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"Suit Up and Show Up"

Sharon Cash and Extraordinary Compassion

Article by Kit Garrott

Photography by Sarah Bell, Sélavie Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

Since 2001, Sharon Cash dedicated herself to the mission of Memphis’ Salvation Army. In January, the organization held a retirement celebration where attendees witnessed an endless spring of admiration for her and recounted memories and shared successes. “I'm grateful that people like me, but I'm even more humbled that I like me," says Sharon. "There were times that I couldn't look in the mirror.” it is abundantly clear from the moment you encounter Sharon that she is living out her purpose. She sees people, deeply connects with them, and never gives up on them. Since the beginning of her career, Sharon has, as she says, “suit up and show up” for those who come to the Salvation Army.

Sharon’s attitude towards life was born out of intense challenges growing up. “We have to acknowledge on the front end that most behavior at 30 is influenced by what happened between 0 and 18 years old,” she says. In the late 1990s, Sharon returned to school - over 20 years after finishing high school - completing her undergraduate degree from Christian Brothers University and two master’s degrees in psychology and leadership. 

As a recovering addict herself with years of sobriety to her credit, Sharon possesses the empathy required to succeed as Executive Social Services Director at the Purdue Center of Hope for the past 22 years. During that time she also helped establish a transitional housing program called Renewal Place. “We address mental health, addiction and domestic violence and see what happens,” she says. Along with her team, she created an environment that opens its doors to women and their children, ready to love them no matter where they come from. “You have to have a village to heal with your children,” Sharon asserts. “We create the village.” 

Sharon summarizes her time with the Salvation Army as one of “extraordinary compassion." Upon entering the Perdue Center, you are enveloped by the hope that fills the rooms. The Center allows women and their children to spend up to two years there - two years to heal. The emphasis on providing ample time to aid the healing process sets the Center apart from other facilities or emergency housing programs.

Sharon believes the moments she experienced over the past 22 years were made up of miracles. “You must see the woman walking through that door. Take a moment and truly see her. Simply say, ‘Good morning, did you sleep well?’ For me, it’s always, ‘Come here, do you mind if I hug you.’,” she recounts. These are the seemingly small moments of connection that lead to changed lives. 

"We address mental health, addiction and domestic violence and see what happens.”

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