The organization that is know worldwide as the Salvation Army was started by a man named William Booth in 1852 in London, England. A preacher, Booth’s concern was feeding the poor. His desire to not only spread the Gospel but to also meet the physical needs of poor and hungry people led him to leave the established church and became one of the first ‘tent ministers’, bringing people in from the streets to feed them both physically and spiritually.
Today, the Salvation Army, as Booth’s organization came to be known, is operating in 120 different countries around the world – and it also operates right here in Switzerland County, meeting the needs of local people when their need is the greatest.
The local chapter is headed by Bert and Debbie Allen, and was founded in 2004 by the late Chester Meisberger, Debbie’s father and longtime member of the community.
Bert Allen said that the Salvation Army doesn’t have the ability to do as much as it used to, as it relies on the generosity of individuals to fund its programs, but it still does quite a bit.
“We used to get a lot from ringing bells, because WalMart in Lawrenceburg used to just open their store up to us; but management has changed hands several times, so now we aren’t there as much as we used to be.”
For example: Allen said that on November 8th about eight years ago, the Salvation Army collected over $1,300 in one day in its familiar red kettles in front of the WalMart in Lawrenceburg.
“Now, for our county they’ve narrowed the window when we can ring bells,” Allen continued. “Now they are going to let us ring on Fridays and Saturdays, which will be big. They were only going to let us ring on Wednesdays. We used to get over $10,000 a year from ringing bells, but we don’t now, because we’re so limited.”
Allen said that on the days that Switzerland County Salvation Army representatives ring bells, that money is accounted for locally and then sent to headquarters in Indianapolis, where it is tracked back to this county for use in helping people.
The bell ringers also are out locally, with the volunteers being familiar faces during this time of the year at the Vevay IGA, so money contributed into the local kettles does good in the local community.
“They’re long days,” Allen says of bell ringing, “But when people stand in that line, five or six behind the other one, it gives you a pretty good feeling. People want to give. People will give, and you can tell they don’t have much, but everybody wants to give something.”
The Salvation Army here helps people in need of food; can provide a hotel room if the need is there; as well as rent, healthcare, transportation, utilities and clothing; along with special projects like disasters and fires.
“We have a lot of clients. We have calls nearly everyday,” Allen said. “Someone called the courthouse today to get my number. There’s a lot of people in need.”
For those in need, the local chapter of the Salvation Army can be reached by calling (812) 427-3486; and there is also a representative at the Switzerland County TEC Center every Tuesday from 3-4 p.m. to meet personally with those in need.
For those who might want to donate to the efforts of the Salvation Army here, they can get in contact with Bert or Debbie Allen at the phone number listed earlier. All money donated locally will be used locally.
“Now we pretty well operate on grants,” Allen said. “People who are members of the community, foundations, are very good to give money; and we do our best to not give it away to somebody who doesn’t need it. The county has been good to help.”
The Switzerland County Salvation Army is again trying to help families this Thanksgiving season by providing money to help with dinner. The amount that the organization can provide is based on the number of people in the family.
“We’re just going to keep on keeping on, until the Lord tells us that it’s time to get out of this army,” Allen smiles.