¡Vaya Con Dios!

When she was born at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, her father wrote her name on the forms; Loraine with one ‘R.’ He was told that was not the correct way to spell the name, but he replied, “She is not like the others, she is special.”

At five Loraine Medina, her mother and father moved from Manhattan to Ponce, on the south coast of Puerto Rico, to be close to their family.

Loraine wanted to be a veterinarian as a child. “In Puerto Rico you can have as many animals as your father will allow,” she laughs. Her laugh is a good laugh, filled with joy. She was always bringing home stray puppies; once a blind cat. There were always dogs, cats, hamsters and fish at her house. In college she chose social service work over veterinary medicine because she didn’t like math. She smiles, “I thought, you don’t need math to take care of animals, they just need love.”

Attending a summer camp, Loraine became acquainted with the Salvation Army at the age of seven. The Salvation Army became her family’s church. At sixteen she had a spiritual revelation, “God was saying I should dedicate my life to helping people through the Salvation Army and I said no way. I wanted to make money.”
After college she went to work in the corrections system, “I thought I could help somebody, make a difference in somebody’s life.” She was frustrated at maximum-security facilities, “lifers feel it doesn’t matter what they do, they’re not getting out.” She became a parole officer and found it better suited her, “You see people trying to do something with their lives and their families.” After a ten year career in corrections she was working in administration, running a prison, making a very good living.

Alone one sleepless night Loraine began thinking, “Deep in your heart, no matter how much money or success you have, you know when you are in the wrong place. I felt an emptiness. I had money, a great car, beautiful apartment and all these things, but still I was empty. I realized I wasn’t doing what the Lord wanted me to do. So I said, what do you want me to do? Show me, open the door.”

Instantly doors began to open. Within three months she was in Suffern, New York at the Salvation Army Seminary filling her emptiness. Her friends all thought she was crazy but it didn’t matter, she was happy.

Captain Loraine Medina now heads up the Salvation Army in Hudson. It’s here she finds fulfillment by giving to others. The Christmas season is of course her busiest time of year. You’ve seen the Salvation Army Christmas kettles, the bell ringers, raising money to help those less fortunate, but her work never really stops.
As a pastor, she conducts two Sunday services, one in English and one in Spanish. Monday night she teaches Spanish to a group of adults. Tuesday night she’s a counselor at a juvenile facility. Thursday evenings it’s a supper club for a group of twenty kids age seven to twelve and of course daily social service work is abundant, providing assistance to people in the community. She’s also responsible for sending twenty kids to summer camp this month, free.

“Last Christmas I learned there were a lot of working people in our community who could use help so I decided to do something about it,” she says. Captain Medina organized and opened the “Friendly Kitchen.” Every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 to 1:00, with the help of volunteers from the Trinity Methodist Church and donations from businesses and organizations, free meals are served to twenty people. Loraine smiles, “I hope to reach forty by Christmas.”

Last September 17, Captain Medina was called to duty in lower Manhattan She worked in the morgue. “My first Christmas in the States I worked everyday from 7:00 to 3:00 at the Salvation Army kettle in front of the World Trade Center. On the 17th it was hard to believe what I was seeing, it was a bad dream. What do you say to someone who’s lost a loved one? I learned that often a shoulder is what is necessary.”

Loraine recently attended the Closing Ceremony, “At first people were silent, then someone in the crowd began to applaud and suddenly everybody was applauding the workers and all they had accomplished. It was very moving.”

“What’s your dream?”

“To see a bigger Salvation Army building, to do more for the community, operate the Friendly Kitchen five days a week, take fifty kids to summer camp, have more programs for kids.” The ideas, vision and energy of this happy and delightful woman know no boundaries. Her father was right she is special. “I’m going to stay a long time in Hudson. There is a reason why I’m here, I have a lot to give here.” She pauses and grins, “One day when I retire maybe I’ll volunteer at a veterinary clinic, when I’m an old lady that is.”

We’ll talk next time From The Road.

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