Salvation Army in critical need of volunteers

File photo: Saira Singh, the Red Kettle Campaign coordinator, makes the first donation during the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign and Angel Tree kickoff. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

Home » Community
Posted May 5, 2023 | By Eadie Sickler

The COVID-19 pandemic has had dire consequences for many people and local nonprofit agencies, and the local Salvation Army is no exception.

“Since the epidemic hit three years ago, and we were not able to gather together and perform many of our normal functions, volunteers have dwindled to the point where it is now critical to the services we try to provide to the community,” said retired Major Forrest McIntyre, who serves as the volunteer coordinator for the organization. “It started when COVID hit. The volunteers stopped coming, and it is hard to get the program recharged.”

“Need knows no season. We need volunteers all year-round,” McIntyre’s wife, retired Major Carrie McIntyre, stressed.

Forrest McIntyre went on to explain that volunteers are critical for maintaining the efforts of the organization’s community outreaches. The most critical local areas affected by this shortage are the Center of Hope, emergency and transitional housing programs, and the thrift store.

The Center of Hope provides overnight emergency shelter for the homeless, with a 40-bed men’s dormitory and a 20-bed dormitory for women and families. The center provides two meals a day to thousands of homeless and low-income people every year. 

“Usually, the shelter is full,” McIntyre said. “People can stay overnight and can come back the next night if there is room. They receive breakfast and supper meals.’’

People have to have a picture identification card and cannot be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Once they check in, they are not allowed to leave the facility until the next morning or they will not be allowed back that night.

Transitional and emergency housing also is provided by the Center of Hope, with long-term safe shelter for clients, including families. 

“This housing can last up to about a year, during which time clients are expected to make progress to become independent,” McIntyre pointed out. They are expected to seek employment, take budgeting classes, and participate in counseling sessions provided for them, and their progress is tracked, he said. They are provided with three meals a day and are expected to keep their space clean.

A cold/hot night shelter is available for homeless persons to be able to stay when the weather is inclement.

The Salvation Army is also on standby as an emergency disaster services “canteen.” This is run under the direction of Florida’s Emergency Management Division, McIntyre explained. Any time there is a natural or man-made disaster, the Salvation Army organization is called to step in. If needed, this can be a two-week assignment.

“Everything we do is on an emergency basis to begin with,” McIntyre explained. “When people come to us, we assign them to the different programs (help) we can offer.”

McIntyre said the agency’s programs and the Salvation Army Thrift Store are in urgent need of volunteers. All the proceeds from the thrift store are used to help fund the programs. 

“An example is for electric, food, housing needs, etc.” he explained.

McIntyre explained the scope of ongoing volunteer needs:

At the Center of Hope, because of the kitchen equipment, cooks have to be hired by the organization. But donations of food are needed, as well as help in serving food and cleaning the kitchen and dining areas. 

Housekeeping chores for the transitional housing areas are needed, where there is only limited employed staff.

A librarian is needed for the Evangeline Booth Garden Apartments for senior citizens. This is a HUD-supported program and the high-rise building, which is on the Salvation Army grounds, houses 64 apartments, and there is a waiting list. Someone is needed to clean the common areas at the apartment building.

Speaking of the thrift store, McIntyre explained donations are needed of clothing, furniture, small and large appliances in working order, and nonperishable, nonexpired food items.

There are several paid employees at the store, but volunteers are needed to clean and sort goods that are donated, and to help with sweeping, dusting, and placing items on shelves.

“Every dollar that is spent to employ individuals in these area is money that is taken from the ministries themselves. We try to network with other churches and agencies in town. No agency can do this by themselves,” he said.

McIntyre highlighted several activities the Salvation Army has planned to help bring awareness of its services—and needs—to residents of Marion County.

National Salvation Army Week will be observed from May 15-21. There is an open house scheduled for the Center of Hope, the Evangeline Booth apartment building, and the thrift store. The date has not yet been set for one day to highlight the Emergency Services Canteen. 

An “Old Fashioned Salvation Army Service on the Square” is being planned for the public at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 21, with singing, music, and the signature Salvation Army drum. Plans are not finalized for this event yet, however, McIntyre stated. 

Even though Christmas seems far away today, the Red Kettle program of the Salvation Army needs to be organized by mid-July. This year’s goal is $220,000, with volunteers needed for 34 locations. It is hoped that organizations and churches in Marion County will help with this essential effort.

“The Salvation Army of Marion County could not perform the services we are called to do without volunteers. They are the key to every nonprofit organization,” McIntyre summarized. “Volunteers are the backbone of a good charity.”

To volunteer, email or call (352) 629-2004.

newspaper icon

Support community journalism

The first goal of the Ocala Gazette is to deliver trustworthy local journalism so corruption, misinformation and abuse are not hidden from the public or unchallenged.

We count on community support to continue this important work. Please donate or subscribe: