The Heart of Montgomery County

Answering The Call

Salvation Army sees a surge in clients

Jasper Cox puts cash in the Salvation Army Red Kettle at County Market, as bell ringers Faye Cooksey and Sandy Webb look on during the 2017 kettle campaign.
Jasper Cox puts cash in the Salvation Army Red Kettle at County Market, as bell ringers Faye Cooksey and Sandy Webb look on during the 2017 kettle campaign.
Journal Review File Photo
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After being laid off from work, a Montgomery County resident was ready to start another job when his employer told him to stay home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A mother trying to find childcare for her kids after local schools were ordered closed couldn’t get in to a center. Another woman who showed symptoms of COVID-19 and had to self-quarantine didn’t receive a paycheck while she was at home.

Those are some of the stories Michelle Yoder has heard as she fields a surge in calls to the Salvation Army, while the economic fallout from the virus tightens its grip in the county.

“It’s story after story of people who are hurting and they don’t know where to go and where to turn,” said Yoder, a local service representative for the global relief organization that operates in 85 Indiana counties.

Yoder answers the local hotline (765-401-6043), interviews clients over the phone and makes arrangements for dispersing money, a one-person operation as the agency mourns the death last month of Debbie Weliver, who was the only other local service representative.

The agency has seen about a 50% increase in calls since the pandemic arrived in Indiana, all of them first-time callers mostly impacted by the virus. No in-person meetings are being held to screen clients for now.

“They don’t know when they’re going to go back to work. They don’t know how many hours they’re going to get and it’s hard to plan your life,” Yoder said.

Financial assistance is provided to families struggling to pay for rent, utilities, groceries, clothing and medicine. Part of the money is raised during the holiday season red kettle campaigns.

Along with writing checks, the agency also refers clients to local food pantries and other aid groups.

As part of a $15 million nationwide grant, The Salvation Army’s Indiana Division received $5 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the COVID-19 response. Funds will be distributed to chapters across the state to be spent within the year, as the agency expects another wave of clients trying to catch up on bills after the virus peaks.

The local chapter was awarded a $3,000 grant from the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund through the Montgomery County Community Foundation. Local churches and individuals have also donated to the cause.

Donations can be mailed to Salvation Army of Montgomery County, P.O. Box 190, Crawfordsville.

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