From left, Salvation Army volunteers Julie Grant, Donna Kliewer and Kayla Kliewer ring the bell and collect donations at Easton Presbyterian Church in Fresno. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz
With Christmas approaching, one of the most iconic images of the holiday can be found throughout Fresno — the red kettle of the Salvation Army and the ringing of the bell. The organization’s work, however, extends far beyond December.
“Oftentimes, we’re behind the scenes and people don’t even realize that we’re year-round,” said Maj. Carole Abella of the Salvation Army’s Golden State Division. “Some people think about us just at Christmas, but there’s a lot of that happens year-round, so having people support us financially in the community is vey, very important.”
Previously, the Salvation Army had a funding source from drawdown money from endowments, but at this time, they are not going to be able to rely on them. Abella said that the funding of the community is needed to best maximize their impact.
“We need the community to be generous in order for us to continue the way that we are in aspect of we’re not cutting services, but we have to evaluate,” Abella said. “We have to look and we have do say: ‘Can I do something more efficiently here or there, so that it’s not costing me as much in the process?”
She further explained that sometimes budgets must be cut in some places.
The services of the Salvation Army extend beyond food distribution to include energy bill assistance, tutoring and other services to low-income and elderly clients.
One of their volunteers was Kathryn Irvin. Previously, Irvin had worked as a mechanical engineer for engines on the space shuttle; later, she became a scientific computer programmer, a data analyst and a translator, knowing nine different computer languages, going into business for herself after she moved to Fresno.
At the Salvation Army, she spent a year working as a tutor.
“It was wonderful,” Irvin said. “Many of them were from different cultures, so I was learning what was right and not quite right with communications to make sure that I am helpful and efficient without making any well-meaning blunders.”
But now, Irvin finds herself receiving aid from the people she worked with. Her mother developed Alzheimer’s and her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the two rentals they have fell into disrepair. Irvin worked to pay for restorations, repairs and utilities, but this, coupled with providing for her family (including her grandchildren) and other expenses have meant a severe blow to her finances, including trouble with her Pacific Gas & Electric Co. payments.
In her time of need, Irvin said that the Salvation Army has been there for her.
“I’ve gone to the Salvation Army and they’ve been wonderful,” she said. “And one day a week, I can go and pick up bread, and every other month, I can go and pick up a box of canned food.”
Irvin has considered making money on the side as an Uber driver. Meanwhile, she is trying to get the word about the help they give — and the help they need.
“I’ve been going there because I have a large family,” Irvin said, “and many of them have a lot of needs.”
“We’re just looking at ways that we can run more efficiently, you know?” Abella said. “Were always trying to do really our slogan—or our motto—‘Doing the most good.’”
For information on how to help the Salvation Army’s mission in the Central Valley, visit goldenstate.salvationarmy.org.