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Greater Augusta: A helping hand to those in need

Op-ed by Linda Sloan and David May

By the time you and your readers see this, our area will have helped to choose a new President-elect, Congressman-elect, and U.S. Senator-elect. After month upon month of hearing from others who we should vote for, we will have finally exercised our right to step up, vote, and, in so doing, help to decide who should have the opportunity to help lead our nation over the next two, four, and six years. After this process that has reminded us of some of what divides us, we are asking the people of the Greater Augusta area to now come together and turn their hearts, minds, and resources to a task that should unite us all. That task is to meet the needs of those in our community who are trapped in the world of poverty.

For too many people here in the Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta County area, life has become a paycheck-to-paycheck, hand-to-mouth experience. As our community begins to feel some of the effects of the national economic crisis, we are seeing in our offices on a daily basis good, hard-working people who want to care for their families but can’t because their pay isn’t keeping up with their expenses. In the current trend experienced by many of flattening wages, reduced working hours, and increased energy and food prices, it doesn’t take long before many families begin to walk the thin line between sufficiency and poverty. These times are difficult enough for those who have some savings and ability to weather the current financial storm, but we have all learned very quickly how fickle and fleeting these reserves can actually be. For those already living on the margins, the current situation means that those already on the razor’s edge of financial stability may fall off and be unable to maintain their households. For these families, it isn’t just about living. It’s about life.

For over 95 years, The Salvation Army has been here in the Central Shenandoah Valley meeting people in need at the point of their need with resources provided by our community to help them make it through the crises that impact their lives. In the past year, through our hunger and homelessness prevention ministries, our Christmas/Thanksgiving assistance programs, and our other emergency assistance services, The Salvation Army has touched over 25,000 individuals in the Greater Augusta area and invested over $1.1 million of resources in its people and its economy. This year, if the forecasts and projections are even remotely close to what has been indicated, we fully expect more people to come to our door looking for our help than ever. This is true not only as we approach the Holiday Season but throughout the year as well. While we don’t want to cry “Wolf!”, we must make every effort to ensure that we can be there for the families that we know will knock on our door over the next year looking for help with food, shelter, and other basic human needs.

Whether it is dropping change in our Red Kettle, serving as a Volunteer Bell Ringer, establishing an Online Red Kettle, supporting our direct mail solicitations, giving unused and unwanted gift cards, adopting angels from our Angel Tree, donating items for sale or distribution through our Family Thrift Store, or donating canned food, toys, or frozen turkeys at Thanksgiving or Christmas, we are asking our community to be generous when they have the opportunity to support The Salvation Army. It is this generosity that has allowed us to be there in the past, and it is this same generosity that will allow us to be there now and in the days to come. We make the commitment to our community to do the most good with its donation to us of its time, talent, and resources to serve others.

In years past, this community has responded generously with its support to the needs of its people when those needs have been brought to its attention. We are hopeful and optimistic that this year will prove to be no exception. On behalf of the people that we serve, we thank you for your time and the opportunity to write to you and your readers today.

Major Linda Sloan is the corps officer for The Salvation Army in Waynesboro. Capt. David May is the corps officer for The Salvation Army in Staunton.

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