QnA: Salvation Army | VailDaily.com

QnA: Salvation Army

Scott N. Miller
High Country Business Review

People often run out of gas and money on their way through the Vail Valley. A lot of local families find themselves short of food or money for rent or utility bills. That’s when the local Salvation Army can help.

The local charity, which is financially independent of the state or national branches, helps hundreds of people every year with money, food, or other help. Tsu Wolin-Brown, the local Salvation Army’s caseworker, recently answered a handful of questions about the group.

Q: How much does the local Salvation Army depend on the help of businesses?

A: Vail Valley Salvation Army gets much of its financial support from business sponsorships for its annual Red Kettle Golf Tournament and its Christmas concert.

We have discussed having businesses as matching sponsors for our bell-ringing locations this coming holiday season. Many local businesses also participate in our Adopt-a-Family Program at Christmas, send staff to ring the bells during the holidays and contribute goods for food baskets and to our food pantry.

We also rely on several businesses to help provide food for emergencies. Village Market (in Edwards) and Columbine Market (in Gypsum), for example, will have staff come in to put together orders in the middle of the night when we have a natural disaster. Silverleaf Suites and AmericInn in Eagle are community partners when we need lodging for folks in emergency situations, and who give us fabulous stranded motorist discounts and help accommodate our clients. Other lodges in Vail will sometimes give us complimentary lodging for families or individuals who are stranded. We rely on these community partnerships to allow us to serve people in crisis.

Q: The local board is made up of several local business owners and managers. How do you recruit them?

A: Vail Valley Salvation Army has been blessed to have a committed group of individuals who have stayed on our board for at least two years. This group is hands-on, and we are structuring subcommittees to have each person head up an important function, such as food baskets, our new canteen, the golf tournament, etc. Many of our board members started out by volunteering with us. We are always trying to recruit new people to participate and consider joining the board.

Q: With so many worthy charities and nonprofit groups in the area, how hard is it to get volunteers, money or products from local businesses?

A: There are certain projects that attract volunteers every year, such as bell-ringing, food baskets and Adopt-a-Family. We give people the opportunity to give during the holidays. We also partner with other charities and human services agencies to help our clients in order to maximize resources without duplicating services. This is part of our self-sufficiency planning for clients.

There are challenges, however, with the myriad charity golf tournaments in the valley, competing for sponsors and prizes. We always could use more volunteers, for running our emergency shelters, for manning the canteen, for administrative tasks, and for maintaining our food pantry.

We partner with the Eagle County Volunteer Center, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the court’s community service office to recruit volunteers. We rely heavily on local churches to help us and service clubs, such as Rotary Club.

We receive grants from United Way of Eagle River Valley, Eagle County Community Service Grant, Energy Outreach Colorado, and Vail Valley Motorcycle Foundation.

We only have one full-time and one part-time caseworker and that’s just not enough without our volunteer work force.

Q: We hear a lot about the “working poor.” Do the companies that employ those low-wage workers contribute to the Salvation Army’s projects?

A: Many of our local businesses are probably not aware that we have helped their employees, since we maintain confidentiality. For 2006 we did track employers of the folks we helped, and can provide that information. For example, we even helped a few employees of Colorado Mountain News Media, and the Vail Daily, Vail Trail and the Eagle Valley Enterprise do support us with articles and ads.

Financial assistance is provided for families and individuals at risk of losing housing or utility power, dental, prescription and medical needs, transportation and basic living necessities. These services allow people to continue working and leads to economic stability for the worker and the business.

Q: The local Salvation Army’s caseload keeps growing. What are your group’s most urgent needs over the next three to five years?

Our cases went from 464 in 2005 to 678 in 2006, and that’s not counting holiday projects. We provided over 300 food baskets for Thanksgiving and 400 for Christmas in 2006, and over 200 Adopt-a-Families were matched.

We also have a Durable Medical Equipment Loan Program, and are a partner in the “Eagle County Smiles” dental task force. Given the growing numbers, I would predict that the next major needs are to increase our staff and our work space.

Trinity Church is generous in donating a Salvation Army office and food pantry space, but we are growing out of this space just with the sheer numbers of folks in need. It is difficult to keep up with the caseload with only one and a half caseworkers.

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