Our Opinion: Let’s rally behind Salvation Army’s mission of service

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From feeding needy families to providing afterschool activities for kids and teens to bringing the Christmas spirit to life, The Salvation Army of Wilson makes our community a better place.

The agency needs Wilsonians’ support as it embarks on a yearlong belt-tightening mission that will enable Salvation Army staff and volunteers to increase their outreach efforts without breaking the bank.

Advisory board members adopted a Wednesday plan to control expenses and meet financial obligations. Over the years, the local command has fallen behind on routine payments to divisional headquarters, amassing a debt that created concern but can be defrayed without diverting any resources from Wilson clients.

Some longtime Salvation Army partners have asked whether their contributions will be forwarded to far-flung places, leaving local needs unmet. The answer is an emphatic no.

Divisional headquarters has given the Wilson command a one-year grace period during which no debt payments are required. That time will allow The Salvation Army to balance its budget, making the organization stronger, nimbler and more sustainable.

“Donations to The Salvation Army will continue to be used for programs that help the Wilson community — our Boys and Girls Club, food pantry program, Angel Tree program and other vital community services,” explained Shelley Henderson, divisional communications and marketing director. “What’s important to remember is The Salvation Army’s first focus is serving the community and operating within a balanced budget. We will explore ways to address the debt in the future, but that is not our immediate concern. ”

Interim Wilson corps officer Maj. Bobby Lancaster is planning to trim the agency’s vehicle fleet, which will not only bring in one-time money but reduce annual expenses for vehicle maintenance, registration and insurance. The advisory board considered selling the Brentwood Drive parsonage used to house Salvation Army officers and using the proceeds to pay down debt, but headquarters officials said that step isn’t necessary right now.

Some job duties could be combined and positions eliminated through attrition, reducing staffing costs. That would further reduce overhead, freeing up donation dollars to meet financial commitments and expand charitable programs in Wilson.

Like all major nonprofits, The Salvation Army asks local affiliates to pitch in for organizational expenses. The ministry oversees an international network of more than 15,000 congregations in 128 countries, many with social services outposts. Nationally, The Salvation Army maintains an excellent reputation for good financial stewardship. Administrative costs represent just 18 percent of the agency’s budget, with 81 cents of every dollar finding its way to beneficiaries. With A grades and five-star rankings from accountability watchdogs, the organization is a leader in charitable giving.

“The money distributed to divisional headquarters pays administrative support services such as human resources, payroll and IT support, to name a few,” Henderson said. “The Salvation Army divisional team is committed to supporting Wilson. We will do everything we can to work alongside the board and the corps.”

Advisory board members’ frank discussions about trimming the Wilson agency’s budget may give some cheerful givers pause. Local businesses, families and grantmakers can rest assured, however, that their contributions will be pressed into service to help the needy right here in Wilson County.

“We’re serving the forgotten people in the community, the people nobody seems to see,” Henderson explained. “Frequently The Salvation Army is the last glimmer of hope and help for people in the Wilson community. Thanks to support from the community, we keep them from being completely forgotten.”

Without Wilson County’s support, thousands who rely on The Salvation Army’s food pantry may go hungry. And while we often think of the annual Angel Tree project as a way to brighten a child’s life with rare “extras,” many wish lists consist largely of the bare necessities like clothing, shoes, bedding and diapers.

The Salvation Army of Wilson served 6,898 people last year, providing 11,416 articles of clothing and 2,455 grocery orders. The Angel Tree program assisted 400 households, including 741 children and 104 senior citizens.

Financial bumps in the road aren’t unheard of among nonprofits that exist to give out all the money they take in. Wilson can rest assured that our local Salvation Army is already on the path to solvency and sustainability.

Now is the time to invest, partner, donate and volunteer. The Salvation Army has always been here for Wilsonians in their hour of need. Let’s return the favor and strengthen this local ministry as it continues meeting its goal of “doing the most good.”