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Cook of the Week: Salvation Army’s Thelma Bush
Mother’s lessons now help community
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At the Salvation Army, Thelma Bush cooks lunch every weekday for people in need. She started the Feeding Program in 2006. (Bulletin photo by Vicky Morrison)
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

By VICKY MORRISON - Bulletin Accent Writer

The Salvation Army’s second in command, Sgt. Major Thelma Bush, is busy. She just got through the Salvation Army’s Feeding Program’s highest traffic time of year, which stretches from October through December.

These days, “people really need the extra help with the economy,” said Bush, the Feeding Program director. “With Martinsville ... the unemployment rate is so high and you have so many people in need of not just stuff but spiritually. You’re really in the battle.”

Bush’s hectic life is understandable once you add in the other job titles she has: Core Sgt. Major of the church, Home League chaplain, Christian education director and chaplain. She considers the chapel at the Salvation Army her church, she said. Even with all of the titles, Bush still calls herself a servant for the kingdom.

She was hired to create the Feeding Program. The program provides lunch on weekdays for people in need.

The program was implemented on Sept. 11, 2006, a day Bush recalls vividly. Only one person came, she said. However, “Each day it (attendance) kept increasing,” she said.

Bush, who lives in Fieldale with her husband Michael, provides “wholesome, nutritious meals,” she said. This is the case with the Youth Program, which she also helps with occasionally. Bush, 52, said she has a “passion for kids.”

In the Youth Program, Bush teaches children how to cook and about proper diets. She instructs the children on how to work together and enforces the need to clean up after themselves.

Bush must recruit new volunteers for general purposes and for cooking, too. To Bush, her coworkers are like brothers and sisters. “It’s a friendly bunch around here. It’s like family,” she said.

The Kinston, N.C., native grew up around her mother’s cooking, which was three meals a day for 13 children. Bush was the youngest of her siblings.

She remembers trying her hand at cooking at age 6, when her mother let her bake biscuits. Although they came out “lumpy and bumpy,” the experience made her want to cook more, Bush said.

Bush’s mother was an “amazing cook” who taught Bush so much about food preparation that culinary school was not a job requirement for her, even though it would be normally for the Salvation Army. From her mother, Bush learned to never waste anything, which comes in handy with the tight-budgeted kitchen of the charity.

Today, Bush cannot say that she has a favorite meal: “A great cook doesn’t,” because “there’s no one perfect thing.”

Bush says she uses “a lot of butter” but is trying to gradually improve her eating by giving up desserts, in particular her favorite sweet, chocolate. During the summer, Bush tries to use fresh ingredients. Often the Salvation Army relies on donations of food for their meals.

Bush hopes that the Salvation Army will start growing a community garden. She hopes that the leftover produce they have could be canned and sold at the farmer’s market.

Bush has no favorite recipes but sometimes consults her Better Homes and Gardens cook book if she needs a new one. Bush also looks for recipes in magazines and sometimes asks at restaurants how they cook something.

For Salvation Army meals, Bush does not follow recipes so much as go by experience.

This does not mean, however, that Bush does not use the proper amounts of ingredients. “A good cook uses precise measurements,” said Bush.

The Salvation Army employees and volunteers generate menus according to what food is on hand, even if the ingredients are not ideal in amount or variety. “I create new dishes all the time. I just improvise. I use what’s on hand,” Bush said.

Bush has two children, Brad Hatch of Washington D.C. and Lauren Moye of Kinston, and three grandchildren.


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