Corps gets new digs in Binghamton

by Robert Mitchell

The Salvation Army in Binghamton, N.Y., is finally moving its corps out of a cramped downtown space and into a residential area of the city.

Captain Joseph Hansen said a two-story brick building for the new corps has been purchased about a quarter mile away. An architect is drawing up plans for the building’s renovation, and the congregation hopes to be in the new structure early next year.

Hansen said the current 13,000-square-foot, two-story building is dated and “no longer suits our program needs and the neighborhood.” The corps was dedicated in 1905 and remodeled in 1959, and many of the mechanical systems are difficult to maintain.

The downtown location also sits along a commercial strip on a narrow street with little parking. The area is seeing an influx of posh restaurants, Hansen said, but no children for youth programs like SONday’s Cool, Girl Guards, and Boys Adventure.

“In the new facility, we’ll be able to expand our spiritual programming and children’s programs,” he said. “Kids programming has been a challenge. We just can’t get kids to come to the corps, so we’re going to move closer to where there are neighborhoods. We’re hoping that by being in a neighborhood they will be more willing to come to the corps and participate in those programs.”

Like many communities in upstate New York, Binghamton also struggles economically and is home to several “food deserts,” where people have no access to fresh foods. Several grocery stores have closed in recent years on the city’s north side, and Hansen called food insecurity “one of the largest problems in our area.”

“Studies have shown this to be one of the more impoverished neighborhoods in the city so we’re looking forward to being able to bring our services and programs to that community,” he said. “We understand there is a spiritual need in the community, and we think it will go a long way being near them rather than asking them to come to a downtown area.”

The latest stats from the U.S. Census Bureau show 31.4% of the population in the Binghamton City School District live in poverty. That figure rises to 41% for children under 18.

Hansen said the corps will offer a food pantry and soup kitchen—as it does now—once a commercial kitchen is finished in the new building. The Salvation Army’s soup kitchen is the only one in the city open seven days a week.

“We’re just really excited about being able to bring our services closer to some people who actually need it,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting those spiritual programs going, especially for the kids, and making sure we’re meeting both physical and spiritual needs in that area.”

Several plans have been on the drawing board over the years to move the corps out of the downtown area, but Salvation Army leaders are excited this initiative will get the job done.

“This is God’s plan for Binghamton,” said Sarah Miller-Locke, director of advancement for The Salvation Army’s Empire State Division, which includes Binghamton.