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Salvation Army's resources spread thin, suspends meal service

By Richard Yeakley
Dec. 5, 2012 at 10 p.m.


With the Salvation Army's resources spread thin from its annual Red Kettle fundraising program, the local organization has suspended its daily community meal service as other nonprofit groups fill the gap.

Major Ernest Lozano, commanding officer at the Salvation Army post in Longview, said from the start of the Christmas kettle program until Jan. 2, the Salvation Army will not serve an evening meal to anyone other than residents the group is housing.

"If we are slightly diverted, it is because our focus is on that," Lozano said. "I wish we had enough resources and volunteers to have the Red Kettle program and the outside meals.

"We are still feeding those that live in our housing. We are still feeding about 50 people," he added. "We had the outside meals for maybe 30 or 40, but the gentleman who coordinates the meals is coordinating our kettle effort."

The funds raised from this year's Red Kettle program will help more than 700 families and 2,000 children during the Christmas season, Lozano said.

The gap in meals left by the Salvation Army until Jan. 2 has been felt by other nonprofit missions in the community.

Brett Foster, senior program director of House of Disciples, said his organization, which usually feeds about 80 meals a day, had seen a jump of 15 to 30 people since the start of the Red Kettle program.

House of Disciples had to request a temporary permit from the city to feed the additional people.

"The need this time of year can be overwhelming, and the Salvation Army is doing more than their part by concentrating their efforts on a specific 700 families in need. We felt that we could be of assistance by providing this meal to those who have been assigned a meal card by the Salvation Army," Foster said.

The organization works with people with substance and alcohol addictions, and Foster said those who usually eat at the Salvation Army could show their cards to be fed.

The Rev. Jennene Laurinec, executive director of Newgate Mission, said that upon hearing of the need, Newgate officials considered beginning an evening meal to help until they learned of House of Disciples' effort.

"East Texas is like that - we have huge hearts. When we see something wrong we want to see it fixed - we want to be part of a solution," Laurinec said. "It's difficult when any one agency has to pull back, for any reason, we try to rush in. We are fixers - that's what we do."

Before the House of Disciples' work, Newgate packed sack dinners for those who were suddenly left without an option for that meal, Laurinec said.

Neither Foster nor Laurinec remembered a time when the local Salvation Army suspended its meal program.

Officials with Hiway 80 Rescue Mission said they are serving a large number of meals but did not know if that is in connection the the Salvation Army suspending its meal program.

Eric Burger, the executive director of the mission, echoed the attitude of the other officials toward having new mouths to feed.

"If anybody shows up here for a meal, we are going to feed them. It might be difficult, but we will always figure out how to do it," Burger said.

Lozano, who joined Longview's Salvation Army this past summer, said if more money was raised than needed to help the 721 families, the money raised by the Red Kettle program would go to support yearly needs.

"Our shelter is open 365 days a year; any funds remaining will be used on our year-round programs," Lozano said.

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