The Salvation Army recently added two captains to its staff in order to better serve the needs of the Jamestown community.
Kimberly and John Merchant, 12-year Salvation Army captains, have been appointed to the Jamestown post.
According to Merchant, he came from a large family who benefited from public assistance, including that which the Salvation Army provided, and thus he knows firsthand the importance of the program, he said.
Kim and John Merchant, Salvation Army captains who have been appointed to the Jamestown post, are pictured in the chapel at 83 S. Main St.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
"My dad was an alcoholic, and the Salvation Army came to the house when I was 7 for after-school programs," Merchant said. "As we developed a relationship with them we started going to the church, and participating in various activities. After Kim and I got married we felt our calling to become ministers for the Salvation Army."
The Merchants are natives of Rome, but were appointed to the Corning Salvation Army as their first assignment, and served there for the past 11 years.
"In Corning we had a big responsibility as far as social service work such as food, rent, utilities, medication and the church program," Merchant said. "We also had the largest after-school program, with 125 children, and a summer program with 180. But, when we first became ministers we signed a covenant that we'll go wherever they send us, whenever. So, we're real believers that no matter where we go the Lord is going to take care of us."
"Our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ," Mrs. Merchant added. "We don't discriminate, so it doesn't matter what walk of life you come from - our doors are open to everyone. And, we try to offer a holistic approach by serving mind, body and soul."
Before they got the assignment, the Merchants had never before been to Jamestown, and thus had no indication of what they were getting into. But, they were aware that it would bring on greater responsibility because not only is the operation larger, but it also serves a more densely populated area.
"We've been here for four months, and it really is a lot like Corning," Merchant said. "It's much bigger than Corning as far as population because there were 10,000 there, and there are 30,000 here. But, it has almost the same makeup as far as those who are in poverty and those who aren't. The needs seem to be a little bit greater here, but we really like a challenge anyway. There may be more work here, but we've also got a bigger staff here with workers that have been here an average of 17 years as well."
The Merchants put a strong focus on community, and will thus reach out to various local organizations and churches to coordinate and not duplicate services based on what the community needs.
"Our whole passion is community," Merchant said. "This is a bigger appointment for us with the domestic violence shelter that we didn't have before, the specialized kids program for youth who have either been sexually assaulted or suffered domestic violence, the rape crisis hotline, the regular core programming and the church. There's quite a bit going on here, and we welcome the public to come on in to find out what services we offer."
One aspect of the services that the Jamestown Salvation Army offers which Merchant hopes he can improve upon is the food supply. He believes that with the reduction of SNAP Benefits, a greater need for food will arise.
"We're working on some grants right now, and trying to find foundations who might be able to help us take care of the needs a little better," Merchant said. "Right now we're doing a three-day supply of food, and I would like to see that go up to a five-day supply. With SNAP Benefits reduced, I really think we're going to see more people needing access to food, clothing, furniture and more. With some seniors on a fixed income it can be a choice between medication or food, so they are going to need access to a pantry more often."
Although the Jamestown Salvation Army is currently receiving support from businesses and organizations such as Wegmans, Tops, Tim Hortons and the St. Susan Center, Merchant hopes to further increase the amount of healthy food available to area residents.
According to Lori Franzen, food pantry coordinator who has been with the Salvation Army for 13 years, the Jamestown branch has seen six different sets of officers in her time, but she is looking forward to what the Merchants will bring to the area, she said.
"Every officer brings new challenges and prospects - we'll see what happens," Franzen said.
Because the Merchants have served as captains for 12 years, in three years they will become majors, and they hope it happens while still serving the Jamestown community, they said.
"We're hoping to have longevity in this appointment because it really does take four years at least to get to know the people in your community," Merchant said. "We have at least 15 years before our retirement, and we wouldn't mind staying here the whole time."
The Salvation Army of Jamestown is located at 83 S. Main St. For more information, call 664-4108.
The Salvation Army is always accepting new volunteers and donations, so there are many ways for area residents to get involved.
One of the major fundraisers for the Salvation Army is the Red Kettle Campaign, which has been a nationwide tradition since 1891. In addition to Red Kettles located in various businesses and organizations around the community, new kettles can also be created online at www.salvationarmyusa.org.
Information on the many other ways to offer support can also be located on the website, such as the ability for area residents to adopt an Angel in The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program. The program provides new clothing and toys for children through support of donors. The trees are located at various local businesses and organizations, and donors can remove one or more of the tags from the trees to purchase gifts for the child described on the tag. The locations can be found online at www.salvationarmyusa.org or by calling the Jamestown location at 664-4108.