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.
The Vision is Born
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.
Narrowing the Focus
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.
First Phase of the Mobile Outreach Center - Clothing Trailer
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.
Second Phase of the Mobile Outreach Center - 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.
Purchase of Additional Vehicles
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!
Brand Sponsorship Program
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.
Solar Panels on the Shower trailer by OUC
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.
The Pandemic Begins
As we moved into 2020, we were met with the challenge of a pandemic, something which greatly affected both of our active ministries. We 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 all of our volunteers to stay away, and our outreach partners who provided other resources and services were also asked to not be present at our events.
Partnering with the City of Orlando
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 2020, but we hoped to continue these services beyond that four month period. We were able to hire four part-time employees to operate the shower trailer throughout each week, one of whom was a former homeless friend, Patrick Wood, who used to come to us for assistance before being hired. We praise God for His continued blessings and divine interventions in our organization.
The Hilton Orlando's Special Gift
After hiring employees to operate the mobile outreach center during the pandemic, we were concerned about the safety of their families to whom they would go home to every day. The Hilton Orlando graciously offered us four hotel rooms to accommodate our employees for over 90 days so that they didn't have to put their loved ones at risk. We only utilized two of those rooms, but this gift, valued at over $20,000, was a huge help in keeping our employee's families safe and putting everyone's mind at ease. We are grateful to the Hilton for their generosity and assistance to our organization during a very stressful and unchartered time.
The Life of Patrick Wood - Formerly Homeless
Before being hired by SALT, Patrick, affectionately called Pat, used to come and receive assistance. He would come to get a shower, clothing, and a meal, but he always felt like he needed to give something back for the help he received. Him and his friend, Singleton, would volunteer with us before receiving any assistance at our outreach events. They kept the showers clean in between each use and helped to organized the queue of individuals waiting to take a shower. During this time, we would compensate them for a day's work because they were a great help before we were able to hire employees.
Singleton eventually found employment and was able to move into housing, but Pat would still faithfully come to our outreach events. When we had to opportunity to hire employees to run the outreach center, Pat was a clear choice. When given the news that we wanted to hire him, he had tears in his eyes. He hadn't held a job in years, and felt honored to become an official member of the SALT team.
After working with SALT for about 3 months, Pat began having pain in his left leg that got considerably worse in a short period of time. After being gently persuaded by SALT staff and leaders, who had become like family to Pat, to see a physician, it was discovered that Pat was in stage 4 Cancer. We were all devastated by this news, especially upon discovering that he only had mere weeks or months to live. We immediately suspended him from work, but still providing him with all of his needs. Even in his poor physical health, Pat still wanted to work and it took great convincing to get him to rest and be taken care of. In a few short weeks, Pat moved into hospice where he passed way quietly with one of our SALT leaders, Palmetta, holding his hand.
Our time with our brother Pat was unexpectedly short, but during that time he came to mean so much to us and taught us many valuable lessons. He reminded us that to be family, you didn't need to be related by blood, you just need to have a love for each other that transcends the mistakes of our past and accepts us for who we are, children of God filled with value and infinite potential. He taught us to not "read a book by it's cover", to be willing to give someone another chance, and to always be willing to work hard and do our part to help others no matter what struggles we ourselves are going through. The transformation that we saw in Pat over the time that we knew him was apparent, and it was encouraging to realize that we were truly "changing bodies and souls" through the work that we do at SALT Outreach.
Partnering with the Christian Service Center
SALT is a mobile outreach center, and at times it is difficult to find a location to set up all of our trailers and vehicles. Around September of 2020, the Christian Service Center proposed to partner with SALT and allow us to set up our mobile outreach center on their property, free of charge. They also provided us with the use of their buildings for various purposes such as storage of clothing and shoe donations, hair-cutting stations, and washer and dryer hookups. They also do not charge us for the use of their water and electricity. It is partnerships like this that enable organizations like ours and the Christian Service Center to utilize its resources efficiently and provide support and assistance to those in need as effectively as possible. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Christian Service Center as we continue to partner with them.
$250,000 Grant from the City of Orlando
The City of Orlando extended it's contract with SALT into September, and in October SALT was awarded a grant of $250,000 by the City of Orlando to continue providing services and resources to our residentially-challenged friends for one full year. Due to more funds being available, we have been able to hire more employees to run the daily operations of the mobile outreach center, and added Wednesdays to our Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday schedule. Additionally we have been able hire two part-time social workers and bring on six UCF social work interns to provide case management services to our homebound friends. This is a huge blessing as we are better able to connect them with other resources and organizations and thus get them closer to not being homeless in a more efficient way.
Third Phase of the Mobile Outreach Center - Laundry Trailer
In late October of 2020, with help from the City of Orlando, Simply Healthcare Plans (new corporate sponsor), and many generous private donors from the community, we were able to place the 50% down-payment on the next phase of our mobile outreach center, a laundry trailer. The laundry trailer, valued at $74,000, will be outfitted with 6 industrial sized washers and dryers. These 12 units will allow us to provide our homebound friends, and potentially our low-income neighbors with the ability to have clean laundry at no cost to them. Being able to launder our friends' clothing is important because it better utilizes clothing and monetary donations. The cleaned clothes will be able to be worn over and over, instead of being thrown away once they become soiled beyond use.
We made the final payment in March of 2021 and on April 15th, National Laundry Day, we had the ribbon cutting ceremony for this first of its kind (in Orlando Florida) laundry trailer. Buddy Dyer, Mayor of Orlando, came out to celebrate with us and declared April 15th to be SALT (Service and Love Together) Day for the City of Orlando! The event was also attended by Commissioner Regina Hill and Commissioner Robert Stuart, as well as Roben Dunnings from Simply Healthcare Plans, all of whom shared special congratulatory words with the leaders and employees of our organization. During the ceremony we had several loads of clothing running in the washers and dryers, and it was amazing to see the immediate effects that the laundry trailer was having for our homebound friends and clients. Including the afore-mentioned individuals, the ribbon was cut by Eric Camarillo, president and founder of SALT, as well as Jonathan Blount, a community leader and advocate for the homeless population in Orlando Florida, and Shaquita, our newest employee and former client who is now no longer homeless! It was truly a day to remember and we are excited to see how the laundry services will benefit our clients moving forward.
As we continue into 2021, we ask for your continued prayers and support as we seek to continue being the light of the world and the SALT of the earth.