Salvation Army rings in the season
This holiday season, bell ringers throughout the community are actively trying to raise money for Delaware Command of the Salvation Army.
“No. 1, we are a church. Everything we do, we do for the Lord. That’s why the Salvation Army is different from almost all these other organizations,” said Dave Todd, chairman of the advisory council. “Our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ while meeting human needs indiscriminately, in His name. It’s not about money.”
According to its website, the Salvation Army’s mission is to “continue to grow providing human outreach by offering spiritual, emotional and assistance to people in need.” The organization is, they say, a “comprehensive human service organization whose programs help individuals, families and whole communities lead healthier, safer and more productive lives.”
The organization responds to both acute disasters, such as fires and floods, as well as the daily, ongoing struggles of the region’s less fortunate individuals.
“You hear about a disaster, like in the Philippines, and the Red Cross is all over the TV, but I guarantee that the Salvation Army was there first, and when the Red Cross people get hungry there, they come to the Salvation Army and we feed them,” Todd said. “We’re not motivated by money or fame or power. We do it because that’s what Jesus commands.”
Members of the community help the Salvation Army raise money for its programs every holiday season through its Kettle Drive, by ringing bells.
“We start the Friday before Thanksgiving and ring up to Christmas Eve. We don’t ring on Thanksgiving, and we don’t ring on Sundays. We make about a third of our entire year’s budget during Christmastime. That’s why we’re out. If we don’t make the money, we can’t help the people we want to help,” he said, adding that he’s always looking for volunteers to ring.
“Even if they give me an hour, I’m thankful for it. It’s a blessing to do, because you meet people who give because they know there are others out there who need help. It’s a blessing to know there are a lot of people out there like that, because you watch the news and everything is gloom and doom. But it’s not that way. There are a lot of people out there that want to share with those who need it.”
Todd said that there are 16 stores around Sussex County that have kettles that need to be manned. He added that all Walgreens pharmacies also have a “counter kettle” where donations may be made.
“You just stand here and smile at people and are just happy,” he said of the bell-ringing experience. “The Salvation Army has a reputation, and people know the Salvation Army. They know what we do and what we stand for. Ringing, it’s not a hard job — you basically get to thank people for their donations.”
He added that people young and old volunteer their time to ring and that many people enjoy the experience.
“If you tried it, you would like it. You would! You meet a lot of good people,” Todd said. “Most of the schools will help us out and have their students do it, like the ROTC or Key Club. There’s a big need, plus it teaches the young people that ‘There’s something else out there besides me. Let me do something for somebody else.’”
He added that, over his years ringing the bell, he’s met many servicemen and -women who’ve thanked him for the organization’s support.
“Especially the older people who have been in the armed services,” he said. “I hear the stories all the time: ‘The Red Cross used to sell me coffee and doughnuts, and you guys were there to give them to me.’ I hear that so many times. And I’m not trying to badmouth the Red Cross, because they do serve a purpose.”
Todd, who has been involved with the Salvation Army for 20 years, said the organization is extremely cautious when it comes to expenses and that the majority of the money donated returns to the community through its programs.
“People will give, and the Salvation Army will distribute it the best way we can. We try to be the best stewards that we can be. Almost every penny of every dollar that people donate goes back to our community. We have very little overhead. We’re very frugal with our money,” he said.
“We do not do it for the money. I make less money now than I have in my whole life, but at the end of the month my bills are paid and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. That’s thanks to the opportunity to work for the Army for the Lord.”
He added that all the funds that are raised in Sussex County stay in Sussex County.
“Sussex County, population-wise, is not a huge county, but area-wise it’s one of the largest counties in the country. I have a lot of territory to cover,” he said.
“Everything that’s donated in Sussex County stays in Sussex County. We use it for toys. We use it for food. We use it for crisis-alleviation. We’re not like welfare, but if you’re working and you lose your job, something comes up, a bump in the road, and you need help with your electric bill or gas bill, that’s what we try to do. We try to smooth the bumps out a little bit.”
Todd said that the need in the county has “absolutely” grown over the years, and more support is needed.
“You might not believe this, but we have people living in tents all throughout Sussex County. I know for a fact there are some in Seaford, Dover, Milford. People are actually sleeping in tents. When they come to the food clubs, we try to give them blankets and do whatever we can for them, to at least make it bearable for them,” he said.
“People in this country think they’re poor if they can’t buy a Cadillac and have to settle for a Chevy. Then there are people out there who have absolutely nothing. There are a lot of good people out there who have tried and, through circumstances, have lost a job or lost whatever, and they need it just as bad as anybody else.
“If everyone in Sussex County gave me a dollar, I could quit today and wrap up all my kettles for the season. It’s true. It’s the same handful who go from kettle to kettle to kettle and keep putting in.”
Through the Seaford Corps Worship Center and Sussex County Family Services, the Salvation Army offers emergency assistance, a food closet, pastoral care and more.
“We’re still a young corps, but eventually we would like to have a place where people could come and take a shower, could maybe get a cot for a night or two. That’s later down the road, of course. Now we have the food closet, crisis-alleviation, and the toys and food for Christmas. We’re growing, and whatever the Lord puts in front of us — that’s what we’ll do. “
Todd said he hopes that, this holiday season, members of the community will take the time to donate their time or money to the Salvation Army, so that it may continue to serve the needs of those in need throughout Sussex County.
“None of us deserve us anything, because the good Lord expects us all to earn our way. But when we have extra, he expects us to share it and not stick it in a mayonnaise jar and bury it in the back yard,” he said. “There’s a real need out there. Then the worse the economy is, the harder people think they have it, but there’s always somebody out there that’s worse off.
“We have the same hope every year — that people will give out of the kindness of their hearts. No matter how hard you think it is, there’s somebody out there who doesn’t have any food or is staying in a tent. Somebody needs a blanket.”
The Seaford Corps Worship Center and Sussex County Family Services is located at 23431 Sussex Highway in Seaford. For more information, call (302) 628-2020 or visit, www.salvationarmy.org. To volunteer to ring a bell and help the Salvation Army, contact Todd at (302) 359-4364.