Parkersburg Salvation Army aids community

Editor’s Note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

PARKERSBURG – The Salvation Army of Parkersburg provides emergency services and nutritional support in the Mid-Ohio Valley with support from the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Lt. Mechelle Henry and her husband, Lt. Erik Henry, are in charge of the Salvation Army of Parkersburg, which has been part of the city’s history since 1906. She said the partnership with the United Way has been a beneficial one for the Salvation Army for many years.

“Their support has always helped a lot of our emergency assistance programs,” she said.

The United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley is providing $40,000 for the Salvation Army’s emergency services, emergency shelter, Soup Spoon and Meals for One.

Henry said the emergency shelter is the Red Shield Lodge at the Salvation Army. The local facility currently has sheltering for about 36 people, including a men’s side and a women’s side and space for at least one family. The shelter is for individuals and families that are in transition, whether through loss of belongings or housing due to emergency or through evictions.

“They just need a place to stay until they kind of get back on their feet,” she said.

The shelter also provides opportunities to get assistance through the Salvation Army’s social services office for clothing and housing assistance and other services.

Henry said emergency services involves providing assistance to people in need of help due to fires, flooding and other emergencies and disasters. The program can provide help with housing and help people find ways to replace lost clothing and items.

The Soup Spoon program has been part of the Salvation Army for many years, providing breakfast and dinner for the shelter’s residents. About a year ago, the program was opened to to members of the community and has been seeing increased usage, Henry said. The breakfast is served at 7:30 a.m. and the dinner at 4:30 p.m. and can feed up to 30-40 people on a daily basis.

“The response has been really good. It’s nice to know that we can offer those folks who need breakfast in the morning at least a hot meal or cereals to eat and breads in the morning,” she said.

The Meals for One program is open to anyone in need of home-delivered meals and is based on need more than income or age. It used to be $6 a meal but that was changed a year ago to $1 per meal, with deliveries made Monday through Friday, said Sherry Bartlett, a supervisor with the program.

Bartlett said the Meals for One participants include primarily elderly homebound residents and some people with disabilities. There are also people who temporarily participate in the program, such as when someone is recovering from surgery and needs a week or two of home-delivered meals during their recovery, she said.

In previous years, the program was able to provide different meals based on dietary needs, but that became too expensive.

“We just do a straight 1,800-calorie diet with simple food,” Bartlett said.

“It’s just simple items that people like to eat.”

The Salvation Army delivers to 40-50 people on average each week through Meals for One, while the evening Soup Spoon dinners at the Salvation Army average about 70 people, but can reach as high as 100, Bartlett said.

“We do have a lot of volunteers who give of their time and we’re always looking for more volunteers to help with Meals for One,” Henry said of the program.

Henry estimated the United Way’s support is about 8 percent of the Salvation Army’s annual budget.

“It does make quite a bit of difference in what we can do and what we can serve,” she said.

“If it wasn’t for United Way funding, there would be less people we’re able to serve. We want to be able to provide enough for everyone who comes through the doors,” Henry said.

The Salvation Army also has a variety of other programs aimed at helping in the community. The Christian organization runs a shelter and kitchen for the homeless, offers programs for needy families, holds church services and provides counseling and clubs for youth, adults and seniors. There is also a church and a thrift store, among other programs, activities and services for the community.

The Salvation Army in Parkersburg operates in the six-county area of Wood, Wirt, Pleasants, Calhoun, Jackson and Ritchie counties.

The emergency shelter on Fifth Street offers a bed for up to three nights, plus breakfast and evening meals for the homeless. The area’s homeless population fluctuates, depending on the season. The organization also operates the Opportunity House, transitional housing for families with children.

Families can also benefit from counseling services, case work and budgeting and life skills lessons. The Courage to Care program, which began a few years ago, offers counseling and group sessions for those with dependencies on anything from alcohol and drugs to sex and gambling.