As a captain, with my wife, of the Salvation Army, I am writing to give a perspective from our experience serving in several communities across the western U.S., that Lodi is one of the most giving communities to the underserved that we’ve seen, and the churches are heavily involved in that giving.
My purpose in writing is not to create any kind of conflicts or “verbal sparring,” but to highlight what I see the general community and the churches (The Salvation Army being one of the churches and a social service) are doing to help the underserved on a daily and weekly basis. It is the fine donors of Lodi and the surrounding community — along with some government funding — who keep the doors open and the services flowing for those in need — a hand up and not a hand out.
I would welcome a reporter to tour our three Salvation Army facilities, meet with our staff (many of whom used to be homeless) and meet with our Missions Committee to see the outstanding service that is taking place in Lodi. The Missions Committee is made up of more than 12 churches in Lodi that meet monthly at the Salvation Army and actively work on projects to make sure homeless and underserved children and adults receive food, housing and social services, donating their time, talents and resources at the Salvation Army. Many other fine nonprofits and service outlets in this city give as well.
Let me begin to highlight the services we provide by just a few bullet points:
- Lodi has a shelter at the Salvation Army (Hope Harbor) for women, children and men at a drugand alcohol-free facility. Our facility houses up to 103 persons for up to 56 days per year for overnighters, and serves more than 350 free meals a day, a dinner open to anyone in the community 365 days a year (really good food, most people love it and it is often prepared by our culinary arts program students). Almost daily, these evening meals are served — and many times prepared — by volunteers, business owners and corporate staff, and faith community members — Muslim, Christian, and Catholic, etc. Free showers are available for non-residents for 30 minutes each evening — no questions asked. The facility serves as a cold weather, hot weather and emergency shelter for anyone.
- Most communities the size of Lodi do not even have a shelter. You will be proud to know that our shelter was recently audited in March 2014 and received the top “Gold Star” accreditation (for USA and Canada). We also received a California state inspection and were noted as having no deficiencies. Many homeless consider the Hope Harbor facility safe and the “Hilton of homeless shelters.” We have friendly and full-time women’s and men’s case managers who are serious about helping people succeed in life and stay sober if needed.
- Lodi’s shelter also received top 10 percent veterans per diem program recognition from the Veterans Administration (shelter and transitional housing and transitional apartments). We have a full-time veterans case manager.
- We have the largest food warehouse in Lodi with a pre-screened check-in system to make sure every individual served is not making a high income. Three days per week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) — one time per week for each household — we distribute to the public “Sallie Bags,” full grocery bags of meat, vegetables and sustainable items. For those without cooking facilities, we distribute a bag with multi-day sustainability items: a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly and tasty snacks. We also distribute Emergency Food Boxes quarterly, currently substituted with similar federal government Drought Relief Food Boxes that will be given out on Thursdays until we get more non-perishable food items donated, such as canned goods, etc.
- We have a free tutoring and mentoring program afterschool Tuesday through Friday, a super-low cost summer day camp and overnight camp (all three programs keep kids off the streets and in positive environments). We also offer counseling, churches services, Bible studies, anger management, parenting, smoking cessation, 12-step meetings (Bible-based), social services (utility, food, transportation assistance, etc.), weight management and healthy cooking classes, senior and adult women’s programs, and cost-free, 6-month to one-year drug and alcohol recovery programs for men and women all over Northern California.
- Again, my experience tells me that Lodi is a community that does care. The community and churches may be caring and giving in the way that they do because they do not want to duplicate services, and may not independently have the proper infrastructure to meet the needs of the underserved by themselves. That is why they often donate and volunteer at the Salvation Army and at other reputable organizations.
If you wish to donate much needed non-perishable food items (canned goods, etc.) or monetary donations, please take them to the Salvation Army at 525 W. Lockeford St., Lodi. I am sure the other outstanding organization in our community would welcome your visit and support also.
Capt. Martin Ross is pastor and administrator of the Salvation Army in Lodi.