A look at the Salvation Army
“What we’re doing is for a good cause,” Gonzalez said. “All this money goes to help out people who really need it.”
According to Gonzalez, the money stays local and is utilized for people who are hungry and homeless. Some money is also used to help out with first months rent and the cost of utilities that an apartment charges. The donations even extend to aiding people who are facing foreclosure, Paz said.
The Salvation Army was brought to life by William Booth, a British Methodist preacher, in 1878. Over time, he became a renown religious leader whose first converts were thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards.
In 1867, Booth was named “General” of what many people were calling the Hallelujah Army. It wasn’t until 1878 that Booth penned his group as the “Salvation Army” in the foundation’s deed. Now, the Army is a worldwide organization serving 124 countries.
According to a spokesperson for the McAllen Salvation Army office, their employees range from local Valley members to Winter Texans, citizens from the north who venture to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter.
With two main offices located in the RGV, the volunteers and workers are stationed with their red kettles and bells outside stores such as Hobby Lobby, Walgreens and Big Lots. Some are assigned restaurants like Golden Corral.
Employees for the Army have to report to their designated office before taking off for work. Since Paz and Gonzalez reside in Edinburg, they have to be at the McAllen office by 8:30 in the morning. Grabbing their aprons, kettles and hats, they board the transportation the Army provides but don’t know where they are going.
“Normally we’re just put where we are needed,” Paz said. “If someone didn’t make it into work today or someone needs help we are put there.”
After they arrive, the women go through the process of setting up, by hanging their kettles on a large red tripod. They then ring their bells and wait for the donations to pour in.
When the day comes to a close, the hired Army members must have raked in $80 in order to get paid their 30 or 40 dollars, Gonzalez said. However, this can prove to be difficult because the employees are not allowed to ask any customers, entering or exiting the building, for donations.
“We’re told we can’t,” Gonzalez said. “We can’t approach people but if they ask us questions we can explain to them the cause and who or what the proceeds are benefitting.”
The money gathered isn’t all spent within the month or the year. According to Paz, the donations are stretched to benefit people well into the following April, so when May comes around, all the money has been used up.
One of the problems that Paz and Gonzalez claim that they are facing is the form of today’s money. According to them, the hardest part about collecting is that not many people carry change with them. Their pockets are now filled with credit cards instead of pennies, quarters and dimes.
“We have brought up (the credit card issue) with our managers,” Gonzalez said. “We want to see if we can bring in a credit card swiper or something so people can donate that way.”
Donations through cash is not the only way of helping people through the Salvation Army, Paz assured. Projects such as the Angel Tree program have been implemented into the Army. The program was established by a woman named Mary Kay, a former inmate at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama, in the early 1980s.
The program was created to gain sponsors for children who had parents, specifically mothers, in prison. Over time, the it has extended to aiding parents who can’t provide for their children. Through the sponsors, the children are given gifts on Christmas Day so that they won’t have to miss out.
“What we want people to know is that donating should be from the kindness of your heart,” Paz said. “It’s not about expecting something in return.”