Clyde Beal: Salvation Army has served for over 150 years
How often have we driven past the Salvation Army on 3rd Avenue without the slightest notion of the community support going on inside the building? If we do happen to glance at the building, most of us quickly have that age old image of shivering bell ringers standing outside of businesses collecting money during the holiday season.
By the way, those bell ringers are volunteers. Were you aware that 80 percent of the Salvation Army’s annual budget comes out of those holiday kettles? It’s their hope that your change helps make a change. And when you read what they do with those donations, you’re going to be surprised.
Lieutenant Liz Blusiewicz is an eight year veteran at the Salvation Army who came here from the Charleston, WV detachment. She has been acting commander of operations at the Huntington location for the last two years. She was most gracious to set time aside for this interview with minimum notice.
“We have activities going on here most of the time,” said Blusiewicz. “We have always helped families with utilities, food baskets and other necessities year round. Because of that help, we have incorporated a new nationwide program called Pathway of Hope whose main focus is families with children.
The goal of this program is to break generational poverty. Many children within these low income families learn from their parents to become dependent on agency assistance rather than becoming independent and self-supporting. They learn it because that’s what they see their parents do. We offer life skills and assistance in finding employment to break that mindset. This is just one area that we are currently active in.”
Lt. Blusiewicz talked about several other programs that keep the lights on after many businesses have closed for the day.
“Kids need a safe non-judgmental place to become a part of,” she said. “We offer that here through our two hour weekly youth program; a time that provides education in a social climate under adult supervision with a hot meal. Children are selected from these classes to attend a week long summer camp free of charge in Hedgesville, WV. Camp Tomahawk offers everything from crafts to paddle boats, fishing, water sports and even a zip line.”
Tuesdays at the Salvation Army will find adults from 18 to 88 reading and discussing the bible from 5:306:30. All are welcome and they even provide bibles if you forgot yours.
“On Wednesday’s we do bingo for a group we call the “Golden Agers” who are 50 and over,” said Blusiewicz. “From 10:00 until noon we always have a lively hodgepodge group that has a great time. Of course there’s always plenty to eat.”
Did you know that the Salvation Army has meals on wheels? They call it a Canteen and it’s used for the good of many in the community. One area of usage is responding to fire emergencies.
“The Canteen is driven and operated by our volunteers,” said Blusiewicz. “We provide water, snacks and coffee for firefighters when responding to emergencies. We also take the Canteen loaded with food to the Marcum Terrace apartments once a week usually on Sunday afternoons. It’s really enlightening to see people sit together and share a meal in lighthearted conversation. Food is a great way to bring people together. It’s also a great time to be available to anyone who wants to talk about coming to our bible classes or questions about spiritual issues. We do this because we honestly do care. This brings to mind a few more mind sets we have at the Salvation Army; you shouldn’t expect anyone to listen if they have an empty stomach. That blends well with another thought we subscribe to; soup, soap and salvation.”
This brings up another service at the Salvation; if they are open you may come in off the street for a hot shower.
For over 20 years the Salvation Army has spearheaded the angel tree program during the Christmas season. Last year alone over 1,500 kids from hundreds of families received at least 3 toys and some clothing. A program operated by volunteers who sort, pack and distribute these items to each home. They are appropriately labeled Santa’s Elves.
“Our Christmas kettles that we place around town provide 80 percent of our annual operating budget,” said Blusiewicz. “We rely on the generosity of others during these drives. It really does make you feel that God is involved with these collections because we couldn’t do it alone. The change we get during these drives does make a change in the lives of others.”
Volunteers do play a part in the operation of the Salvation Army. One in particular needs to be given a cheer of congratulations for a job well done. Misty Muncy has been answering the phone, doing clerical work, answering questions and helping out with the canteen truck for more than 8 years and she does it 40 hours a week.
“I do it for the love of God,” said Muncy. “Being here helps keep me busy, it provides a feeling of satisfaction when helping others and when I leave at the end of the day I feel like I’ve accomplished something special.”
If you’d like to offer some monetary support to the Salvation Army, consider this; they are the only non-profit organization providing support in disaster situations that provides 100 percent of monies collected directly to that emergency; nothing for supplies, food, administration nothing.
So the next time you drive past the Salvation Army, give a thought to the good they do. You might also consider this when the bell ringing volunteers show up with their red kettles this Christmas season.
Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.