Most people associate the Salvation Army (SA) for its social services programs in helping others in need. In reality, Salvation Army is a church first that does social services well.

The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth. They sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute and hungry by meeting their physical and spiritual needs. Their philosophy was “soup, soap, salvation.”

The Salvation Army relies on volunteers to provide its social services along with developing strong partnerships with other organizations to reach others in need in the community.

Major Jennifer Cortez is the officer in charge in Los Banos. There are two part-time staff, Danielle Souza and Vivianna Salazar. Much of the work is done by volunteers.

The largest program is the food ministry. Family food bags are distributed Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon. A simple application is needed to qualify for this program. Due to the increase in demand, a family can pick up a food bag on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays. A family box is available at the end of the month.

Deliveries are made to senior citizens and disabled persons. Boxes are taken to Santa Nella and Dos Palos for pickup at a centralized location. Homeless bags with nonperishable items are available Monday to Friday from 10 to noon. A hot meal is served on Tuesdays as well for the homeless. Volunteers are needed in getting the bags and boxes ready.

For over five years, Rotary has partnered with SA to provide food for 25 students at Henry Miller School on Fridays. Due to the need, Rotary expanded these services to assist 25 students at Los Banos Elementary. Shelley and Joe May along with Cindy Pucinelli volunteer weekly to make this worthwhile program happen

Clothes closets are available for the homeless, schools, and families. Volunteers sort and clean clothes for the homeless and families. There is an overabundance of clothing donated. A separate “Dress for Success” clothes closet is available for people who are in need of work clothes. Worknet and the Human Services Agency refers people over for clothing or other items needed.

In addition, hygiene bags can be provided. Throughout the years, Soroptimist has provided hygiene items for women along with work attire and other needed items.

Volunteers connect with local schools to help provide school clothing for local youth. Baby clothes are also available. Depending on the donations, other items can be provided such as laundry soap, cat and dog food, or other donated items from local stores. All donations are put in smaller bags so more can be served.

During the tax season, SA hosts the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Taxes can be filed online for lower income residents. Free tax training is provided for the tax preparers. More volunteers are needed in order for this program to continue next year.

The HOPE (Helping Others Prepare for Employment) was established to help people with becoming job ready before they would be referred to other agencies such as Worknet. Information and referrals are a strong part of this program. This program is by appointment.

Addiction Rehabilitation Centers (ARC) are available for anyone fighting a substance abuse issue. Services are available at no charge. The Salvation Army stores fund this much needed service.

The youth program currently provided is the Troops program. Troops are available for any school youth from 5 to 18 years of age. The younger kids are enrolled in the Sunbeams, Moonbeams and Explorers, while the older youth are in Girl Guards or Rangers. Troops are held on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.. A hot meal is provided. Youth are taught valuable life skills (cooking, sewing, etc. ) and positive values. Troop recruitment is year-round.

SA hopes to get its after school program going again so youth can get assistance with their homework and have a safe place to go after school. This program is also volunteer driven.

A recent partnership has just been established with the Veterans in Action, Inc. and West Valley Revival Center. . They hosted an Informational Breakfast for the Homeless at Salvation Army on Thursday 9/15. George Retana provided Information to the homeless for counselling and mental health services, suicide prevention and awareness, substance abuse recovery, and other services. Their goal is to work with the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs of the homeless. He is an outreach coordinator, minister, chaplain, and veteran. Thirteen percent of the homeless population are veterans. George will be available every other Tuesday at SA. The four top reasons for being homeless are substance abuse, mental illness, low income, and lack of relationships. .

In addition, SA works closely with the Merced County Rescue Mission. Blankets, towels, and other household items can be provided. There is a Women’s Luncheon held the last Thursday of each month. All women in the community are welcome. It is a great way to make new friends and find out about exciting volunteer opportunities. An informative program is also given.

The biggest need for volunteers will be for the upcoming holiday season. There will be a Kettle Kickoff event that starts off the Bell Ringing season coming soon. This is the major fundraiser for SA that enables services to be provided to the community for the following year. All funds stay local.

Many service clubs (Soroptimist, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, school service clubs) have participated in the past. The more volunteers, the more funds can be collected and services provided. The more the community works together, the more we can do the most good for others.

For information on volunteering, if you know someone in need, want to start a clothes closet, or whatever, contact me at 209.777-5974.

Next time, Soroptimist services from 1992 to 2022.