This article is one in a series of stories focusing on local agencies which receive s upport from the United Way of Chaves County, which is currently conducting its annual fundraising campaign.
An institution in southeast New Mexico for more than a century, the local Salvation Army cares for the most destitute in Roswell as well as those in other states living through dire circumstances.
Locally, The Salvation Army helps about 3,500 people a month, according to Capt. Mandy Perez, who noted that about 3,000 are assisted through The Salvation Army’s food bank, located at 207 E. Chisum St.
Perhaps the one time during the year when The Salvation Army is the most visible is around the holidays, when red kettles and bell ringers grace the front of stores and angel trees, small Christmas trees decked with ornaments featuring a child’s name and gift wish, are propped up around town.
“The Army has always been part of the fabric of the community,” said Salvation Army Capt. Beau Perez of the agency that has been in the region for 111 years.
As a member agency of the United Way of Chaves County, The Salvation Army receives designated funds, donations made to the UWCC that people specify are to be given to The Salvation Army, as well as a portion of the overall funds the UWCC raises during its campaign.
Last year, The Salvation Army received $19,000 from the UWCC. The amount is distributed in monthly installments. Mandy Perez said the funds from UWCC are primarily used to combat homelessness. This is done by helping people who are facing eviction or those who might be in danger of having a utility disconnected.
“We request funds for homelessness prevention so we use (the funds) for homelessness prevention,” Mandy Perez said. All of the UWCC funds go toward helping the public.
Tina Ridgway, receptionist and social services administrator, said about 70 percent of those who seek help at The Salvation Army are families with small children. Another 10 percent are homeless. She said the number of people seeking help at The Salvation Army is steadily growing.
Ridgway said that, aside from helping to fund The Salvation Army, being a member agency of the UWCC has another perk: It allows The Salvation Army to keep a close communication with other agencies that work to help the public.
“If we can’t help somebody, … we try to find someone who can and get them the help they need,” she said. “(The) United Way plays a big part in that. … We are always in contact with the other agencies in town.”
Disasters and emergency situations are not beyond the duties of the volunteers of The Salvation Army. Beau Perez said The Salvation Army hosts a series of disaster training courses, which focus on subjects such as stress management, food service and handling, and an introduction to disasters.
Thanks to these courses, Salvation Army volunteers were able to care for those afflicted by the Wallow and the Monument fires in Arizona earlier this year. Almost immediately after returning from Arizona, the volunteers helped with the Donaldson Fire near Hondo.
Beau Perez said that although an emergency situation or a natural disaster is a source of stress for all, it is those who are already struggling who tend to get hit the hardest by such events.
“People in the margins are already overwhelmed,” Beau Perez said. “The mission of The Salvation Army is … to meet human needs.”