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News / Life / Clark County Life

Salvation Army settles in for service at expanded east Vancouver campus

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: November 23, 2019, 6:01am
6 Photos
Local officials and Salvation Army leaders cut the ribbon during the Nov. 15 grand opening for the newly expanded Salvation Army campus in east Vancouver.
Local officials and Salvation Army leaders cut the ribbon during the Nov. 15 grand opening for the newly expanded Salvation Army campus in east Vancouver. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Salvation Army is settling into its newly expanded campus in Vancouver’s Fircrest neighborhood. Opening the new digs comes at one of the busiest times of year for the long-standing, faith-based nonprofit.

It’s kicked off the red kettle campaign with its trademark bell ringers soliciting donations in front of businesses during the holiday season. And Monday morning was the first day people could pick up Thanksgiving boxes, pre-made packages full of all the fixings needed for a Thanksgiving feast.

The $5.7 million expansion consolidated two campuses, which meant relocating services, such as the food pantry, from Northeast 47th Avenue to Northeast 112th Avenue.

Thanks to the new building’s larger lobby, most people were able to wait inside for their food boxes. Dianne Harmon, lead case manager, said 122 families came in during a 2 1/2 -hour span to pick up Thanksgiving boxes. Clients and volunteers gave her positive feedback about the new space.

Did You Know?

The Salvation Army in Vancouver started in 1890 primarily serving soldiers and their families in the downtown area.

“They love how clean it is, how friendly it is,” said Harmon, who’s worked for the nonprofit for 20 years. “It sets the tone. We’re greeting them and thanking them for finding us.”

Though she saw about a dozen new faces, most were Salvation Army regulars. It means people are aware the food pantry has moved from its old leased location in the Andresen/St. John’s neighborhood. Harmon’s offices are right off the lobby in the new building, which makes ducking in to talk with clients about services easier and more direct. She helps those in need get rent and utility assistance, among other services.

Warehouse coordinator Paul Dano appreciates having a temperature-controlled warehouse, as well as a walk-in freezer and refrigerator that opens on the other side to food pantry clients. It’s shopping-style, meaning people select the foods they want rather than receive pre-made boxes of food (aside from Thanksgiving and Christmas food boxes). While the pantry warehouse has a smaller footprint, it has more vertical food storage space.

About a dozen employees work at the Salvation Army in Vancouver, which serves about 16,000 people annually through services such as job training, utility assistance, after-school care, rent assistance, food and gifts during the holidays. Steve Rusk, community relations and development director, said the Salvation Army is working with C-Tran to consider adding a bus stop near its campus. The closest one is on Northeast 18th Avenue.

The original building on the east Vancouver campus was renovated and reorganized to better accommodate Salvation Army’s after-school program. With additional space, the program’s capacity doubled from 30 to 60 children from Fircrest, Marrion and Hearthwood elementary schools, which Rusk said aren’t served by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington.

“They can’t do it all. There’s still a gap,” Rusk said.

Rusk said he aims to secure a grant to build a playground and covered sports court.

“There’s still a vision for things we weren’t able to accomplish with this building,” he said.

That includes planting crops in a community garden next spring to increase the food pantry’s amount of fresh produce. A commercial kitchen and teaching kitchen are still in the works.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith