Salvation Army holds Christmas in July

Crystal Pugsley of the Plainsman
Posted 6/23/23

Salvation Army holds kettle drive to supplement Christmas giving

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Salvation Army holds Christmas in July


It’s beginning to look a lot like . . . Christmas in July, enthused Salvation Army Lts. Justin and Shannon Bluer.

Bell ringers traditionally seen at Christmas will be standing with red, white and blue decorated red kettles to seek much needed donations Saturday, July 1, at Wal-Mart, Coborns, Fair City and Running.

It’s an effort to recoup losses from a Christmas season last December beset with bitter cold temperatures and a series of fierce winter storms that marched across the prairies.

“Really, the last two weeks before Christmas were really hard, and the week just before was worst,” Shannon Bluer said. “We started off so good, too. Christmas giving in the red kettles was down because of the storms at the end of the season, you couldn’t have anybody outside. Even the kettles that were inside, people weren’t going out to the stores.

“Then a storm came just before Christmas, when we usually see an increase,” Shannon added. Red kettle donations were down more than $5,000 from 2021, and even the Christmas Basket Program brought in less than hoped. Overall, the budget is about $20,000 short, Justin indicated.

Money that is raised through the red kettle campaign over Christmas is used throughout the year to fund programs and help people who need assistance.

“We just have to do a budget revision,” Justin said. “We try not to take away from our programming.

Thankfully, we didn’t get affected like a lot of other Corps did, who had to cut staff and programming.

“Basically, if you don’t meet your funding goal, you have to make cuts somewhere,” he added. “We take away from ourselves before we cut programming. We won’t be going to commissioning in Chicago. Just different things you have to do.”

The money they raise helps pay staff, provide vouchers for gas or a motel room for a day or two, and many other things needed to help those who stop in.

Justin said they recently helped one young woman with a small child who found herself homeless when her apartment was deemed unlivable by an inspector; but their options to help are limited.

“It would be nice to have a shelter for them for 90 days or six months to help, some sort of transition shelter,” Shannon said. “There is nothing here until you get to Sioux Falls.”

“My hope is that before we leave, we will at least get the ball rolling on some sort of shelter here,” Justin said. “I think the community would support a shelter. The Huron Ministerial Association and Salvation Army both try to help people, get them into a home. We don’t want to send them away if this has been their home.”

Huron Housing Authority offers help with housing, but the qualification process takes time. “What do they do while waiting for qualification?” he asked.

The Salvation Army outreach to the community includes their Day Camp, which accepts children from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for youth in kindergarten through 12 years of age. The cost is only $25 a week.

Older children are also welcome to attend, and can help as volunteers in the program.

They have about 18 children daily, providing snacks and lunch along with activities and games. Each Tuesday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. is their music programming, which is growing and now has 24 participants. They could use additional keyboards and guitars, as well as more volunteers who will share their love of music with the next generation.

“We have more kids than instruments,” Shannon said. “We desperately need musicians. Music is beautiful, it’s a huge part of our lives.”

The Genesis Feeding Program provides free noon meals for about 35 to 50 a day, and they also provide food baskets and grocery items for those in need. The food pantry is open daily from 1 to 3 p.m.

Daily they receive bakery goods or dairy products from Coborn’s, and two or three days a week they’ll receive produce, frozen bakery goods and bread from Wal-Mart.

All these products are displayed in the Salvation Army foyer and are free for anyone to take during regular hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

During the school year, they will also receive leftover food that is then served in the Genesis program.

They also operate the connecting Thrift Store, which is open Mondays from 1 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“There’s so many aspects of our Corps,” Justin said. “One of my goals, even this year, is to start a recovery group. I’m in recovery myself. We already have pool tables, food, ping pong tables. Like 6 p.m. Friday nights, come in, have a meal, a devotional, then go back for pool or ping pong.

“We want to add programs, but it all costs money,” he added. “Lights being on longer, whatever it is. But the whole idea is to try.”

Donations to the Salvation Army can also be sent to 237 Illinois Ave. S.W., Huron, S.D. 57350.