The Salvation Army's new co-officer for the area, Capt. Christmas Hargrove, is truly a Christmas blessing.
"I'm an emergency Christmas child," said Hargrove, who will help see The Salvation Army's operations in Culpeper, Fauquier and Orange, as well as pastor at the The Salvation Army's church in downtown Culpeper.
"When Christmas is over, sometimes there are toys and food left over; either people didn't pick them up or they were donated at the last minute," she explained. "If we receive a call about an emergency situation, we go help.
"I'm one of those."
When she was 6 and her family was moving from Richmond to Columbia, South Carolina, during the holidays, they lost all of their things.
"I don't know the full story, but pretty much our things were stolen," Hargrove said.
Somehow, The Salvation Army found out and showed up on the family's doorstep on Christmas Day with toys and food.
"I've been part of The Salvation Army since I was 6. That's how I was introduced to The Salvation Army," Hargrove said. "They showed up with material things like cookies and toys, but The Salvation Army is what introduced me to Jesus Christ because they invited us to church."
Since then, she's been part of The Salvation Army's youth programs and "the whole nine yards."
Her last post with The Salvation Army was in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was the assistant divisional youth secretary for the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana division.
"Pretty much, you're the pastor who oversees the youth and young adults of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi," Hargrove said. "You run the summer camps and things of that nature.
"Now, I'm here as the co-officer to pretty much run the store [in Warrenton], the admin and most importantly, be the pastor of the church here in Culpeper," she said.
She started her local duties June 21.
"Every appointment is a calling and different," Hargrove said. "You find out the need, because you go one place and the need could be there's nothing here for seniors. And you can go another place and there's all kinds of [other] needs."
One need locally she's already realized is affordable housing.
"Every time I would ride past those hotels on Madison [Road], my spirit would just say I needed to pay attention," she said. "I kept ignoring it honestly, because I had so much to do.
"I drove past one Sunday and my spirit said, "Are you the Good Samaritan? ... Because I keep seeing these people and really want to stop and say, 'What are you doing out here?' because they're just out there," Hargrove said. "But I don't want to cross that line of being 'this lady — why are you asking these questions?'"
"I know I need to be there," Hargrove said. "I know I need to be in reach within those hotels.
"Some may see it as a need, I see it as what really breaks my heart," she said. "Right now is what really breaks my heart is a lack of housing because they're there because there is not enough affordable housing, so they're put in hotels.
"I'm looking to the Lord on how to address that and how to go about that," Hargrove said. "What breaks my heart is [not only] the lack of housing, but kids are being shut in because of COVID-19."
Hargrove wants to give back to children and the community the way The Salvation Army gave back to her 23 years ago.
"Anytime the door was open and the van could pick us up, we were there," she said. "I can truly say I'm a product of the good services of The Salvation Army. My mom was a single mom. Whenever we didn't have the food, the Army provided.
"I do what I do not to pay it forward — because truly where would I be if I didn't have The Salvation Army, and not just from a financial standpoint — but the best thing they've ever given me was a relationship with Christ; introducing me to Jesus Christ. That's what I live for today, letting people know who matter who you are, where you are ... I can give you money, but that will pay your bill, but what will last forever is an intimate relationship with Christ. Because that is a resource that will never fail in the worst in times."
Like all nonprofits and churches, The Salvation Army relies on donations and volunteers. "[Donations] are slim right now because of the economy, of course," Hargrove said. "It's only by faith that everything has fallen into place and financially we are still able to help and provide. It's the community that made it happen."
For more information on how to donate or volunteer, call The Salvation Army at (540) 349-8076.
It would be a relief for Hargrove as well.
Hargrove said her relationship with Jesus Christ gives her the strength to do her job.
"That's the fire that keeps me going on the toughest days," she said. "That's why I do what I do. That's why I go to a place of 'what breaks my heart?'" Because it was what broke officers' hearts who came out on a Christmas morning — you could be with your family but you're taking time to be on my front porch to help my family.
"It's totally different being on the other side as a Christmas child," she said. "Being the child with the mom who needed the food. Being the child with the mom who needed the assistance."