WAUSAU — Volunteering at The Salvation Army three years ago gave Anquinette a revelation that changed her life.

She had recently left a domestically violent marriage, where she heard repeatedly what she couldn’t do. When she started to volunteer in the food pantry, and was able to complete a three-hour shift, even with a debilitating medical diagnosis, she realized what she is capable of. “I was like, ‘Maybe I can do this … .’”

The Salvation Army helped her find things she needed, like beds for her five kids. And support.

“I thank The Salvation Army for keeping me out of the mindset of wanting to go back. They helped me get back on track to get my GED. That was hard – I had no confidence,” Anquinette said. “Everyone was encouraging me and helped me get to the place where now I’m not afraid to tell my story. Telling it has helped me to know who I am.”

Attending The Salvation Army church taught her family how to interact with other people after being closed off for a long time, she said.

Overcoming, or “getting back control over your life” has become a family message. When her 14-year-old daughter was raped and became pregnant, one of her first steps was to tell Salvation Army Corps Officer and Pastor Donna Thammavongsa.

“She really helped us. They didn’t look at the color of our skin and put us on the back burner,” Anquinette said. Her daughter has since started a sexual assault support group at her school, to raise awareness and help others know what to do.

“The group started with two people,” Anquinette said. “Now it has 16. A teacher recently talked to her about going to other schools to tell her story.”

They aren’t all the way over the hump, she admits. “We’ve been through the ringer,” Anquinette said. “I really think it was a trying and a testing. But we’re dealing with it.”

When asked if she thinks she passed the test, Anquinette responds with passion. “I’m telling you! If I didn’t pass, I’m getting back up and pressing on!” she said.

Anquinette was recently accepted into low-income housing in Appleton, from an application sent in months ago. But she’s not going.

“I don’t want to leave my church,” she said. “It helps me stay rooted and grounded. Going to The Salvation Army church has changed our lives, it really has. It’s good for me, it’s good for the children, and they love it.”

Whatever the struggle is, Anquinette is determined to pass it and not go back. Her goal is to complete a nursing degree and open a nursing home.

Anquinette, whose name means life, hope, loyalty, is beginning to realize who she really is.

Bell ringers needed

The Salvation Army is well over halfway into its bell-ringing season, and the need remains high. All money raised in the community is used to fund local programs and expenses of The Salvation Army. This past year these services included:

  • Various meal programs, which provided over 45,000 meals
  • The transitional living program, which has provided more than 700 people with over 9,000 nights of lodging
  • The social service office, which has provided over 2,500 people with food from our food pantry

For more information about The Salvation Army, call 715 845-4272 or stop in it 202 Callon St. in Wausau.

To sign up for bell ringing, go to www.sawausau.org or call 715 370-3431.

Published with permission from The Salvation Army.

Photo courtesy The Salvation Army. Anquinette organizes pantry shelves at The Salvation Army.