Richland grad takes the helm at the Somerset Salvation Army
In her first two weeks as the new director of the Salvation Army Somerset Service Center, Tracy Rhodes has seen 40 families receive aid. She took over the position on Sept. 17.
When asked what she enjoys about the position, she modestly responded “helping people.”
“I love it actually,” she said. “It’s a lot to learn, but I’m really falling in love with the whole organization.”
In her new role, Rhodes, 43, is in charge of overseeing all of the organization’s programs, including the Christmas kettles, Treasures for Children, the group’s equivalent of Toys for Tots, and giving assistance to low-income families with everything from home-heating oil to diapers. To qualify for assistance, families have to be within 150 percent of the federal income poverty level based on household size.
A large portion of the assistance, she said, goes to struggling families and the working poor.
“The Salvation Army is always here to help,” she said. “That is what our mission is: to do the most good.”
Rhodes, a 1993 Richland High School graduate, has an associate degree in nursing from Mount Aloysius College and is currently working on a master’s degree in jurisprudence and sociology deviance from California University of Pennsylvania.
Prior to accepting the position with the Salvation Army, she worked for the Somerset County Area Agency on Aging Somerset Senior Community Service Center. She has also worked for Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center and the American Red Cross.
She said that after 10 years of working with the Red Cross, some positions were eliminated.
“I could have transferred down south,” she said, “but I wanted to keep my roots.”
Her roots run deep, too. She said her great-great grandparents were part of the Geis family, from which Geistown Borough in Cambria County takes its name.
She lives in Richland Township with her husband, Barry Kovach Jr., and three children, Matthew, Victoria and Emma.
While reporters were sitting in the Salvation Army’s office in the Daily American building waiting for an interview with Rhodes, Sonya Richards, the Salvation Army pathway of hope case manager, had many kind words to say about the new director.
“I love Tracy. I think she’s awesome,” Richards said. “She does so much.”
This year, Rhodes said, there is going to be a competition started with local groups to see who can raise the most money through the Christmas kettle program. She said the goal is to raise $6,000.
“We couldn’t do it without the donors,” she said. “The community of Somerset overall is very giving.”
Signups for the organization’s Christmas and coats programs are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 10 and 16 at the group’s office. Anyone interested in signing up needs to bring photo ID, proof of income and the birth certificates of any children. For more information about the programs, call 814-322-9232.