The Salvation Army’s Center for Hope has made a strong effort to find new ways of serving the community while keeping people safe from the coronavirus pandemic. Although adjusting to this new normal may have been difficult, the organization is determined to serve Jefferson City as best as they can by offering food, outreach, and personal assistance.

At the Center for Hope, they offer shelter, a kitchen, as well as lunch and dinner to those in need of a ready meal. Normally, the organization serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, however, due to COVID meals are now served in a to-go box for fast and safe availability.

Their food pantry is another aspect they would like highlighted. Since the pandemic, hours for their pantry have been expanded to include Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This was decided because several of the other pantries were closed due to COVID-19. The Salvation Army’s goal is to continue operating despite the pandemic as they work together with other charitable organizations to help the community.

“We noticed that with the layoffs due to the COVID outbreak, we made the decision to expand our food pantry,” said Salvation Army Director Brian Vogeler. “Typically, we were open only two days a week, now we’re open four days, so we have picked up on serving more food out of here. We’ve let the Food Bank know that we’re going to be open more days so that we can serve more people.”

The Salvation Army also provides important social service programs for the community. Their “Pathway to Hope” program helps families go from homeless to permanently housed and their work with the state has also been beneficial in setting up another housing program.

“We also have the program to assist to keep people housed and we help with utility bills and rent,” said Vogeler. “And then we also have a housing program that we work with the state of Missouri with, the COC – the Coalition of Care, and what we do is we take people who have disabilities that are homeless, we house them, and then we follow up with case management for them.”

With the spread of the coronavirus, the Salvation Army has also made sure to take the proper precautions to keep people safe from the pandemic. Following strict safety guidelines and creating new environments so families can enjoy their meals without fear of contracting COVID-19.

“We put in extra precautions including social distancing, wearing a mask, washing our hands when we come into work, and taking temperatures,” Vogeler said. “We did the best we could. It’s not been an easy task by any means, but we just to keep on top of it.”

In the past, the organization would serve residents their lunch and then serve the community in their dining room. Since COVID, they have now taken to creating a spaced-out, socially distanced environment for residents to eat their meals. They have also taken to serving the community to-go meals out of the backside of their kitchen so individuals can still receive without coming inside the building.

“We’re just trying to keep everybody as safe as possible,” Vogeler said. “You used to be able to come into our waiting area and then into the pantry. Now we hand you your box of food out the door. We don’t have anybody come into our building. We used to be able to offer showers and laundry service here but now we’ve had to suspend those until we get the all-clear on the COVID.”

As the year continues, the Salvation Army asks the community to help in any way they can. According to Vogeler, monetary donations and cleaning supplies are always helpful and greatly appreciated as they continue to combat the pandemic.

“Monetary donations are great but we’re always struggling to keep cleaning supplies,” Vogeler said. “We try to clean our facilities a couple of times a day here. We make sure all the handles are wiped off and make sure all the floors and the restrooms get cleaned. Unfortunately, you can hardly find cleaning supplies now, so we are now in the midst of trying to get more to make sure our facility is sanitized and safe for everyone and our employees coming in.”

With the holiday season about to begin, Vogeler wants the community to know that a great way to help the Salvation Army is through supporting their Red Kettle campaign. All the money donated will remain local and will be used to help benefit Jefferson City.

“If you have a civic group, a church, or any kind of organization and they would be interested in ringing some bells, you can sign up and work at different locations around town,” said Vogeler. It’s only a couple of hours at a time, so it doesn’t take your whole day. It’s great for families and for parents who would like their kids to get out and give back during this time. It’s a great thing to do.

Everyone who can be a part of the Red Kettle campaign is encouraged to join and can register through their website, registertoring.com.