Salvation Army sees more need, fewer donations

Levi Merz from Moab, Utah pumps up football at the Colorado National Guard Armory. The Grand Junction Salvation Army is using the Armory for its food and toy drives. Merz was volunteering with his mom Shawnti Wells

The Salvation Army caseload in Grand Junction for needy families is outpacing last year’s total by at least 300, not counting emergency cases.

The organization has 1,300 families this year as regular cases. Last year, there were 1,000 regular cases and 50 emergency cases. Officials anticipate at least 50 to 100 more emergency cases before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, it is facing what officials say are dwindling toy donations, and the occasional check for $5,000 or $10,000 isn’t coming in, either.

As a result, The Salvation Army will stress more nonmonetary services in 2009 and likely will cut some rental assistance, said Maj. Alfred Parker, administrator for the local Salvation Army, which this year celebrated its 100th anniversary.

For now, Christmas is the immediate concern, Parker said.

“The real hole we have right now is obviously the toys,” he said. “While they are coming in, we’re afraid there may not be quite enough. We’ve already spent thousands of the Red Kettle money on the toys. We may have to go out and buy more. And that’s fine. That’s what the Red Kettle money’s there for.”

The money from the Red Kettle campaign usually goes toward food and some toys. When Christmas is over, it is used for assistance with winter relief. If money is left, it goes to general operating expenses, Parker said.

Parker said he started noticing a difference this year at Thanksgiving.

“It was surprising how many families we had at the Thanksgiving dinner,” he said. “I talked to a couple of people there, and they said, ‘I’ve just never been in this situation before.’

“We’re well up on the Christmas boxes, too. People are just struggling now. And that’s what we’re here for.”

Meanwhile, The Salvation Army in Denver, where demand has also increased, is considering cuts because donations have dropped.

Parker said his office will look closely at the budget next year and shift gears slightly.

“I suspect there would be less rental assistance,” he said. “The main thing we will stress in ’09 is our welfare-to-work program, a training program. The less things we have to pay cash for and the more things we get donated, it impacts the budget less. I don’t know where the budget is going to end up next year. We’re down some, but we’re not going to let anyone go hungry next year.”

Red Kettle donations this year as a whole are down, Parker said.

The local organization usually works from a budget of $3 million, including all four Salvation Army stores. Money raised from stores supports the adult rehabilitation program.


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