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Volunteers needed for summer help at Salvation Army Central Oklahoma

Photos courtesy of Salvation Army
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Geryl Force of Oklahoma City volunteers one to four days a week at The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command’s Client Choice Food Pantry, walking with clients as they push grocery baskets around the “store” to choose food for their families.

For three years, Force has been a familiar face at The Salvation Army. He and his wife volunteered one year for The Salvation Army Thanksgiving Dinner, and the experience made him want to give more of his time to help those in crisis.

“We really enjoyed volunteering at Thanksgiving,” he said. “The Salvation Army said they had a need at the food pantry, so I volunteered and I’ve been doing that ever since. It’s enjoyable. I try to make people feel good when they leave. I want them to feel good because there is no telling what they’ve been through before they got here.”

Now, more volunteers are needed for various tasks at one of Oklahoma City’s largest non-profit agencies. As volunteers take summer vacations or stay at home with their children during the off months, more and more clients turn to The Salvation Army for assistance.

“A lot of children receive lunches at their school, but during the summer, the parents have to provide more,” said Liz Banks, volunteer coordinator. “We have an influx of parents coming in to get food for their families.”

Volunteers are needed for four-hour shifts to help clients select groceries at the Client Choice Food Pantry at The Salvation Army Social Services Office, 1001 N. Pennsylvania. Food, groceries, utility assistance, special seasonal needs like summer boxed fans, disaster relief coordination and residential homeless shelters are provided through the social services office.

A mother and daughter select groceries at the Client Choice Food Pantry.  (Photo courtesy of The Salvation Army) 

Through case management, direct support, partnerships with other community agencies and through corporate and private partnerships, Social Services provides more than 36,000 grocery orders a year to families in need, provides more 2,000 cases of utility assistance and more than 29,000 nights of shelter.

“We served 19,000 families in our food pantry last year,” said Banks. “Volunteers are needed to help assist our clients with selecting groceries. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we need help with stocking and unloading the food deliveries. We ask people for four-hour increments, but in the summer, we are flexible. If you only have two hours to give, we will take that.”

Summer at The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club is also a challenging time for staff and families, Banks said. With children out of school, many turn to the club for not only a safe place but for daily meals as well.

“We are looking at our needs this fall,” Banks said. “What we need is a small group, company, church group or club to ‘provide, prepare and serve.’ What that means is that the group purchases groceries to cook a meal at the Boys and Girls Club and serve it to the 75 children we usually have during our after-school program.”

Meals can range from simple dishes like hot dogs and chips to full casseroles with a salad and cookie. Farmers Insurance in Oklahoma City, for instance, cooked up a dish of spaghetti and meatballs, salad, bread and a cookie for the children in the Boys and Girls Club program.

“Our Boys and Girls Club doesn’t charge a lot for attendance because frankly, the families cannot afford it,” Banks said. “In addition to providing after-school and summer care, we want to be able to feed the children as well. If we can help them out with meals, then maybe they have an easier time paying the electric bills or other bills.”

The Club, located at 2808 S.E. 44th Street, provides snacks and dinner to every Club Kid member. Every member is also eligible for Salvation Army Corps programming, which includes scouting programs and Bible studies.

More than 23,805 children and their families were served at The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club last year with more than 24,000 meals and snacks provided. Children logged more than 41,000 hours of physical activity at the club and received more than 7,500 hours of homework help as well. More than 95 percent of the Club Kids are on free or reduced lunches.

Boys and Girls Club members play a game of basketball. (Photo courtesy of The Salvation Army) 

Membership at the Club is $20 per month per child during the school year for the after-school program. This program runs after school until 6:45 p.m., Monday through Friday during the months of August to May. The Summer Program membership is $100 per month per child for the months of June and July.

"Volunteers are a prized commodity when it comes to the summer months," said Banks. "We understand that many are out spending vacation time with family, however, we are offering up another way to spend time with loved ones and that is to give back to the community. What better way to create a lasting memory than to spend time with friends and family serving those in need of food and hope."

For more information on volunteering at The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command, contact Banks at 405-246-1107 or email liz.banks@uss.salvationarmy.org.

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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