Salvation Army Week begins today

By Ed Brock

Ina Parker came to the Salvation Army for help, and she stayed to help others.

"My husband and I came down here after some bread," said 67-year-old Parker of Jonesboro as she was volunteering her time at the Salvation Army's Jonesboro Citadel.

On that day almost a decade ago Parker and her husband, now deceased, saw a folder on a counter about the services offered by the Salvation Army.

"We came down for the Easter service and I've been here ever since," Parker said. "I enjoy the services and I enjoy the fellowship with the people here."

Today is the first day of Salvation Army Week, a week Salvation Army board member Lou Hisel said is dedicated to educating the public about what the Army does.

"We'll be speaking at the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club," Hisel said. "We're going to be telling them about what we do."

What the Army does is help people through a variety of programs, including a food pantry, the Angel Tree program that provides presents to children of needy families at Christmas time, financial assistance with utility bills and medication and more. From 2003 to April 2004 more than 3,000 people made use of those services.

Along with the public education aspect of the week, on Tuesday night during a banquet at the VIP Complex at Clayton County International Park the Army will recognize volunteers and the people in the community who support their work.

Hisel said the Army has many goals for the future.

"We'd like to improve our food program," Hisel said. "And we'd like to make Project Share (in which, in partnership with Georgia Power, the Army provides assistance with their client's electricity bill) more accessible."

But right now the Jonesboro Citadel is looking for a little help itself.

"This particular center, because the county is always changing, our mail appeal is way down," said Salvation Army Capt. Curt Sayre, adding that the center's Christmas and Easter fundraising campaigns are also very low. "We are facing a financial crisis. We're having to dip into an emergency fund to survive the summer."

Because the county's population is often transient, meaning new residents arrive and then leave after a short time, people don't always have time to learn about the Jonesboro Citadel, either to make donations or receive aid. And donations to the Salvation Army may be affected by the recent $1.5 billion donation by McDonald's fast food restaurant heiress Joan Kroc. People may think that, because of that donation, the Salvation Army doesn't need donations as much as other charities, Capt. Natalie Sayre with the Jonesboro Citadel said.

But the Kroc donation is limited in its application. It can only be used to build up to 30 new large Salvation Army community centers and none of it can be used to subsidize existing programs.

To make a donation to the Salvation Army, call (770) 603-6258 or mail the donation to P.O. Box 757, Jonesboro, GA, 30237.