As a young woman, fashion model Kimberly Felder appeared in two magazines and a TV commercial.
“I went from a fashion model to a drug addict,” says Kimberly, who today works for the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Philadelphia.
Kimberly came from a loving, religious family (her grandfather was a pastor), but because of drugs and alcohol, she found herself living on the streets.
“I went the other way,” she says. “I was rebellious and I did my own thing.”
During her darkest days, Kimberly lived in abandoned houses and ate out of the trash. She would go to a nearby church, sit in a pew, and cry, asking God to take her life.
“I was hurting, ” she says. “My life had become totally unmanageable.”
On the night of Feb. 13, 1994, snow was falling when Kimberly called her Aunt Mary, who agreed to take her in, as long as she sought help the next day. Kimberly agreed and, after a 30–day stay in detox, she entered the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) program in Philadelphia.
Kimberly was assigned to the ARC’s sorting room.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to stay,” she says. “Prayer was the key that kept me there. My prayer was, ‘Lord, let me die or show me how to live.’ ”
Kimberly says her aunt always told her that when she got anxious, she should pray Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer.
“I prayed. I stayed. It got better for me.”
Kimberly not only earned her GED at the ARC but also was soon offered a job dispatching ARC trucks. She later became a house resident supervisor, a post she held until 1998.
“I stayed because I was afraid to go out in the world again,” she says. “Once I started to get stronger, I wanted to stay that way. There’s nothing like being clean and walking with God and having friends and being able to be in touch with your family.”
Kimberly worked in several retail management positions after leaving the ARC and always returned at Christmas to stand kettles as a form of payback to the Army.
When the Kroc center opened in Philadelphia, Kimberly volunteered. Her effort eventually landed her a job as a staff assistant for the corps officers.
Kimberly also leads Sunbeams and works with pre–teen youth.
“My life is different and has been transformed because I have a passion to help other people,” she says. “It comes natural for me now, whether I’m on the clock or off.
“I talk with other young mothers who might be going through some troubles in their marriage. I have a moral obligation, a covenant I made to God years ago, that I will always give my time to help someone else.”
Kimberly credits several people with helping her along her journey, including Majors Earl and Deloris (Dee) Schaffer, now retired, and Majors Robert and Gayle Miga. “They were the first to believe in me,” she says. “Being ‘Saved to Serve’ is my lifelong journey.”
Kimberly is a senior soldier and attends the Kroc Center corps with her two boys and husband. As an usher, she greets people on Sunday mornings.
“I have visited and even joined other churches, but the teaching and the love has been nothing like the love that I get from The Salvation Army,” she says.
Kimberly sees herself as someone who has been through enough battles that she can help others.
“I just know I never have to live that way again,” she says. “However God needs to use me to be a preventive or supportive measure for someone else’s life, I want to be that voice. I want to be that living example that there’s a way out—and it’s not suicide.”
This article was written by Robert Mitchell for Good News.