Salvation Army continues to serve the community

Sunday, February 26, 2017
Melva Seyer transfers ham and beans to a serving dish for Meals with Friends on Wednesday at The Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau.
Laura Simon

The Salvation Army does so much more than ring bells over red kettles at Christmas, and the ministry in Cape Girardeau brings many services to the table -- in some cases, literally.

Each worship and service center, also called the corps, may have different services offered or different methodologies according to the needs of their particular community, but the central mission of the international Salvation Army is "Doing the Most Good," according to its website. The corps in Cape Girardeau is located at 701 Good Hope St.

Justin Tracy, ministry discovery intern at The Salvation Army corps in Cape Girardeau, said he wasn't familiar with the full scope of the Salvation Army's outreach until he got to know some of its personnel while in college at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana.

"The only thing I knew about was the kettles," he said, referring to the Red Kettle Campaign held annually around Christmas. He said he would see them out, ringing bells, and he'd drop in some change if he had it and appreciate their thanks, but he really didn't know what the money from that campaign went to.

Now he does.

Chamika Moore, left, Natalie Giles, center, and Yienri Johnson look at photographs on Wednesday at The Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau.
Laura Simon

"There's never really a dull moment here," he said.

Capt. Ronnie Amick, corps officer for The Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau, runs the center with his wife, Capt. Bridgette Amick. He said the extent of services is much broader than people might think of when they think "Salvation Army." In addition to the Red Kettle Campaign at Christmas, they offer a youth program, food pantry, Meals with Friends, a thrift store and support for victims of natural disasters or other emergencies.

Amick said funds from the kettle campaign are applied to these programs throughout the year.

"Our social services programs help a lot of families," he said. "Our impact stretches further than just the Christmas season. That's when we're out in the community and most visible, but the other 10 and a half months out of the year, we're just as much on the front lines as anyone else you can imagine."

He said the Meals with Friends program feeds more than 500 people a week. The food pantry, 250 to 300 families a month. Their youth outreach program currently has about 100 children, Amick said.

"We can't help everyone who needs it, unfortunately," he said. "But we do what we can."

The 2016 Red Kettle Campaign results fell short of the initial $300,000 goal, bringing in approximately $250,000. Tracy said it was disappointing, but gave them a chance to reassess.

"We took a step back, a deep breath, and had to look at what areas of programming and ministry avenues we could cut that doesn't result in the complete loss of the program. How can we make it a little smaller and reconcile that gap in the budget? We don't want to see any programs disappear," he said.

"Our volunteers mean a lot to us," Tracy added.

Tracy said The Salvation Army strives to provide needed services for people.

"We use that as an opportunity to do as scripture says, to do as Christ would in word and deed," he said.

Meals with Friends offers free hot meals to community members who just need to eat, Tracy said. The last two weeks of every month, The Salvation Army center in Cape is opened to those who want to eat.

"All we ask is that they sign their name and how many meals they want," Tracy said. "And, of course, we let them know they're welcome to worship with us on Sunday."

Tracy said attending services on Sunday is not a requirement.

"We definitely make it known we'd love to have them Sunday for church," he said.

The food pantry is open to community members who are lower income, Tracy said, and volunteers work with recipients to determine how best to meet their needs with the resources available.

"I like to describe The Salvation Army as not just a church that does church on Sunday, but that cares for people through the week as well. We're called to do that in scripture," Tracy said.

Tracy explained the role of the corps officer has an array of responsibilities.

"The corps officer is the pastor, provides mentoring, is in charge of social services programs. There's a lot involved," he said.

Amick said his passion for this work flows from a lifetime seeing the positive effect The Salvation Army can have across communities, not just in Cape Girardeau, but throughout the country.

"Seeing how much families and individuals rely on The Salvation Army for support through the year -- it's a lot of fun to give back, see people be thankful for the services we give," he said. "Of course, some days are harder than others, but the good far outweighs the bad."

Amick said he and his wife both grew up seeing the effect The Salvation Army has.

"Both our parents were involved," he said.

His parents were officers, and he has several extended family members who are officers.

"My wife's parents attended the church, so they did a lot of volunteer hours," he said. "It's sort of a family thing."

He and his wife moved to Cape Girardeau in 2013.

Going forward, Amick said, they hope to help people grow and understand the importance of giving back.

"For Cape Girardeau's Salvation Army, we have a lot of young kids who come around and see how much we give back. I hope that translates to when they get older, whether with The Salvation Army or another organization," Amick said. "I don't think we give our younger generation enough credit. We hope to see them go on and do wonderful things, set up a life, a family for themselves, wherever they may be."

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