By Bob Campbell
Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and providing comfort and care to those who have lost hope, The Salvation Army has been serving our community since 1907. For the majority of us, the familiar sights and sounds of the Red Kettle bell ringers at Christmas are the most visible evidence of The Salvation Army’s presence in Kernersville, as volunteers ring out the sound of the season at the Walmart Supercenter, Harris Teeter, and other locations around the city. But the services of The Salvation Army are ongoing, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Since its initial outpost opened in Winston-Salem in 1907, The Salvation Army has grown into an Area Command serving Forsyth, Davie, Stokes, and Yadkin Counties. The first Salvation Army Worship and Service Center in Kernersville opened on Park Centre Drive in 2006 and just last October moved into the old library building downtown at 130 E. Mountain St. From there, Kernersville Corps Officer Lieutenant Linda Choi heads up services to the Kernersville community.
Those services include the largest food pantry in Kernersville, open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, distributing food to nearly a thousand persons each week. The pantry is staffed by volunteers and receives donations from local grocery stores, groups, and individuals. One of the long time cornerstones of service for The Salvation Army is the Christmas Angel Tree program, which ensures that children in need will be able to enjoy gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. In 2017, The Salvation Army initiated Angel Tree signups and distribution here in Kernersville, removing the requirement for families in need to travel to Winston-Salem in order to participate. More than 300 children received toys the first year.
The Salvation Army operates the only family emergency homeless shelter in Forsyth County. The Center of Hope Family Residence is located in Winston-Salem and offers a safe refuge for single mothers, single fathers, parents with children, and single women. There, families are given the tools to rebuild their lives and return to permanent housing and sustainability. These tools include Life Skills classes to make residents better able to cope with adversity, be more prepared to successfully search for job opportunities, learn to manage money, and other skills to enable them to once again be productive members of the community. Other services provided by The Salvation Army include Emergency Assistance, which helps families and individuals who may need assistance with rent, mortgage, or utility payments.
Emergency Disaster Services have been a hallmark of The Salvation Army for more than a century. That usually entails serving survivors and first responders in the aftermath of natural disasters like hurricanes. Local Salvation Army officers and staff have served most recently during Hurricanes Florence, Irma, and Matthew, providing meals from their Mobile Feeding Unit, also known as a canteen. The canteen is able to produce 1,500 meals a day when needed. The Salvation Army also serves during man-made disasters. In fact, The Salvation Army was the first relief agency on site at the World Trade Center in New York on 9-11. Closer to home, The Salvation Army was on the scene after tornadoes struck Stokes County in 2017.
The Salvation Army is, at its core, a Christian ministry and church. It was founded in 1865 by a Methodist minister in London named William Booth, who preached to the poorest residents of the city. From those very humble beginnings it has grown into an organization that serves in more than 130 countries around the world and in every zip code in the United States.
Every service The Salvation Army provides to families, individuals, and communities, can only happen through the support of the community. Donations of money and volunteer time are critical to the mission of The Salvation Army to “meet human need… without discrimination.” Right now in Kernersville, volunteers are needed to assist in the food pantry. Find out more at www.SalvationArmyWS.org.
There is a saying in The Salvation Army that when someone makes a donation or volunteers the gift of their time and talent, they become part of “the Army behind the Army.” The Salvation Army fights for families, fights hunger, fights homelessness, and fights hopelessness. When you support The Salvation Army in Kernersville, you become part of the Fight for Good.