By Valerie P. Johnson
Twenty-seven year old former athlete Nikki Kennedy of Macon is the picture of the All-American girl; and she lived a life as such for many years. She graduated from a private school where she ran track, becoming state champion in the long jump, triple jump and the 400 meter race. She also made history by become the only female wrestler at First Presbyterian Day School.
After graduating from high school, Nikki worked at Victoria’s Secret from 2004 – 2009 until she was forced to quit her job to recuperate from a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) which she had sustained in a basketball game. Part of her pain management required her to take doctor prescribed OxyContin. Not long after into her recovery, she developed another health issue: addiction to narcotic pain medicine. And when she could no longer receive prescriptions from her doctor, she learned how to get it on her own. This was the beginning of a series of ill-conceived decisions. What seemed like a harmless decision to steal a couple of cans of paint to spruce up her kitchen and bathroom landed her in jail for burglary. While she was out on bond, the judge allowed her to take a family store job which The Salvation Army in Macon offered her.
It was during Nikki’s work at the Salvation Army family store and helping others that she became a Christian and began to live the life that was meant for her. Seeing so many clients in need opened her eyes to just how blessed she had been. These clients represented a small percentage of the 31% of a 91,351 Macon population living below the poverty line. After being assisted by Family Emergency Services, families would receive food orders and clothing vouchers for clothing from the family store. Since September 2011 until the present 982 families received help from the Salvation Army Family Emergency Services for food and other basic needs.
The Macon Salvation Army addresses food insecurity and other urgent needs of the community through its Family Emergency Services, homeless shelter and rehabilitation program, family store, emergency and disaster services and counseling ministries. Nikki became part of her community’s solution when she became a shield for needy families through The Salvation Army. Her own physical pain and method of dealing with it brought her to a point in life of realizing that many other people in her community suffered as well and that their paths would meet at The Salvation Army’s ministries to help each other move past their pain.