Captain Olguens Fils-Aime grew up with the Salvation Army and now gives back in his own special way.
Originally from Haiti, Fils-Aime remembers going to the Salvation Army church and receiving help with his elementary and high school tuition.
“I’ve been living in the states for 17 years now and I came here to study mechanical engineering,” he said. “And God calls me for ministry. That’s why I’m here. And now I’m a captain in the Salvation Army.”
Fils-Aime and his wife are both corps officers with the Salvation Army branch in Central Philadelphia/Grays Ferry. And when they’re not in the office or helping with hands-on charity work, they can be found bell-ringing during the holidays.
Fils-Aime’s dance moves are known to surprise shoppers at the Sam’s Club adjacent to Philadelphia Mills in Northeast Philadelphia. Each twist and turn draws attention to the famous red kettle, which has been a symbol for holiday philanthropy since the late 1800s.
“People coming here, whether they put in the kettle or not, I just tell them Merry Christmas, happy holidays, be happy, enjoy,” he said. “We want to build that relationship within the Salvation Army. And then we make sure that they know that we’re there for them in the community.”
But especially this year, the Salvation Army could use all the help they can get.
“I know we are a little bit behind,” said Major Tawny Cowen-Zanders, Divisional Secretary of the Greater Philadelphia Area Salvation Army. “We’re in some difficult times. So our regular donors, they don’t have as much money to give.”
That doesn’t mean the Salvation Army can simply do less critical work for the homeless, hungry, and more.
“We’re serving more because more and more people are in need,” said Cowen-Zanders. “But I firmly believe that God will give us exactly what we need and so we just need to be faithful.”
Bell-ringers like Captain Fils-Aime will finish their red kettle campaign today, December 24. However, donations to the Salvation Army are always encouraged and accepted year-round. To learn how to help, visit their website.