Tuesday Aug 31 2010
Spare some change" Something to eat" How about for the Salvation Army"
By: Lien Hoang
The church’s pantry is at five percent of capacity
Don’t be surprised to see business suits among the people grabbing a free meal at the Salvation Army. In the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, some of the least likely members of society have been turning to the organization for help, says Captain Chris Aird, the Roseville Corps Officer. “It’s a sign of the times,” Aird said. Times are such that more are in need, fewer are giving, and the Army’s pantry hovers so close to empty, it might have to start turning people away. The amount of food left comes out to about five percent of what’s needed, and on Monday, Aird said the Army gave out its last food box. Spokesperson Julie Hughes said she hasn’t heard of food supplies getting that low at any other office. She oversees 28 Army locations across Northern California and Nevada, of which 10 to 15 give out food, but “food boxes are kind of Roseville’s specialty.” The branch, which serves most of Placer County, provides 400 boxes per month. When Aird arrived more than three years ago, it was 70 boxes a month. Meals, too, have risen. As recently as a month ago, the Salvation Army on Lincoln Street was feeding 150 people per sitting on Fridays and Saturdays. Now, Aird said, the number is up to 200. More than ever, that increased need comprises people who never thought they’d be walking into a church for assistance. “More often than not people are coming in crying,” Aird said, because the Salvation Army is their last resort. Hughes said that it’s not just the homeless who drop in, but even people with luxury vehicles and sometimes jobs that just aren’t paying as much anymore. “The landscape has changed a lot,” she said. While the recession plays a big role – particularly its effect on Placer County’s housing market – Hughes added that supplies are low also because it’s summer. Compared to the winter holidays, this time of year is less eventful. Last year, too, the Army put out a similar call for public help. Donations allow the Army to offer food, but also hot showers, counseling, and temporary relief from utility bills and rent payments. Many people just need help staying afloat in the economic storm, but Aird is not naive. He knows others simply “want to be on the system,” and his staff tries to prevent dependence by posting job opportunities regularly. Just as the down-and-out rely on the Army, the Army stays in operation by relying on other groups, such as the Placer Food Bank and Raley’s Food For Families. But mainly, Aird said he is looking to the public to open its heart and wallet. People can pitch in by making direct donations of food or money to the Army. Or they can support events like Saturday’s Labor of Love, a 20-mile trip around Folsom Lake, where people can register to bike, run, or walk to raise money for the Army. But really, it’s not for the Army, Aird said. He called his organization a “vessel” for people to help other people. So when food is low, he said, “the Salvation Army doesn’t have needs, the community has needs.” Lien Hoang can be reached at email@example.com.