The non-religious services the Salvation Army provided to Thompson through its food bank and thrift store could be replicated by other organizations, but it may not be easy.
Whenever an organization closes in Thompson, whether it’s a smelter, refinery, long-established business like Don’s Jewelers, or newer arrival like Staples or Rogers , not to mention a low-cost recreational facility like the gated Norplex Pool, it’s a waste. And, as the previous partial list indicates, Thompson has suffered a lot of losses lately.
When workplaces or businesses close, the city loses jobs. It may lose residents and tax revenue. Landlords can lose rental payments. Other companies are losing customers. Non-profit organizations and sports associations are losing volunteers. The repercussions of these closures are being felt everywhere.
The closure of the Salvation Army in Thompson, announced on May 25, does not represent a big loss in terms of jobs—there are only the two pastors and the people from the thrift store—nor of taxes, since churches are exempt from taxation, but it can still have a bigger effect than some of the other closures mentioned earlier.
It’s not so much worship services. All churches, not just the Salvation Army, have suffered from dwindling congregations in recent years and there are already more than a few old churches in the city that now serve as child care centers, or a Sikh temple, or the home of another organization, or just sitting empty, used only for renting halls for dances, craft shows and other events. Anyone who has attended Salvation Army services and needs to go to another church can probably find plenty of empty pews without looking too hard. No, the most significant impact will be the loss of non-religious services provided by the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army is one of the leading examples in Thompson of a church that adheres to the principles of the social gospel: the idea that the role of Christians and their churches is not just to be a place worship for people, but also to improve the lives of those in need, whether they are faithful or not. Although it is generally possible to find something objectionable or at least questionable among the fundamental beliefs of any church or religion, it is difficult to argue that the Salvation Army has not improved the lives of many residents of Thompson, especially occasional or regular food banks. users and recipients of Christmas baskets who obtained all the ingredients needed for a holiday feast as well as toys for the children of the family. Similarly, the thrift store has rendered a valuable service to the city. Granted, not everyone who shopped there was low-income, but probably a significant proportion of the customers were. New clothes aren’t always cheap, even at discount chains, compared to the few dollars every thrift store charges for a shirt or pair of jeans. Regardless of your budget, it also provided a way to sometimes find clothes in stores that don’t have outlets in Thompson, or maybe even local collectibles like a vintage Winterfest hat.
The bad news is that the Salvation Army will no longer be there to provide these services. The good news is that there was nothing about them that was intrinsically tied to being a church. The food bank operated largely through donations from citizens to Salvation Army kettles at Christmas, and items sold in the thrift store were also donated. There is no reason why another church or non-religious organization cannot provide the same or similar services. Thinking back to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, food baskets were distributed by the Thompson Pentecostal Assembly, the Boys & Girls Club and the Thompson Seniors Community Resource Council. It won’t necessarily be up to either of these organizations to fill the void left by the Salvation Army’s departure, but they show that where there is a will, there is a way, especially if there is some sort of funding available. It’s not necessarily easy to fill Salvation Army shoes after June 27, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.