Posted: Sep 27, 2012 6:24 AM by Megan Murphy
Updated: Sep 27, 2012 8:27 AM
FULTON - Until last year, Callaway County didn't have a Salvation Army. Residents who needed assistance had to head to Columbia. Now, they can head to First Christian Church in Fulton. The county's Salvation Army is coming up on its first anniversary, but the financial struggles are a constant.
From the outside, it looks like a regular church, but on the inside, it's providing salvation for more than just the spirit. Pastor Ed Varnum said, "In the first six months, we helped just about 100 households, since then the number just keeps growing as the word has gotten around."
Pastor Varnum came up with the idea to house a Salvation Army Extension.
"When I was here, people would be coming by asking for help especially with utilities and we didn't have funding within our budget to do that so. I contacted Salvation Army, the Midland region which is in STL, and we are service extension of that organization," he said.
A board decides how much money can be given to each family. Right now, it gives $75 to help with utilities if they have a disconnect notice. Families can get help with utilities one-time in a six-month period. If it can't offer money, Varnum and his staff help connect residents with other groups that could help.
Some much-needed funds will come next year from the United Way, which will give Callaway's Salvation Army Extension $5,000 for utility assistance. The rest of the extension's budget will come during the upcoming bell-ringing season. Board member, Kathy Wright said, "Funds are basically done through the traditional bell ringing around Christmas time."
Last month, The Callaway Salvation Army ran out of money completely. Varnum said, "We did a call to churches in the area and our church raised several thousand dollars to see us through."
Wright explained the budget, "85 percent of those funds stay right here to help those in Callaway County who need utility assistance." 15 percent goes to the Salvation Army's national and regional offices.
Salvation Army officials say the second greatest need is diapers. Varnum said they always keep the church fully-stocked.
Varnum said, "It's very hard. It's very hard when we can't give them any more when we would like to. And, they need some more funds. The people who come to us -- it's time for them to be cut off. We get people coming in with families and children and they need help. And your heart goes out to them."
To provide salvation to a county as large as Callaway, it should take an army. In this case, it just takes a church.
Friday, the United Way is hosting a radiothon. The Salvation Army Callaway Service Extension Unit will be one of the featured agencies.