FARMINGTON — Farmington's Salvation Army has undergone some changes, and the organization hopes to get more people involved in its mission.
"We're implementing a lot more programs for the community, such as outreach to families and nursing homes, and are trying to become more of what the Salvation Army is supposed to be about," said Rosa Summers, who serves as the nonprofit's core assistant. "We also want to get the word out that we are here to help year-round, not just at Christmastime."
The Salvation Army operates a food bank and gives qualifying individuals and families food throughout the year. While they receive help from the government and ECHO Food Bank, Summers said donations are constantly needed.
Also adding to the food shortfall, many of the organizations that normally partner with Salvation Army to hold food drives are not planning to contribute this year.
"Some of the schools have told us they have to concentrate on specific families who are in need, so they are unable to do the drive this year," Summers said. "We're calling everyone, but many (partners) have backed out."
The agency also did not receive its typical United Way funding this year, and last year's holiday kettle donations were significantly lower, probably due to the economy, Summers said. All of those factors have left the agency about $18,000 in debt.
And the number of people seeking help from the Salvation Army has dramatically increased. The agency normally serves 700 people a month, but now about 200 additional clients a month are seeking help.
To qualify for food assistance from Salvation Army, an individual's income cannot exceed $1,772 a month, and for families, household income cannot exceed $3,631 per month.
While other food assistance programs are available, the Salvation Army fills an important gap, serving all of San Juan County. They also provide help to those who do not qualify to receive food from programs such as ECHO, including about 80 local senior citizens.
In addition to food, the Salvation Army collects clothing, toys, school supplies and backpacks for the needy.
"Now that it's starting to get cold, we're having requests from people for jackets and blankets," Summers said. "Many people don't have adequate heating, so they're also asking us for heaters and wood, which we're able to provide, but only if we have them in stock."
Summers said this year, the Salvation Army is making an effort to start earlier to prepare for its holiday-time free meals and donations.
"We need volunteers to help with Thanksgiving and Christmas," Summers said. "We're expecting about 1,000 people to come eat for Thanksgiving, and we need volunteers who are willing to help us do things like de-bone the turkeys, cook them, clean and serve."
Summers said 100 turkeys are needed, so the agency is also hoping for turkey donations.
In the past, volunteers were told to show up to help with events like the Thanksgiving dinner, but Summers said her organization is now asking people to sign up as soon as possible, so the volunteer process can become more streamlined and specific jobs can be assigned.
In addition to donations and volunteers, Summers said families and individuals who need help can contact the Salvation Army beginning Oct. 14 to apply for assistance.
For the past three months, the agency has also been under new leadership in the form of husband-wife team, Lts. Dale and Cathy Simon. The Simons have 14 years of ministry experience and are recent graduates of a Salvation Army seminary school in California.
Dale Simon said the couple is eager to learn about resources in the community and to identify ways to help more.
"We would like to be more involved with things like disaster relief," he said. "Instead of just doing the regular activities and preparing the food boxes, we want to get out there with the public, and we want to call out to others who also want to provide help."