Q&A with Capt. Pam Perry

May 15, 2013 

City of Residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Salvation Army

QUESTION: This is National Salvation Army Week. How did that come about?

ANSWER: The week was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 and has been observed annually ever since. It’s always the second week in May. We’ve been blessed to have had local proclamations made by many Central Georgia mayors.

QUESTION: Are there any special plans for the week?

ANSWER: The biggest is a Saturday at our Salvation Army family thrift store at 305 Green Street. We’ll be out there from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with bouncy toys, fire department displays and other fun things. We’ll have our disaster service vehicle out there serving hot dogs for a donation.

QUESTION: What is the Salvation Army’s history in Warner Robins?

ANSWER: There has been a post here since the city’s early days and the start of Robins Air Force Base. The Salvation Army has been heavily involved with the military since World War I and the days of the Doughnut Girls.

QUESTION: You said the Salvation Army started here with a post. What’s a post?

ANSWER: There are service centers which just provide community and other services. If there’s an interest in Bible study and spiritual needs, it’s a post. If a full-fledged church is established, that’s called a corps.

QUESTION: How’s the Salvation Army funded?

ANSWER: Through things like the thrift store, the Red Kettle Drive at Christmas, donations and direct mail donations. We get a small amount through state and federal grants, but those are in short supply. It’s important to know that money donated to the Salvation Army goes strictly to community services and not to the local corps or church.

QUESTION: What are the main Salvation Army community service programs here?

ANSWER: Definitely the social services programs then the youth programs.

QUESTION: Describe some social services programs.

ANSWER: They include homeless services, which include providing food and clothing and referrals to our shelters in Macon. Some transient persons choose not to be in a shelter, so we just try to help with food and clothing. Our social services are through our office at 113 McArthur Boulevard.

We also provide services to families. That involves helping struggling families with food and clothing and rent and utility help with the limited resources we have. We work in cooperation with area agencies and Georgia Power Company’s Project Share.

QUESTION: Other related programs?

ANSWER: We operate a protected domestic violence shelter locally. Through our connection with Macon, we can also provide long-term residential drug, alcohol and related addiction recovery programs.

At our new Café 316 building on Manor Court we provide showers and laundry services to homeless people. They go to the McArthur Boulevard office to initiate those services. We don’t have an actual feeding program there, but people who show up hungry generally get fed. That’s one program we are really seeking new volunteers to get involved in.

QUESTION: What’s the scope of some of these programs?

ANSWER: We serve an average of 75 families a month and the need is growing. About 70 percent are here for the first-time, and we may or may not see them again. There are many “normal folks” needing services who never would have in years past.

QUESTION: What about youth programs?

ANSWER: Café 316 will play a bigger and bigger role in our youth programs, but again, we need volunteers there. We see it as being the center for education and mentoring activities. Youth programs include summer programs, camps and music programs.

QUESTION: Do you have any plans or programs on the drawing board?

ANSWER: We’re starting a community garden. I’m nurturing a bunch of baby plants at home right now and we have Boy Scouts and volunteer airmen from the base who will till the ground. We could use more volunteers with green thumbs who’d like to help. We’d even like to take some of the produce to make salads to sell at lunch.

QUESTION: Will the garden be a teaching tool?

ANSWER: I have a desire to do outreach and teach self-sufficiency. I’m not a “prepper,” but I am a country girl, and it’s frightening that so many people don’t know how to grow anything or take care of themselves if there were a need. Growing, canning, all that sort of thing, would be part of that. It sounds quaint, but there’s a need to teach effective homemaking and parenting skills because we need effective homemakers and parents.

QUESTION: How about the thrift store? Why should people shop there?

ANSWER: When they shop at our store, they’re getting good merchandise at a fair price. Some say they don’t go because they don’t want to take from people who need it, but that’s not the point. We do provide people in real need with clothing. People shopping at the store provide cash to support people in need. We need the money to support the area’s 120 shelter beds for men, women and children and our 18 beds in the domestic shelter plus in the addiction programs. That’s money for food, too.

Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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