Covid-19Magazine Exclusive

A moving donation

As many parts of the country are starting to reopen and return to some sense of normalcy from COVID–19, The Salvation Army in Bangor, Maine, is still feeding hungry families.

That’s why the corps staffers celebrated a recent donation of almost $3,700 to its Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen from the Central Maine Moving and Storage company and the Masonic Rising Virtue Lodge.

“I think the reason they picked us for the donation is because we’ve been really trying to get the word out through social media that we have one of the main feeding programs for our community,” said Captain Rebecca Kirk, the corps officer.

Kirk said the corps served 75–100 people a day for lunch before COVID, but that quickly jumped to 200 after the virus struck. The soup kitchen also expanded from five to seven days.

“Like everyone else, we also had to close our thrift stores,” Kirk explained, “so we lost our main source of funding. At the same time, we massively expanded our feeding program, which we felt we needed to do.

“It was a step of faith on our part. We believed that if we put it out to the community, we were going to meet this need—no matter what—and that the community would respond and give us the resources we needed to do it.”

Trudy Darling, who handles new business development for Central Maine Moving and Storage, got wind of the need and took it back to her senior management team. The company decided to support The Salvation Army through its upcoming internal employee furniture auction, which raised close to $2,700.

“I was so excited,” Darling said. “It just so happened that this particular auction had record donations, which made us all happy.”

Ryan Buttice, the company’s general manager, said Central Maine Moving and Storage makes more than 1,000 home deliveries a month for various companies. If a piece of furniture is damaged or not acceptable, the companies ask him to pick it up and store it in his warehouse. Eventually, they usually ask for the items to be disposed of or given to charity.


Driving for change, hope

Buttice said the company holds an employee auction each month and gives the proceeds to charity. This time, it was The Salvation Army.

Officials from the company and the Masonic lodge toured the soup kitchen before presenting the check to the corps in early June. Buttice said he liked the “Hope” T–shirt worn by James Moors, the soup kitchen/homeless outreach coordinator at the corps.

“I thought it was kind of neat,” Buttice said. “There’s a lot of people out there with hope and there’s also a lot of companies out there that have the ability to fulfill that hope and drive change. One of the things we thought of was ‘hope drives change’ and we’re a company right now that has the ability to make a difference in our local economy.”

Meanwhile, Roland Gendreau, the CFO of the moving company and a member of the Rising Virtue Masonic Lodge, secured a $1,000 donation from that organization.

Darling has challenged other local businesses to help groups such as The Salvation Army if they can.

“We’re hoping that other companies will follow in those footsteps,” Buttice said. “If you’re capable and you have to the ability to donate, why not do it?”

Kirk said the donation from the two groups inspired the soup kitchen staff.

“Our staff is small,” Kirk said. “Normally our soup kitchen runs because volunteer groups come in and prepare the meals and serve. Of course, you can’t have that when you’re in a total community shutdown. So, our small little staff has been preparing the meals and serving the meals. We also added meal delivery, which is something we had never done before.

“We do it because it needs to be done, but it’s going on three months, and we’re exhausted. So, to get a phone call out of the blue from this company did a really awesome thing for us, it just made us feel like somebody sees us. Sometimes we’re so in the middle of it that we forget that people do see and acknowledge what we’re doing. That was so big for us.”

Kirk said the entire COVID–19 experience has been a “relationship builder,” as she worked alongside employees and others. The corps has livestreamed services and connected by holding some meetings via Zoom.

“For us, we have to be ministers of hope,” Kirk said, referring to herself and husband Captain Jeffrey Kirk. “It has to radiate from us that God is in control, things are going to get better, and there is hope and resources available.”

Kirk has put out the word in Bangor that not only is it OK to ask for assistance, but “The Salvation Army is here to help compassionately” throughout the pandemic.

“This is what it’s like to minister in God’s love,” she said. “God’s heart is breaking for us right now. It’s breaking for people who are stressed about not being able to provide their children with food. God’s heart is breaking for people who are in fear that they’re going to be homeless because they can’t pay their rent. We have to continually radiate hope and love and compassion. Now is the moment we have to demonstrate all of those things.

“We must demonstrate the love God has called us to demonstrate as The Salvation Army and as Christians. This is what we’re supposed to be doing right now.”

by Robert Mitchell