SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — The Salvation Army provides services for over 42,000 people in Syracuse. But for one man, the Salvation Army provided more than just housing and food, they gave him a second chance a life.
Terrell Holmes is an ex-con who has been using the Salvation Army ‘s services for nearly 25 years, both before and after the eight years of his life in prison. Even from inside jail, Holmes was on the phone with the Salvation Army trying to set things up for himself so that once he returned to the outside world, he would have done everything he could to set himself up for success.
Since getting out of prison in 2019, Holmes has started to turn his life around with the help of the Salvation Army. One of the biggest ways that the Army has changed his life is by giving him a community of support that he can turn to in a crisis. Whenever he is going through a challenging time or is even just having a difficult day, he can count on the staff at the Salvation Army to give him a solution and a smile.
Holmes says that this encouragement and continued support from his newfound family is a big reason why he didn’t end up back behind bars.
“They [the Salvation Army staff] have been there for me, they did things that nobody else would, they see something in me,” Holmes said. “For me to still be here talking to you at 45 years old is a blessing.”
Not only does the Salvation Army help surround Holmes with the right people, they also help him stay away from the wrong ones. Salvation Army Director Christina Thornton says that Holmes pushed very hard to ensure that the location of his new house when he got out of jail would be in a safe neighborhood. The location of Holmes new housing gives him a better chance of staying out of trouble and having a successful life.
“He was very adamant that he wanted to be in an area that was away from all of those old temptations and the people and the crowds because he didn’t want to go back to all of that,” Thornton said.
Holmes isn’t only inspired by the family he has built at the Salvation Army, though. He also has a family of his own that is motivating him to be the best version of himself. Holmes says that his son is the main thing in his life that is pushing him to be better because he wants to be a good role model for his son.
“I have the opportunity to be there for Terrell Jones Jr,” Holmes said. “He’s probably the most valuable thing that’s going for me right now.
Thornton adds that it has been clear to all of the staff members that Holmes’ son has been his main source of inspiration to stay out of trouble. Because of this, the staff has given Holmes parent training to help him become a better father.
“His focus has always been on his son and being able to be a good parent so those are some things we were able to work on with him,” Thornton said. “He’s working really hard on getting the things he needs so that his son can stay at his house.”
The relationship between Holmes and the Salvation Army has now come full circle. Holmes says he helps the Salvation Army just as much as the Salvation Army helps him.
“I make them laugh too,” Holmes said. “They told me one day they said you know we be having bad days too and when you come make us laugh that makes our mornings better.”
Holmes has been so inspired by the help that the Salvation Army has given him that he wants to give back to his community now too. He plans to become a motivational speaker and share his story with other ex-cons, or anyone else who is going through a difficult time. His message:
“Just be grateful,” Holmes said. “A counselor always told me that gratitude is the best attitude, eat a piece of humble pie. I’m grateful.”
Salvation Army director Christina Thornton said that Holmes also asks about ways that he can help around the Army.
“He’s always asking about ways he can give back,” Thornton said. “He would love to be able to come in and help with our pantry or ring the bell for us. Those are things he asks about all the time.”
If you or someone you know is seeking help from the Salvation Army, you can visit their website here or drop by in person to their home base at 677 South Salina Street.