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A Visit To The Local Salvation Army

“In times of crisis, we adapt and we shift—boom.”

This assertion, by Morgane Dussault, Donor Relations Director of The Salvation Army Silicon Valley, was proved to me when I recently visited their community center in Sunnyvale, run by Captains Kihyun and Aeran Oh.

Captain Kihyun Oh and Captain Aeran Oh                                                             Photo by Karen Gough

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

I visited on their Fresh Fruits and Vegetables day. It was 10:45 am, fifteen minutes before opening, but there was already a line of cars forming around the block.

Photo by Karen Gough
Photo by Karen Gough
Photo by Sunnyvale Salvation Army Officer

Because of Covid-19, food is now served drive-through style, with delivery options for home-bound seniors. Drivers and passengers stay safely in their cars while volunteers, wearing gloves and masks, place bagged food in each car’s trunk.

Photo by a Sunnyvale Salvation Army Officer
Photo by Karen Gough
Photo by Karen Gough

USDA Food Distribution

Besides serving fresh fruits and vegetables, the Salvation Army also has days when they distribute USDA food. This includes dry staples, perishables, and snack items (when available).

Photo by Salvation Army Officer

The Sunnyvale center, and all Salvation Army Community Centers, have regular days when they distribute free food to those who need it. Since Covid-19 and the shelter-in-place order mandated on March 18, 2020, food distribution in Sunnyvale has gone up 25%. Within Salvation Army Silicon Valley, which includes Santa Clara, Gilroy, Sunnyvale and San Jose, the number of families and individuals receiving food has gone up 500%.

Photo by Karen Gough

According to Morgane, since Covid-19, “the need has been tremendous.” For example, within three hours at a San Jose center on April 27th, volunteers handed out 600 food boxes.

From their Silicon Valley, May newsletter: Throughout this COVID-19 response, we have served over 50,000 individuals, which is over four times the volume of services we typically serve in such a window of time, with new faces each day.

Salvation Army Services

Founded in London in 1865 by William Booth, the Salvation Army now exists in over 100 countries. There is a Salvation Army community center located in nearly every city and town in the US. Besides food distribution, some of their many services include social service centers, senior citizen housing, homeless shelters, domestic violence and children’s shelters, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, spiritual services and counseling, job training, veteran services, summer children’s camps, LGBTQ support, parenting classes, life skills training, and emergency and disaster relief.

“A lot of people see us as thrift stores and kettles (bell-ringing Santas),” adds Morgane. “They don’t know the breadth of services the Salvation Army provides.

Photo from Salvation Army Silicon Valley’s Facebook Page

Family Store

Speaking of thrift stores, donated clothing and non-broken furniture is sold in their family stores. Proceeds from those stores are used to fund their Adult Rehabilitation Centers. In San Jose the Family Store is located at 702 W. Taylor Street. 95126, Tel: 408-298-7600.

Adult Rehabilitation Centers

According to Morgane, The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers are run with an “holistic approach.” This includes learning to abstain from drugs or alcohol, behavior modification, spiritual counseling, AA meetings, parenting classes, and work therapy. Clients are taught how to maintain a 40 hour work-week and maintain the normal activities of everyday life. They are also provided with up to six months of transitional housing.

Their Rehabilitation Centers’ success rate for maintaining five years of sobriety is 85%. Comparable programs have a 65% success rate. The Salvation Army’s long-term success rate is 65%, compared to other programs with a  35% rate.
The Salvation Army believes their high success rate is due to their program’s work therapy and spiritual components.

Inside the Sunnyvale Grace Corps Sanctuary                                              Photo by Karen Gough

First on the Ground

While reading newspapers over the years, I’ve noticed that in state or national emergencies, the Salvation Army is always first on the ground. Their nationwide contract with the government and local Offices of Emergency Services, means that in times of disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, the Salvation Army will provide emergency shelter and relief. Once the Red Cross comes in, the Salvation Army will continue its services by providing food support.

During fires, Morgane tells me, the Salvation Army is always first on the scene, providing “food, boots, water, whatever the emergency personnel needs.” They set up shelters, man the evacuation sites, and are typically the last to leave. “We will see the emergency response through to the very end as long as there is a need for it. We are there to serve people, whether it’s our first-responders or our evacuees.”

Serving the Homeless

During the COVID -19 crisis, Salvation Army Silicon Valley has also been instrumental in responding to escalating needs of the homeless. Last Saturday, for instance, Morgane and other volunteers delivered meals to the homeless in downtown San Francisco for five hours; they do about 10,000 meals a day, delivering directly to people on the street.

Within the greater bay area, central coast and north coast (the Golden State Division), local Bay Area government has contracted with hotels to house homeless persons who are most vulnerable to catching COVID-19, as well as those who already have it and need to be quarantined. But in many cases, it is the Salvation Army that is running the shelter sites within the hotels. When the city requests it, they provide food, resources, and case management.

Serving Humanity

I asked Morgane if the Salvation Army tried to convert people to Christianity. The answer was an emphatic no. Their goal is to serve “humanitarian needs without discrimination. They are there to offer emotional and spiritual care but that is at the discretion of the client. If the client wants to receive it or asks for it then we love to share the word of God and we love to share our faith with others but we don’t impress our beliefs upon others. It is absolutely their choice.”

Photo by Karen Gough

Salvation Army Sunnyvale

The Sunnyvale Grace Korean Corps is located at 1161 S. Bernardo Avenue in Sunnyvale. They are currently offering church services in Korean (translated to English) and offer a food pantry with fresh bread and sweets to anyone in need, Monday through Friday from 12 noon to 4 pm. Their food distribution days and church service schedule is outlined below:

First and Third Fridays, 11 – 1 pm: Distribution of Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
Fourth Friday, 11 – 3 pm: USDA Food Distribution
Every Tuesday, 12 noon: Senior Lunch

Sun. 10 am: Adult Bible Study
11 am: Holiness Sunday Worship Service
Mon – Fri. 9 am – 4 pm: Daily Food (usually bread)
Tues – Sat. 6 am: Early Morning Service
Weds. 7 pm: Worship Service
In normal times they would have a drop-off bin for used clothing, but due to COVID-19 they cannot accept donations at this time.

Ways to Help

The Salvation Army depends on volunteers and financial donations. Eighty-two to eighty-nine cents of each dollar go directly to local programs. Of the rest, a percentage is tithed to world operations and services and to support corps in poorer areas. And—good to know—since the last federal stimulus package, 100% of your charitable donations are tax deductible.

During the COVID-19 crisis, monetary donations to the Sunnyvale Corp have greatly diminished, organizations like the Salvation Army need your help. People are jobless and going hungry. But In San Jose, Morgane adds, “We’ve been here since 1884 and we’ll be here to weather this storm, and we’ll be here to serve people, and we’ll be here to continue to adapt and evolve our programming to meet local needs.”

For more information and to find a Salvation Army Community Center near you, click on these links:

Silicon Valley Locations
Response to COVID-19
Salvation Army Silicon Valley
The Salvation Army USA
The Salvation Army International

Captain Kihyun Oh Greeting Visitors on Fruits & Vegetables Day                                  Photo by Karen Gough


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