WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

‘The debt is just an albatross on our back’: Salvation Army develops plan to serve Wilson sustainably

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The Salvation Army of Wilson isn’t going anywhere, but changes are on the horizon to get the nonprofit operating in the black — and community support is an integral part of the plan.

“With the community’s help, I think we can get our feet planted correctly in the ground and move forward,” said board member Gary Proffitt, reading an overview of the plan from the Salvation Army’s Divisional Headquarters. “‘The goal of all this is for the Salvation Army in Wilson to successfully execute a balanced operational plan and for an active officer to be appointed next year. The appointment can only happen if the command operates within budget.’”

Members representing advisory bodies for the Salvation Army church, store and Boys and Girls Club were tasked earlier this year with developing a short-term and a long-term plan. The plans’ goal was to shore up the operations as well as tackle the organization’s $300,000 in debt to headquarters, two-thirds of which originated a decade ago.

“The bottom line is we need to have the mentality that when the money comes in, it has to go to the bills first. We don’t spend the money, we pay the bills first just like being at home,” said Becky Calhoun, the organization’s bookkeeper. “If we had stayed with that format, things would be a lot different now.”

To address the debt, the boards prepared a plan that included selling a four-bedroom house on Brentwood Drive used to house the organization’s officers as well as property on Jackson Street along with several vehicles. The plan from headquarters strayed away from selling the home and noted only top dollar would be accepted for the Jackson Street property, but Maj. Bobby Lancaster has been tasked with determining which vehicles should be sold. The boards had hoped revenue from the sales would satisfy the bulk of the debt with the rest forgiven.

“The debt is just an albatross on our back holding us down when we’re trying to stand up,” board member Bruce Jackson said during the plan presentation Wednesday. “And if we’re not the ones that really caused all that debt, then maybe we shouldn’t have to be responsible for paying it.”

Proffitt said headquarters is giving the organization a 12-month pass on debt payments with Lancaster noting there is a possibility for some of it to be forgiven in the future. Advisory board member Will Farris urged the administration to make payments toward the debt as soon as possible.

“I can’t help but think we’re somewhat kicking the can down the road,” said board member Connor Bedgood. “I don’t want to be in the situation we were in last February, and I can’t help but think that debt is still looming with no long-term plan to address it.”

Lancaster said he is finalizing the budget for fiscal year 2018-19 and advisory board chairman David Clark said efforts will be made to service the debt when possible.

“We didn’t walk into this debt yesterday and we’re not going to get out of it tomorrow,” Lancaster said. “It is not going to happen that fast, but I can assure you that we’ll pay the debt as we can pay it.”

Headquarters also recommended Lancaster take a comprehensive look at staffing, services and resources to find budget cuts and program improvements. Proffitt said financial contributions and donations of goods to be resold in the store will be critical in the coming months as well as support for the kettle campaign’s goal of $125,000.

“For us to do this, we all have to get on board,” Lancaster said. “We all have to buy into it and if we work the plan, the man up above will bless us.”

Proffitt said anyone with questions about the plan can call him at 252-291-4479. To volunteer for the Salvation Army or make a donation, call 252-243-2696.

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