SALT, an acronym that stands for Service and Love Together, is a youth and young adult ministry organization that aims to exemplify the character of Christ through relational evangelism, meeting the needs of the community, equipping people for service, and fostering spiritual growth.
SALT Outreach was founded by Eric Camarillo in 2011. He had just become a Christian and wanted to make a difference in the community as well as in church he had just become a part of. However, he noticed a few things that were preventing the church from being able to effectively impact the community:
Lack of unity: There was little cooperation between the churches and it seemed that they were divided by race, worship styles, ages, etc. For the work to be finished effectively and efficiently, everyone would need to be united in service.
Singularity in community service: A lot of churches were not involved in any type of community outreach and those that were, focused their endeavors solely on evangelism instead of impacting the community as a whole.
Inconsistency in community outreach: The few community service projects that were being implemented lacked consistency. Without consistency, relationships were not being created. Christ has not called us to be one hit wonders, He has called us to create genuine friendships and to meet the needs of others.
Noticing these setbacks, Eric knew that something had to change. There needed to be something that could rally people together from all different walks of life. An organization that would focus on impactful community service projects, exemplify Christ’s method of evangelism by creating meaningful relationships with those in need in the community, and create a "space" for church and community members to work together was the answer to this dilemma.
With this vision, the first "recruitment" event was held September of 2011. Over 150 young adults who wanted to learn about service and what SALT was all about were in attendance. After sharing the vision and planting seeds of interest in those in attendance, a second event was scheduled for November of 2011.
Before the second event, Eric reached out to the young adults who had expressed different passions for ministry and shared their ideas for ministry at the first event. At the second event in November, close to 250 young adults representing many different churches were in attendance. The young adults interested in starting/leading ministries were set up with tables and they took sign ups for new volunteers. From that event, ten different ministries were created which formed the foundation for the beginning of the organization. After that time we hosted outreach events, worship services, socials, and fundraisers.
In May of 2012, we became incorporated and opened our bank account. We were then able to start accepting donations to fuel our vision for the nonprofit. In September of 2012 we had our first year anniversary event which brought about 850 people. This number of interested individuals was overwhelming as the organization had a very basic structure and was not built to handle this much interest at one time. Eric then decided to quit his job as a dental assistant and for 6 months was unemployed while completely dedicating himself to running and developing the organization.
Many testimonies came from Eric’s 6 month journey of " unemployment" because he was able to depend on God in a way he had never done so before. God always came through with the blessings he needed to be able to pay his bills while he was working to add some structure to the organization.
In 2014, SALT made a big decision to condense its ministries from ten to three. This would allow the organization to streamline its focus and to utilize its resources in a more effective way. These three ministries were:
A kids mentorship program - Two Sabbaths of every month, SALT leaders and volunteers would go to a low income neighborhood and spend time with the children to create meaningful relationships. They would play games, sing songs, tell bible stories, read books, and pray with the children.
A hospital ministry - On the alternate Sabbaths, groups would visit AdventHealth and go room to room singing songs, sharing scriptures and encouraging words, and praying for the patients and their families.
A homeless outreach - Two to three times per month, groups would go downtown to serve warm meals to those without homes or any of life's basic needs.
In 2016, Eric received his CNP (Certified Non-Profit Professional) Credential, and graduated with his social work degree which provided him with valuable knowledge to better run the organization. With the help of the leadership team, Eric was able to restructure and reorganize the leadership roles, solidified each outreach project's vision, and developed several programs that would help SALT to run even more smoothly.
Later that year the organization was able to raise $4,000 to purchase a clothing trailer that would added to the homeless outreach events held in downtown Orlando. After they would receive a meal, they would be able to receive a change of clothing as well as a pair of shoes.
In 2017, Eric realized that providing food and clothing was just not enough. A change of clothing was almost useless if those receiving the clothing were not clean. Eric and his team decided that they needed to provide showers for those receiving clothing. They began fundraising to purchase a mobile shower trailer.
About a year and a half later, after raising $40k, a mobile shower trailer outfitted with four full bathrooms was purchased and SALT launched its mobile shower ministry in August of 2018.
Our kids mentorship program came to an end at the beginning of 2018, but we hope to be able to restart it as we find new leaders to direct that outreach program. There has been so much growth and so many changes, but we have been able to reach eight years as an organization and are looking forward to making an even bigger difference in our community, by showing the character of Christ to those we serve.
In early 2019 we were blessed to be able to purchase a 15-passenger van that we use to shuttle our homebound friends to and from the outreach events (as needed, they show up on their own most of the time), as well as to transport our clothing trailer to and from the outreach site.
Most of 2019 we fundraised to purchase a truck to transport the shower trailer (we had been using volunteers with trucks or renting trucks to transport the trailer to and from events. In December 2019 we were able to purchase a 2017 GMC Sierra, which makes SALT Outreach the proud owners of 4 vehicles!
One of our major goals for 2019 was to launch a Brand Sponsorship Program, in which organizations and businesses can pledge to donate a certain amount per year to support our ministry. We were able to receive sponsorships from 3 businesses, two at the silver level (>$3k) and one at the platinum level (>$9k). We hope to receive more sponsorships so that we can achieve the goal of employing individuals to run the shower trailer on a more consistent basis and to act as case managers to provide additional assistance to our homebound friends.
In early 2020, the Orlando Utilities Commission donated the funds to have solar panels installed on the shower trailer! This now allows SALT Outreach to potentially take the shower trailer anywhere as we don't need to plug into electricity or a water supply.
As we moved into 2020, we were met with the challenge of a pandemic, something which greatly affected both of our active ministries. We have had to put a complete halt to our hospital ministry as visitation became restricted in all of AdventHealth's hospitals.
Our homebound (homeless) ministry also had to take on a different dynamic. We temporarily asked our volunteers to stay away, and our outreach partners who provided other resources have also not been able to be present at our events.
As almost all other non-profits and benefits organizations who assisted the homeless closed down due to the pandemic, the City of Orlando contracted SALT to provide showers and hygienic services to our homebound friends 3 times a week in order to help combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Up until this point we had only been operating about 3-4 times per month and we felt privileged to be able to serve our homebound friends on a more consistent basis. The contract was for April through July but we hope to continue these services beyond that four month period. We have also been able to hire four part-time employees to operate the shower trailer throughout each week, one of whom is a former homeless friend who used to come to us for assistance. We praise God for His continued blessings and divine interventions in our organization.
As we continue into 2020, we ask for you continued prayers and support as we seek to continue being the light of the world and the SALT of the earth.