The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 31, 2014

Mission statement

Salvation Army feeds souls, meets real needs

SHENANGO VALLEY — As he works through his days as the director of the Sharon Salvation Army, Capt. Scott Flanders said he’s getting a sense that people recognize the organization as something “valuable” but without any clear idea of what it does.

He’d like to change that.

“I went to see the city manager in Sharon last week to ask if I could put up some signs directing people to the Salvation Army building on Fisher Hill, and he told me didn’t really know what all we did. And that isn’t the first time I’ve heard that,” Flanders said.

Most recognized for its bell-ringing, Red Kettle drive before Christmas, the Salvation Army is primarily a church, with outreach efforts that shelter, clothe and feed people, he said.

With an annual budget of about $700,000, the money raised in the kettle drive is about one- tenth of what it needs to operate locally, and Flanders hopes if he can get the word out about all the programs, residents may be willing to offer support year-round.

The Salvation Army has been in the Shenango Valley for more than 100 years, Flanders said, and he thinks its reputation has been passed down between generations.

“I think people know that their parents supported the Salvation Army and that we’re a good organization, so they support us. But if you asked them what we do, I don’t know how many could tell you,” he said.

Just one example of a community program that is gaining popularity, he said, is the senior center programs and meals held on Fridays. Between 80 and 120 seniors come for the free breakfast, an informational program, a free lunch and some time spent on crafts. Local artist Don Gold also teaches painting there on occasion.

Doris Salatino, 81, of Sharon, said she has the utmost respect for the Salvation Army, which has helped her many times since her husband died. “I’m a Catholic, but the Catholic church is a little too hard for me to get into, with the steps and everything. But I really enjoy the services here. And at the end of the month when money is tight, they’ve often helped tide me over. They’ve helped with my electric bill, too. This is a great organization,” she said.

Bonnie Watt, another senior who regularly attends senior citizen events, said she comes for the fellowship. “But it’s so much fun, too. There’s square dancing, bingo, lunches. They provide a great service here.”

Flanders said the church asks for a $2 donation but if people can’t pay, it’s no problem. The Shenango Valley Shuttle Service makes multiple trips to the building in Sharon, he said, and that is how most participants get there. But the Salvation Army will also pick them up, he added.

Donations from Giant Eagle, Donofrio’s and Panera Bread provide bread for seniors to take home each Friday, he added.

The senior program, however, is just one of the services offered in the many rooms that once housed an elementary school. In progress is a nursery, to be used during Sunday worship services. One is a lounge for teens, with televisions and movies and comfortable couches.

A boys’ and girls’ clubs for children between 6 and 12 also have their own space in the 38,000-square-foot building.

Some of the ministry’s budget comes from the thrift store, also housed in the former school. Volunteers and staff run the store and take in about $40,000 a year. Open most weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the store sells appliances, furniture, dishes and clothes. Donations are welcome, Flanders said.

Another part of the budget goes toward sending some 60 children from all over the Shenango Valley to Camp Allegheny each summer in Ellwood City. “Camp is a huge thing. We don’t advertise because word-of-mouth brings us so many that are interested,” he said.

But funding all the social service programs gets tougher each year, Flanders said, as costs rise and donations stay level. Right now, he said, he has no idea how he’s going to pay a $6,000 heating bill.

“That’s for one month. For March. I couldn’t believe it. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.

The rough winter has left him struggling to keep up. Gas bills started at nearly $1,000 in January and have gone up every month since, he said.

“Something’s going to have to give. I just don’t know what,” he said.

 

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