Local Salvation Army officer ‘pays it forward’ to Queens residents

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Salvation Army Captain Stanley Pierre-Louis (left) and his wife Captain Ermance Pierre-Louis
Photo courtesy of Stanley Pierre-Louis

Apr. 28 is nationally recognized as Pay it Forward Day, but one Salvation Army captain has lived by that motto since arriving in the U.S. in 2010. Salvation Army Captain Stanley Pierre-Louis has been dedicated to helping other people ever since his first encounter with the organization in 2012.

Pierre-Louis, who moved from Haiti in pursuit of the American dream, soon faced the harsh reality of New York City’s high cost of living upon his arrival. “Housing is expensive, food is expensive, everything is expensive in New York. My income was insufficient for me to care for my family,” he said.

Pierre-Louis said he leaned on the Salvation Army for support and received services from their food pantry program. He described that moment as an eye-opening experience that inspired him to start volunteering with the organization. “I always remember the service that I received there on that day, and the love was unbelievable,” he said. Soon after, Pierre-Louis started volunteering with the organization at the age of 39. 

By 2015, Pierre-Louis was so committed to volunteering that he enrolled in the organization’s training college, and, in 2018, he graduated and started working full-time for the organization as an officer. He was appointed the rank of Lieutenant and was appointed to the Spring Valley Corp. There, Pierre-Louis encountered many people in need and helped provide programming to battle food insecurity and utility and rent payments. “I speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. I advocate on their behalf. I love the unlovable. I am friends with those who have no friends, so we invite them to come to the Salvation Army,” he said.

With his years-long experience working with the Salvation Army, Pierre-Louis now holds the rank of captain with the organization.

His journey has taken him to the organization’s Jamaica Citadel Corps, where he started working at the outpost in 2020. He said joining that outpost at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and assisting the Southeastern Queens community was a humbling experience. “We didn’t stop a day to serve. People needed to be served, a lot of people were afraid but we were on the frontlines as first responders,” he said.

Pierre-Louis said that throughout his time working with the organization, a handful of meaningful experiences have stuck with him.

He recalled a moment last year when he and other volunteers served a man desperate for food. The man arrived at the Jamaica Citadel Corps Family Center on a Sunday, a time when officers are normally engaged in spiritual services. Pierre-Louis said they stopped their service and immediately welcomed the man with open arms. “He was diabetic, his sugar was low and he needed something to eat immediately. I remember how he was dressed; his jacket was worn out…. He wasn’t dressed for the weather and he was very anxious. But as we served him, and when he left the building, he left with a smile on his face,” he said.

Pierre-Louis stressed how important the Salvation Army has been in transforming his life. He said that one thing he wants people to know is that everyone is welcome to receive aid and also volunteer with the organization. “We welcome everyone, we love everyone and we treat everyone with respect, love and dignity. I want them to know that we need their support to continue to provide the services that we are providing to the community,” he said.

The Salvation Army is an evangelical Christian non-profit organization founded by William Booth in 1865. The organization serves some of the most vulnerable populations internationally and provides an array of services, including disaster relief, job training, food pantries and veteran services.