Salvation Army Major Uses his “Gift of Fluency” to Help People in Need

HCRI stuttering therapy enabled Major C. Mark Brown, Salvation Army chief development officer, to effectively advance the organization’s mission.

The Salvation Army’s red kettles and bell ringers have become icons of the holiday season, as the nearly 150-year-old organization seeks donations from retail shoppers to support its social-aid and disaster-relief services that benefit nearly 30 million people across the country.

Behind the seasonal red-kettle program, as well as The Salvation Army’s other key development initiatives, is an administrative organization of officers, employees, and volunteers. These individuals spend each day creating awareness and appealing for donations to support the year-round work of the second largest charity in the U.S.

Asking for support is a responsibility that Major C. Mark Brown is proud to do. He serves as The Salvation Army’s chief development officer for the Atlanta-based Southern Region, which is comprised of 15 states. After more than 30 years with The Salvation Army, Brown has seen first-hand the results of the organization’s charitable work that extends across the U.S. and to 123 other countries.

Yet, even with his tenure and commitment to The Salvation Army, Brown finds it a challenge to make presentations and ask for financial assistance. It’s not because he is shy or hesitant to request money for his worthy cause. It’s because Brown stutters when he talks and has endured this limiting condition for all of his life.

Brown is not alone. According the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 66 million people worldwide suffer from the effects of stuttering, with three million living in the U.S. The condition can impair social growth, hinder educational and career aspirations, and produce emotional scars that may last a lifetime. For someone who is required to do public speaking, meet with donors and the media, and manage a large team, Brown knows all too well stuttering’s pervasive impact.

“Stuttering is always on my mind. At the same time, I’ve always been determined never to allow the way I talk to stop me from doing what I want to do in life,” Brown said. “Most important, I never want the way I speak to reflect negatively on The Salvation Army and the great work we do,” he explained.

Brown’s motivation and commitment to The Salvation Army drove him to seek treatment about 15 years ago at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – , a non-profit stuttering research and treatment center. Roanoke, Virginia-based HCRI is a pioneer in behavioral stuttering therapy with experience in a wide range of stuttering types and severities. During his intensive treatment, Brown learned how to replace faulty muscle contractions that cause stuttering with new muscle movements that enable fluent speech.

“HCRI really understands what goes wrong with speech when people stutter – and how to fix it. This puts people in control when they talk without resorting to a mechanical or electronic crutch,” Brown explained. “It was the first therapy that worked for me. It was a true gift.”

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., there is no cure for stuttering. “Yet, after researching thousands of stuttering cases, we developed and continually refine a physically based treatment system that helps clients like Mark reconstruct muscle actions that drive movements of the tongue, lip, jaw, and vocal folds to enable fluent speech.”

To help clients maintain long-term fluency, HCRI provides ongoing clinician support, refresher courses, annual reunions, and a range of fluency practice tools, including the center’s web-based software program and a proprietary app that runs on iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. Brown uses these tools and returns to HCRI every 3 to 5 years to keep his stuttering in check.

With HCRI stuttering therapy, Brown performs his Salvation Army responsibilities with greater confidence and effectiveness. He works continually to manage his stuttering. “I now have the tools I need to maintain fluency for the long term. Best of all, I am better able to fulfill the mission of The Salvation Army. The ability to speak fluently is a joy and a gift.”

So during the holiday season, when The Salvation Army red kettle serves as a beacon of hope for rebuilding lives, Brown uses his fluent speech to remind people to give generously to help those in need. According to Brown, gifts come in all forms and sizes – and can make a year-round impact. He knows. He uses his “gift of fluency” every day to make lives better for others.

About HCRI

Hollins Communications Research Institute was founded by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Under Dr. Webster’s direction, Roanoke, Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of innovative, scientifically based therapy approaches.

The Institute offers 17 stuttering therapy programs annually, each of which lasts 12 days. HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,000 people, aged 9 to 73, from across the U.S. and 47 other countries. Clients come from all walks of life and include broadcaster John Stossel of Fox News; Annie Glenn, wife of Senator and Astronaut John Glenn; as well as athletes, teachers, engineers, students, doctors, military personnel, a supreme court nominee, business professionals, police officers, actors, and even royalty. For more information about HCRI, visit or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032 (toll-free), 540-265-5650, or

About The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 130 years in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. Eighty-two cents of every dollar spent is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to