tDemand for services from the state’s 19 Salvation Army offices has increased markedly over the past year. In the past year, for example, the Salvation Army office in Marshalltown has seen a 24 percent increase in the number of families asking for help.
“When the gas prices spiked, the people that we serve, a higher percentage of their income has to go for keeping their car going,” says Major John McCarty, head of the Salvation Army office in Marshalltown. “When (gas prices) got really high, we had a huge demand and it’s backed off a little bit from that (high level of demand), but it’s generally higher than it’s been in previous years.”
Captain Paul Ferguson has been on the job at Ottumwa’s Salvation Army office for three months and he’s planning for a 20 percent increase in demand in the coming year.
“I was looking at the demographics for the area and southeast Iowa is running at 10 percent unemployment right now. That’s kind of from Burlington up to Ottumwa and I know we’ve lost one business (in Ottumwa) and there have been layoffs at three others at least, so there are a lot of struggling people right now,” Ferguson says. “And even those that are working are struggling, so we’re seeing a lot of working poor.”
Salvation Army offices provide food assistance. Many but not all provide help to those who can’t pay their rent or mortgage — or their utility bills. Arvid Huismann, development director of the Salvation Army’s “city office” in Des Moines, says their family services department saw an 18 percent increase in demand over the past year.
“Out of the 37,000 individuals that we served with family services last year, about 9700 were first-time clients,” Huisemann says.
Lieutenant Ronald Cook has been at the Salvation Army Corps in Newton for eight years. “Ever since Whirlpool pulled out of here it’s been pretty hard on us and the community. The community’s just trying to build itself back up, but yet there is so much need here,” Cook says. “We’ve tried to help them the best we could, but we haven’t been able to give as much help because there is so much need.”
With more households applying for assistance, the amount of food and living expenses given to each household has declined.
Envoy Tim North expects traffic at his Salvation Army office in Boone to keep growing, as a big manufacturer in Boone will soon shut down.
“I would suspect with the economy and jobs kind of getting a little bit scarce, we will probably see some influx from that also,” North says.
The Salvation Army has offices or “corps” in Boone, Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubquue, Fort Dodge, Fort Madison, Iowa City, Keokuk, Marshalltown, Mason City, Muscatine, Newton, Ottumwa, Sioux City and Waterloo.