Salvation Army case loads remain high |

Salvation Army case loads remain high

AVON – Stacy Horning helps people for a living. It’s also what she does on her days off.

Horning, a nurse by profession, spends a lot of her free time helping the Vail Valley Chapter of the Salvation Army. She and other volunteers do everything from helping out in the charity’s food pantry to bookkeeping.

Since the Salvation Army has just two paid employees in the valley, a core of trusted volunteers is crucial to keeping the charity going, especially these days. As recently as 2008, the Salvation Army had about 350 requests for service every year. Last year, that number exceeded 5,000, and is on pace to roughly equal that number in 2012.

Local Salvation Army director Tsu Wolin-Brown said the charity wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the load without volunteers and contributions from a host of local businesses.

That help includes cash donations, as well as food. Thursday afternoon, a couple of carloads of baked goods came from Wal-Mart. City Market routinely provides fruits and vegetables. And, just after the mountains closed, Brian Nolan’s Group 970 restaurants brought more carloads of fresh food, much of which was donated to the weekly community dinners at the Presbyterian church in Avon and the Methodist church in Eagle.

Food aid – most of it of the nonperishable variety – makes up most of the Salvation Army’s case load. In Avon, people are asked to visit once every two weeks, although Eagle’s pantry – in the Methodist church – allows weekly visits.

There are a lot of repeat visitors to the pantries. And, Horning, a Vail Valley native, said she’s been somewhat surprised by who’s been coming in during her first few months of volunteer work.

“You don’t see just people on the very bottom,” Horning said. “There are more middle-class families in need than you’d think. It’s been a real eye-opener to see an average, middle-class family struggling with food, or rent or prescriptions.”

Wolin-Brown agreed, saying that a lot of today’s Salvation Army clients were steady donors not long ago.

That’s why it’s been so important to have so much help from local businesses. Steammaster and Land Title Guarantee Co. are among the businesses running nonstop food drives these days. And Land Title lets its employees wear jeans every Friday – if they make a small donation to the Salvation Army.

“We’ve had a great response from community businesses,” Wolin-Brown said.

That help will take a new twist this growing season, when spaces in several community gardens are made available to families in need. Magnus Lindholm, the landlord at the Salvation Army’s Avon office, has agreed to provide space for a garden on the north side of that building, and there are plans for a new community garden at 4 Eagle Ranch north of Wolcott.

Horning got her first taste of volunteering when she was working in Denver for groups including pro skier and former University of Colorado football star Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime Foundation.

Now that she’s living in the Vail Valley again, Horning said she’s been happy to get to know not just the Salvation Army crew, but people at the other nonprofits in the valley.

“We couldn’t do as much without each other,” Horning sad. “I’m just very grateful to be from such a great community.”

Wolin-Brown said Horning is one of a group of 15 people or so who she can call just about any time. But, she added, there are many more local residents the charity couldn’t do without.

For instance, the charity’s annual golf tournament simply wouldn’t happen without an all-volunteer organizing group, Wolin-Brown said. The same is true for packing holiday food and gift baskets.

And it’s all important work.

“We’re really where the rubber hits the road for a lot of people,” Wolin- Brown said. “A lot of people depend on us.”

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