The Salvation Army of Lewis County, based in Centralia, kicked off a fundraising effort Thursday morning to raise $80,000 by Christmas Eve, essential funds the nonprofit organization needs to serve community members down on their luck.
“The Salvation Army … has proven to be an incredible community partner over and over and over again,” Centralia Mayor Kelly Smith Johnston said Thursday, pointing to the organization’s aid for residents evicted from the former OYO Hotel and the Blakeslee Junction homeless encampment this year. “(The) Salvation Army has been our community partner helping people in need, and helping our community flourish the entire time I’ve been in office, and longer than that.”
The “Love Beyond Breakfast” fundraiser kicked off the annual Red Kettle drive, with 82 cents of every dollar going to help address community needs, according to the Salvation Army.
The breakfast fundraiser brought together community leaders, including Smith Johnston, who emphasized the power of hope in boosting long-term outcomes.
It was a message Salvation Army Captain Gin Pack reiterated.
“We believe that when there is still hope, there is still the possibility of change,” Gin Pack said. “And where there is hope, we can change the direction of an entire community.”
Smith Johnston referred to her copy of the Oxford Handbook of Hope, a comprehensive book that studies the impact, effect and science of hope, and said, “hope is the number one predictor of whether we flourish in life.”
“I’m also here to encourage you to give to what the Salvation Army does, because those dollars stay in our community, and they matter,” Smith Johnston said. “They really, really matter. I see it every day in the work that’s happening here.”
In the past year, the local Salvation Army has assisted more than 5,000 residents, with needs ranging from food insecurity to a lack of shelter. This includes:
• 20,968 food boxes, which combined weighed more than a million pounds
• 2,266 showers
• 4,643 hot meals
• 14,784 nights of shelter
• 660 toys
Salvation Army Centralia Captain Steven Pack praised the work of the nonprofit’s weeklong summer camp, where he said kids can “focus on being kids.” According to Steven Pack, the camp offers a break to the more than 200 students in the Centralia area experiencing homelessness.
“They don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from. They’re not worried about where they’re going to sleep that night,” Steven Pack said. “But they get to have fun, they get to have food, and they get to make friends that they’re going to spend lifetimes with.”
This year, the organization launched the “Pathway to Hope” program, designed to break the cycle of poverty and crisis by addressing the “root causes.” Launched in May, the program assisted a single mother named Rose, who has transitioned from living in temporary housing at a hotel to finding permanent housing, the first goal on her pathway.
After refurbishing the apartment, Rose found full-time employment near her workplace and her daughter’s school. Her next goals include reunification with two of her children and continuing to study nursing.
Rose’s daughter has started gymnastics, and her mother plans to visit for the holiday season.
“These were the things that she had not even imagined for herself or her family when I met Rose,” said Carmel Snyder, a coordinated entry lead at the Salvation Army who shared Rose’s story. “She sees a future beyond what she saw for herself a year ago. Rose has found her place within the community, and purpose in her life.”
Donations to the Salvation Army can be made at https://centralia.salvationarmy.org/ or red kettles throughout the county, including Sunbird’s Avenue Espresso, Walmart, Safeway, post offices, Fuller's Shop’n Kart and Brenda's Market in Onalaska.
The Salvation Army also needs volunteers for the red kettles, ringing the organization’s distinctive red bells. For more information, go to registertoring.com
“The Salvation Army of Centralia is committed to seeing other people, whatever their need is, and trying to meet their needs,” Steve Pack said.