Charity With Proud History Looks To Christmas Fund Drive For Its "Salvation"

By Jeff Neumeyer

September 1, 2014 Updated Sep 1, 2014 at 4:33 PM EST

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (21Alive) --- On Labor Day, one well known social service organization in town is already gearing up for a different holiday that is a "make or break" time for many charities.

We're talking about the Salvation Army of Allen County.

It’s experiencing tough times for an agency with a long history in Fort Wayne.

The Salvation Army has been serving this community since 1886.

But local leaders say money is tight, and the pressure is on for a big Christmas.

Bell ringers and red donation kettles often come to mind when we think of the Salvation Army.

But it's a charity organization that stands for so much more.

People needing emergency assistance with rent and mortgage payments, utility bills, clothing, or a place to get warm in the freezing cold, see the agency as a lifesaver.

Every Tuesday and Thursday from 12 to 3 in the afternoon, families roll in to the headquarters on North Clinton Street, to fill a grocery cart with food from the pantry.

" Times are already hard for a lot of people in this world, but they'd be extra hard if I didn't have this, so, like I said, I'm very thankful and hope that anybody can help, because if we didn't have it, there's a lot of people that wouldn't be able to make it," said Erica Markley, a Salvation Army client.

Taylor Zalenski is doing well these days, but as a ten-year old, during a family crisis, the agency left a mark on her.

“I went from having so much to having nothing really, and I still look back to that day and just realize how thankful I am for the Salvation Army," said Zalenski.

The Salvation Army provides a six-month counseling program for folks dealing with a variety of drug addictions.

The sale of donated items at thrift stores around town pays the bill.

But it's fund-raising efforts around Christmas that keep the Salvation Army engine purring.

The organization raises about 50 percent of its annual income in November, December and into January.

Last year's fund-raising for that period fell $130,000 below the goal.

“We’d love to be serving more and more families, we have that much need, but right now, because of resources, we're not able to meet all the needs that are coming to our doors. It’s been a struggle," said Major Harold Poff, who supervises Allen County’s Salvation Army services.

Major Poff has heard reports of an economy on the rebound, but he says for folks on the low end of the wage scale, he questions whether it's reality.

“Those guys are the first ones to be let go, and the last ones to be re-hired, so I'm sure there is some recovery somewhere, but we're not seeing a lot of it in Fort Wayne right now," he said.

Of course, the challenges extend beyond the Salvation Army.

There are other social service organizations that are struggling to take in enough cash to meet their goals.
Times are tough for donors too.

Christmas is still nearly four months away, but for the Salvation Army the countdown is on, and a lot will be riding on how much gets dropped in the kettle.




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