This past Thanksgiving, the Salvation Army had 60 turkeys delivered, adding to their already large collection of birds to be distributed for the holidays.
Around 600 boxes were packed with the November feast’s staple items—stuffing, corn and mashed potatoes—enough for 300 local families in need.
Their spacious warehouse area and large gym made filling boxes and storing supplies easy. However, the prior year, they wouldn’t have been able to accept those extra 60 turkeys.
“This is a place you’re not going to find anywhere else in Pennsylvania,” said Kathy Anderson-Martin, director of resource development, showing a visitor around the new home of the Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region.
Their old facility in Midtown was just that—old—or, for a better choice of words, well loved. For more than 60 years, the Green Street building was known in the community as the place to go for a hot meal, grocery shopping or job assistance, but the organization was outgrowing it. It was time to move on.
In September, the Salvation Army moved to its newly built center on the 500-block of S. 29th Street—a building that could’ve swallowed up the last one. From the closing of the first space to the opening of the second, there was only a weeklong gap.
“They really haven’t skipped a beat in services,” added Anne Deeter Gallaher, advisory board vice-chair.
The Salvation Army Capital City Region serves more than 25,000 breakfasts each year, assists with over 115,000 food pantry meals and, through its self-sufficiency program, helps around 1,000 households.
The new building houses an updated kitchen for the breakfast program, a food pantry, a family services wing with private offices for case management, a chapel and classrooms for youth programs.
The food pantry is one of the most exciting features for Anderson-Martin, who sees it as a more dignifying experience than it previously was for shoppers.
“People can shop for what they can use and need,” she said. “We want them to have better food. We don’t give out anything we wouldn’t eat ourselves.”
Most of the food comes from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank or is rescued from stores like Costco. Anderson-Martin explained the Salvation Army’s commitment to having 75 percent of their food be fresh.
With their large, glass-door refrigerators and rows of shelves, shoppers can peruse the aisles for items that fit their needs and their tastes. Occasionally, the organization holds cooking demonstrations, as well.
“People are empowered to come in and choose,” Deeter Gallaher said.
Besides regular services, they’ve added an arts and science classroom for STEM activities and a nutrition education kitchen with eight teaching stations. In the kitchen, families, as well as children and adult groups, can learn how to cook healthy meals by a registered dietician.
Jenny Gallagher Blom, director of programs and operations, remembers the first few days of the new programs opening.
“There was this buzz in the air,” she said. “It was so nice to finally see all of this happening here. This is all worth it.”
Salvation Army now has the capacity to host youth programs in its own building, which includes a playground, instead of alternative places such as schools. There are music, performing arts, church programs and Thrive 506, an after-school program for kindergarten through sixth-grade students. They’ve also partnered with 3 Star, a basketball mentorship program, to host practices and games in their new gym.
Capital Area Head Start also has classrooms for their students there.
The project totaled $12 million, funded through many local donors, corporations and foundations, as well as public grants through Community First Fund, Impact Harrisburg, Dauphin County and the PA Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).
With a space this big, numerous staff and volunteers are required to keep it running smoothly. Denise Shade is one volunteer who has been involved for four years.
The huge building, she admitted, took some getting used to, but she’s in awe of how much nicer it is. For her, the Salvation Army has always felt like home.
“I was always very fortunate growing up,” she said. “I come here and see people who are totally different than me, and I see how the Army helps them.”
That’s exactly why Anderson-Martin worked so hard on the building project for a decade—because the Salvation Army impacts so many people.
She pointed to a small mound of change on her desk and recalled the story of a man who came in to receive help around the holidays. He was stopping by on his way to the bank. After the Salvation Army provided him services, he dropped a pile of change on the desk in front of him. He said this was the money he was going to deposit, but he wanted to donate it instead.
Anderson-Martin keeps those coins on her desk to remember that story and why her work matters.
The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region is located at 506 S. 29th St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.pa.salvationarmy.org/harrisburg-pa/