Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Beyond the Bell: More than just kettles, Salvation Army helps rebuild lives.

Screenshot 2015-04-29 00.41.16Those who only “see red” when they think of The Salvation Army—as in the kettles of that color for collecting Christmas donations—must expand their vision.

TSA actually works year-round, offering a myriad of services to help those in need. Just in the Harrisburg Region, the Salvation Army offers 11 programs and services, including the only breakfast-feeding program in the area. Almost 70,000 times a year, TSA Harrisburg provides food for the hungry.

“Often people don’t know us until they need us,” said Major John Griner, area coordinator/corps officer for the Harrisburg Capital City Region.

This month, the good work of TSA Harrisburg will be highlighted and honored at the Annual Civic Event, which will double as the group’s 130th anniversary celebration. Moreover, it’s the 150th anniversary of the parent organization.

Positive Life Choices

In 1865, British preacher William Booth began to minister to those living on the margins of society. TSA since has greatly expanded its mission and today focuses on families, as well as individuals.

Locally, family services constitute a large part of the work of the Harrisburg Region. These include both short-term services to families in need of immediate food and shelter, as well as longer-term assistance.

Naomi, for instance, raising her young grandchildren, often uses the food pantry. “The money I save from the pantry helps me pay the light bill,” she said.

Another client, Yvonne, lost her two front teeth in an accident as a teen and has had other struggles over the years. She enrolled in TSA Harrisburg’s Hope and Vision Endeavor (HAVE) program, which uses a holistic approach to promote long-term self-sufficiency. With the assistance of a HAVE case manager, she replaced her teeth, obtained a driver’s license and secured employment.

In Harrisburg, more than 300 kids participate in TSA’s Summer Youth Enrichment Program, held at various outreach locations. In this all-day program, which lasts for nine weeks, youngsters rotate through eight activity programs, including arts education, nutrition education and physical education.

Another program, Bridging the Gap, offers 41 curriculum units to guide children—many of whom live in difficult, negative environments—to make positive life choices.

“The physical location of youth programs can be anywhere and everywhere we go to connect with kids, such as schools, churches and alternative education program sites,” said Kathy Anderson-Martin, director of philanthropy. “We focus on current and emerging needs of youth and adapt curriculum accordingly.”

Speaking of location, the administrative offices of the Harrisburg Region long have been at 1122 Green St., but officials now are looking to relocate.

“Our facilities are inadequate to serve the more than 20,000 people who visit our office each year, and we need to be closer to the clients who need us,” said Anderson-Martin. “Our current location is on the market.”

Outside the Box

Every region of this huge international organization operates locally and has to raise funds for its own budget. If the goals aren’t met, programs might have to be cut.

For the past five or so years, noted Griner, the Harrisburg Region has worked especially hard to identify and serve communal needs.

“In 10 out of 10 cases, these revolve around kids and education,” he said. “So, we have focused on partnering with or assisting local schools and teachers to work on educational deficits.”

Partners in the effort include area schools, such as Downey Elementary, which is the site of the after-school program, Messiah College, the local United Way and the Joshua Group.

“We try not to reinvent the wheel,” said Griner.

The Region welcomes volunteers at all times, but especially before the holidays. They can provide new toys and clothing items for children and seniors through the Angel Tree and Adopt a Family or Adopt a Senior program, pack Christmas gift boxes or ring the bells at red kettles.

One Region event, Shoe Strut, has provided shoes to nearly 1,000 kids over the past three years. Shoe Strut resulted from a brainstorming session of a group of volunteers of the women’s auxiliary to meet a need creatively and effectively.

“We try to think outside the box,” said Anderson-Martin.

According to Anderson-Martin, it is particularly gratifying to hear an adult say, “I was one of your kids, and remember what you provided.” Or: “A meal changed my life perspective.”

“If you can get to the kids, you can hopefully break the cycle,” she said.

You can help Salvation Army Harrisburg Region celebrate its 130th birthday at its Annual Civic Event on May 13 at Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill. This year, the organization honors Penn State football head coach James Franklin. Sponsorship opportunities, including those with a VIP Meet & Greet with Coach Franklin, are available on a limited basis.
If you wish to volunteer or want more information about the Civic Event or the organization, call 717-233-6755 or visit

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