Carlos Alequín and Omayra Velázquez were searching for wholesome, safe, activities for their two teenage children, Aleyra and Jahziel. They found that, and so much more, at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center of The Salvation Army in Guayama, Puerto Rico.
The family of four was already Christian, but when Aleyra and Jahziel moved to Guayama to be close to where their parents work (Carlos a power plant supervisor; Omayra an x-ray technician), finding youth activities—hopefully in a church—was a priority. The timing was perfect; the Alequíns arrived in Guayama soon after the Kroc Corps Center opened in 2013.
“We live a kilometer from [the Kroc] and we saw this place,” Carlos says. “One day we drove by and discovered they were about to have summer camp.”
So they signed Aleyra and Jahziel up—and the rest is history!
The Gospel Arts and Music Programs opened up a whole new world for Aleyra and Jahziel. Omayra brought the teens to Vacation Bible School, and quickly discovered that The Salvation Army was a church!
Lieutenants Melvin and Celimar Aleman were the Kroc Corps officers at the time, and Lieutenant Celimar really took the family under her wing, inviting them to other corps programs.
“Carlos and Omayra are model parents—they don’t send their children to church, they bring them!” exclaims the current corps officer, Major Juan Mercado.
The entire family is enrolled as Salvation Army soldiers, involved in corps events, as well as events across the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Division. Dad Carlos is on the Corps Council, and volunteers as something of a property supervisor. Mom Omayra leads two of the three Home Leagues at the Kroc Corps Center, and is the director/instructor for the Gospel Arts Dance Team, which includes daughter Aleyra.
But the real story here is the teens, Aleyra and Jahziel. Whatever youth program, especially when it comes to Music or Gospel Arts—they are “in!”
“We both signed up for Brass Band classes right after we finished that first summer camp, says 14-year-old Aleyra. Neither brother nor sister even picked up a brass instrument before that first Kroc Corps Summer Camp.
They both play cornet in the Kroc Corps Band, which, by the way, has an average age of 14 (the youngest is nine; the oldest is 20!), on duty every Sunday morning for worship services, and they even perform in the community.
Aleyra also loves being a member of the Gospel Arts Team, which performs worship dance as well as Praise & Worship.
“Camp activities are the highlight of each summer, and we see how the kids enjoy being here to participate in all the youth programs,” Omayra says.
And how! The girls in the Gospel Dance Team very often come straight to the Kroc after school, just so they can practice their routines. So committed are they to their craft that the dance troupe won the USA Eastern Territorial Star Search for 2017!
“This family is such a blessing to the Guayama Kroc Corps Center,” observes Major Lydia Mercado. Jahziel and Aleyra fit so well with the other young people, and the number of young people has grown because of them!”
Please continue to pray for Puerto Rico and those affected by Hurricane Maria.
—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor, USA National Publications