help me find some kind of direction to get out of that mess,” Roxanne says. “And at that moment, I felt like that was my open door.”

Roxanne did not want her new granddaughter to experience what she had put her children through. She felt a strong need to go somewhere to straighten out her life so she could be a good grandmother.

Starting Over

“Literally, I just jumped on a bus,” Roxanne recalls. “I didn’t know where I was going, I had no clue I would end up at The Salvation Army. I had nothing with me, no clothes – nothing. I just kind of ended up there. I thought The Salvation Army was just some place you ate. When I got there, that’s when everything began to change for me.”

Over the next few months doors opened one after the other. Roxanne followed her caseworker’s suggestion to volunteer in The Salvation Army kitchen. Soon she was being paid for this work, and then promoted: dishwasher, kitchen assistant, cook. She hadn’t done honest work for sixteen years; she started to feel like a human being again.

“All I had to do was open myself up and be willing to do the next right thing,” Roxanne says. “Through The Salvation Army and through God, my entire life changed in a matter of months, I mean rapidly.”

Today Roxanne works as the ground floor receptionist at the downtown Austin shelter, a job she loves because she is able to share her story of hope with people coming in off the street.

Roxanne Strong interviewed by Lauren Petrowski of FOX 7 - A Place to Start Over

Roxanne had the opportunity to share her story with Lauren Petrowski of FOX 7 Austin last year.

The Blessing of Her Family

Now her children are in her life again, and she finds delight in spending time with her granddaughter. Her second grandchild was born in October, and Roxanne is delighted to be able to spend time with and enjoy her grandbabies.

“It is truly God’s miracle that my life is where it is today,” Roxanne says.

You can help people like Roxanne with your donation to The Salvation Army today. Click here to make a donation.

“What I am today, and who I am today, and what I have today has nothing to do with me, other than being willing to be open to what God has for me, what God’s plans are for me, and just stay sober. God is the one who keeps me sober, and he has allowed my life to be where it is today. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just so grateful to the Lord. I’m grateful to The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army gave me a place to start.”

 

Thanks to freelance writer, Mary Rosewood, for writing this story. Mary enjoys capturing the stories of memorable people and events. Find her website at rainydayrose.com .

4 replies
  1. Megan
    Megan says:

    I am so thrilled that you have posted a story about Roxanne! My husband and I first met Roxanne when she was a cook at the Shelter. My husband and I came for dinner every night, as we found ourselves homeless, as well. I told Roxanne one time that I was allergic to seafood, and she would always let me know ahead of time which day there would be seafood so I could be prepared. This was the first act of kindness she bestowed upon us, and when you find yourself homeless, sometimes those acts are few and far between. Some time later, my husband and I became pregnant, and we tried to “tough it out” as long as we could in a tent in the woods. By week 36, we realized that we could “go indoors” or we would lose our son. So, we made the decision to try to get into the Salvation Army. Luckily, Roxanne was still there, only downstairs at the desk instead of in the kitchen. EVERYDAY was difficult for me–being pregnant and in a shelter, and then being a brand new mom with a newborn separated in different dorms from my husband. BUT, one thing was ALWAYS constant for us–Roxanne. I suffered postpartum depression–she was there for me. I was despairing for myriad reasons–she was there for me. We were brand new parents–she was there for us. We hit milestones in our son’s growth–she cheered with us. She was one of the first people to hold our new son. We loved (and still love) Roxanne like the family we didn’t have with us. The Salvation Army is immeasurably lucky to have her there. I know that we had a far easier time at the moment in our lives as a result of Roxanne. I am over the moon for her that she is being recognized.

    • Jan Gunter
      Jan Gunter says:

      Megan, Thank you so much for taking time to share your wonderful experience of Roxanne’s support for you and your husband. Roxanne is a wonderful person, and your experience highlights that even further. We hope all is well with you and your family.
      -Jan with The Salvation Army Austin

  2. roxanne strong
    roxanne strong says:

    Thank you with all my heart Megan for your beautiful & uplifting words of love & encouragement. It was such a joy to have had the chance to be such a part of yall’s life thru every moment here at the Salvation Army. I’m so grateful that you & your family are doing great today & hope to have the blessing of seeing you all soon. Thank you for allowing me to be apart of your lives……

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