HELENA — The Helena Salvation Army had their ribbon cutting on their new expanded facility. Staff say the expansion will help increase the number of clients they’ll be able to serve and improve the quality of many of their services.
“It’s been a real boost to the staff because they have more space to meet with clients and just been uplifting for everybody,” said Major Lawry Smith who serves as director of the Helena Salvation Army along with her husband Phil.
The new $1 million budget expansion connects the old building with the gymnasium and provides new space for an expanded food bank and case management offices.
Staff say they regularly hear from individuals in need that they are not aware of all the services they provide, even though they help thousands of families in the community each year.
The Helena Salvation Army can help an individual with food, rent and other poverty assistance, case management, substance abuse and more. They also closely work with other area nonprofits to help connect individuals with other organizations if they have a need they can’t meet.
“We invite everyone to come through our doors. We want to help all those that are in need no matter what the need is,” said Smith. “If we can’t serve you here or we don’t have the resources here we’re going to find out where we’re going to find out where we can refer you.”
Major Phil Smith says unfortunately a big hurdle for many individuals in need can be just admitting they need help in the first place, and not feeling ashamed of seeking that help. However, taking that first step can get the individual on a path toward a better future.
“It’s an opportunity to rewrite your story,” said Smith. “Your story may be filled with calamity and despair or dysfunction, but when you come to the Salvation Army or another helping agency. Someone who’s willing to resource you or help guide you through the first steps to change and stabilize, it is an opportunity to rewrite your future.”
One such individual that was able to rewrite their story was Helena Salvation Army Facilities Coordinator Travis Kelly.
Kelly found himself and his family in need of support after he lost his job. He had also developed cataracts that greatly reduced his eyesight, and made it difficult finding employment.
“I came to the salvation army for some rent assistance and they looked at my case,” said Kelly.
Staff saw that Kelly was struggling with several areas in his life and developed a plan to help. The first step was getting his housing situation under control, so they got him enrolled in their transitional housing program to take that burned off his shoulders.
“It put a roof over the head of me and my children, and helped with food,” said Kelly. “They also helped me get my bills back into order.”
Kelly still struggled to find a job while in the transitional housing program. Instead of just sitting at home, he decided he wanted to help give back to the people who have been helping him.
“I started doing volunteer work with the Salvation Army. They noticed that and when they had an opening come up for a custodial position they let me know. I was so grateful for that and everything they’ve done for me, and now I’ve been with the Salvation since 2014,” said Kelly.
Kelly says he honestly doesn’t know where his life would be had it not been for the support from the Salvation Army. He lived in fear of his landlords and the uncertainty of making sure there was food on the table for his children.
“I came to the Salvation Army and it was like a welcoming family,” said Kelly. “They didn’t do the work for me, but they guided me in the right direction on how to improve my life. I’m 100 percent grateful for that.”
Kelly says he truly believes the whole experience has also made him a better person. He admits he was a pretty self centered individual before he got help, but has since become more compassionate for others and actively tries to help when he can.
“I see new families come in and struggling where I was before,” said Kelly. “I like to touch base with them, see if there’s any way I can help or answer any questions they have about getting help. I want them to succeed like I did because some people just need a little extra support or some extra kindness.”
The Helena Salvation Army has seen an increased need in their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they want people to know that if the are in need they will try to help however they can.
Anyone can call or stop by the Helena Salvation Army office off Henderson Street during business hours to meet with someone about services available. Additional information can also be found on their website.