Staff, services down at Salvation Army of Clark County but need isn’t

Organization asks community to support its work

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Did you know?

Last year, The Salvation Army served more than 25,000 people in Clark County.

The Salvation Army of Clark County started its fiscal year Oct. 1 with four fewer employees and $250,000 less in the budget.

And those cuts might not be all that’s in store. One of the organization’s flagship programs is in jeopardy at a time when need continues to grow.

“We’ve experienced a trend for the past three years of increased need and decreased funding,” Ron Fenrich, Clark County coordinator for The Salvation Army, said in a news release.

The $250,000 budget reduction accounted for about 8 percent of The Salvation Army’s overall budget, said Steve Rusk, business administrator for The Salvation Army.

As a result of the dwindling resources, The Salvation Army laid off four of its 16 employees and reduced its after-school program for kids and teens to just one day a week. The organization has also scaled back the contents of its food boxes, Rusk said.

In addition, one of The Salvation Army’s flagship programs, “Moving Forward Together,” is facing an uncertain future. The six-month intensive program helps stabilize housing for participants, while helping them learn life and job skills for long-term independent living.

The program currently has 20 participants but does not have funding to continue.

“We’re in jeopardy of losing the program,” Rusk said. “If we can’t turn things around financially in a significant way, it’s a matter of time.”

Rusk said the organization plans to use all its available resources to extend the program as long as possible and will continue to look for new funding sources, such as grants.

The Salvation Army also reduced its after-school program from three days a week to just one. More than 45 children and teens benefit each week from the program’s homework tutoring, computer lab and dinner.

Last year, The Salvation Army served more than 25,000 people in Clark County — more than in 2009. Each month, it distributes food boxes to about 4,500 people in 1,400 households; that’s an increase of 24 percent in the last three years, Rusk said.

As the need increases, the programs are stretched thinner and thinner, he said. The sizes of the food boxes and the quality of the contents are shrinking.

“We do that in order to not turn anyone away,” Rusk said. “We would like to meet our goal of giving everybody a three- to five-day supply of food. We’re not able to go that.”

The Salvation Army is turning to the community for donations ($40 can feed a family of four for four days) to keep the programs running. All donations made in Clark County will stay local.

Donations can be made online at http://SalvationArmyVancouver.org.

Marissa Harshman: http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com; 360-735-4546.