The Salvation Army began serving residents of the Bulkley Valley in 1985, when it opened Camp Mountainview, located just outside of Houston.
In the early 1990s, The Salvation Army opened its community service office and Thrift Store in Houston.
Shortly after opening in Houston, they opened a location in Smithers, then one in Hazelton, to further expand services to residents throughout the valley.
The Salvation Army is an international Christian organization that began its work in Canada in 1882 and has become one of the largest direct non-governmental providers of social services in the country. The organization says it gives hope and support to vulnerable people today and every day in 400 communities across Canada and more than 130 countries around the world.
The Salvation Army offers practical help to children and families, often tending to the basic necessities of life, providing shelter for the homeless and rehabilitation for those who have lost control of their lives due to ‘an addiction.
Rick and Sarah Apperson run all three locations and it keeps them busy. Between the three facilities, they run three churches, three food banks and a thrift store.
“It helps to have all three locations as we are able to do bulk food orders, split them between the three and then adjust other things like clothing as there may be a need urgent in a community and we can marshal our resources to meet the need,” Rick said.
Both Appersons went back to school to become officer pastors so they could lead ministries.
One of the main services of the three managed locations are food banks. After deciding they couldn’t maintain the thrift store in Smithers, they expanded the food bank area to the local branch to provide more pantry space.
“Access to food has been difficult since the pandemic,” Rick said. “It was a challenge for everyone. The need in all communities is the highest it has ever been, with the rising costs of everything, we are seeing more people using our food banks every day.
“It was a challenge, like everyone else, to be able to keep the shelves full. Bulkley Valley has always been very generous with the Salvation Army, but demand has more than doubled here and donations have dwindled.
To access food bank help in any location, most people walk in or call. Rick says that because of the stigma attached to it and because people are proud and can access the service for the first time, all staff are working to keep stress levels low, destigmatize the need and reassure people. the Salvation Army is here to help.
They realize that many families are one paycheck away from the cycle of poverty, which can include homelessness and hunger.
“So we understand it can be embarrassing for people sometimes,” Rick said. “We’re trying to make our admissions process as painless as possible and to make sure people hopefully have a good experience when they’re here. We try to create a safe environment so people don’t feel like they can’t ask for help.
With Smithers’ location, they decided they could make better use of the space the thrift store was taking up, so they only maintain a “clothes closet” for emergency needs, but run the thrift store in Houston that the three communities can pull from.
Another area that benefited from renovations was the kitchen.
“The kitchen is now a commercial kitchen,” Rick explained. “One of the programs we would like to offer next year is that we would like to start doing cooking classes, for those who access the services. For example, how do you cook the foods you get in your food baskets, what are some low cost recipes, and things like that. So for future plans we would like to offer major cooking classes and we have other programs planned. »
Another area in which the Salvation Army helps clients is in life skills and an ongoing program is called Pathway of Hope.
“Basically the Pathway of Hope program, which our staff have been trained and are being trained for, we will work with four to five clients at a time and help them set their own goals,” Rick said. “Anyway, it could be going back to school, improving your dogwood (high school) diploma, goals for better housing, how to provide childcare, you know, taking caring for your child, how to clean your house, anything we can help you with.
“We are also looking for the help of other organizations and community partners, who may be able to help us with this program by providing mentors, writing resumes, for job interview training and possibly employment opportunities. use.”
Soon the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign will begin. It is one of the largest and most recognizable annual charity events in Canada. In addition to the campaign’s critical fundraising impact, Christmas Kettles build Army visibility and awareness and provide money for local programs in every community.
Smithers offices are staffed Monday through Friday and are open to people Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for meals and food bank items. They plan to be open other days in the future for walk-in coffee and snacks.
If people want to donate to the food bank, they can be dropped off at any grocery store or call the Salvation Army offices at 250-847-1501.