Wilsons find Bartow's generosity heartwarming
by Marie Nesmith
Dec 13, 2012 | 1644 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With their holiday offerings in full swing, Lts. Lee and Michelle Wilson are reflecting on their first 10 months leading The Salvation Army’s Cartersville Corps.

“We love the city, love the county,” Lee Wilson said. “It’s been great getting to know the friends of the Army that are here in the area and just to see the generosity of the community as a whole in their willingness to care for those in need.”

Along with forming relationships with the Bartow community, one of the Wilsons’ highlights has been reopening the nonprofit’s Family Store at a new location in June. Now located at 14 Felton Place, near the nonprofit’s main office, the offering was temporarily halted in January due to financial restructuring. To help meet the needs of the store’s shoppers, Michelle Wilson is encouraging the community to donate items, ranging from clothing to kitchen supplies.

“We’ve just been extremely blessed getting to know the community of Bartow,” Michelle Wilson said. “One of the things that we’ve discovered is a community that truly cares about others and gives of themselves through their time, whether it’s volunteering on the kettles or giving financially to support The Salvation Army and just embracing the mission to meet the needs of others that The Salvation Army has. ... The store has been open for just over six months now. Word is continuing to get out every day that we are open over near the administrative offices on Felton Place. ... But with the increased customers that we’ve been seeing particularly during the month of November — the supply and demand for the donations that we have coming in — we’re running critically low on donations.

“Everything that has come in in the store back there has been processed and is either on the floor or will be going on the floor within a days time of when it comes in. As we gear up for the end of the year donations, people that may be cleaning out for tax purposes or what have you, we just want the community to know that we’re ready and willing to accept their donations because every pot and pan or clothing item, or whatever it is, that comes in in the back of the store and is processed and goes out to the floor, the proceeds that come in from that go straight back into helping the fellow Bartow citizens that are in need, not throughout the Christmas season but throughout the year.”

Funds garnered through the Family Store assist the nonprofit’s services, such as its character building programs, disaster relief efforts and social services offering. In 2011, the Cartersville office provided social services — food and financial assistance with utility bills, medications and rent — to 3,055 individuals.

Currently, each month, the Cartersville Corps is providing a total of about $6,500 to between 500 and 550 individuals through its social services program. The nonprofit’s food pantry serves about 100 people a week.

“We are receiving more and more requests [for assistance],” Michelle Wilson said. “We’re pleased that we have been able to step up our social services program in the past year and provide more services to the community. But even still, the need is bigger than the funding we have available. We receive on average about 40 phone calls a day at our office for assistance from folks who either need food assistance or prescription assistance or utility assistance and, of course, those phone calls, depending on what the need is, adds up very quickly.

“And the appointments that we have available fill up very, very quickly and, of course, the hardest thing to do is to listen to their story and listen to someone who’s coming to you for the first time and have to say, ‘I’m sorry all our available appointments for the month have been filled.’ That’s the hardest thing to have to say to somebody who’s at rock bottom and has finally made the choice to call and ask for help.”

Along with the Family Store’s proceeds, The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle donations also will help fund its social services program. Through Dec. 24, bell ringers will man Red Kettle stations each Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., outside various Cartersville locations, including Belk, Kmart, Kroger, Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Big Lots and Ingles Markets on Joe Frank Harris Parkway and West Avenue.

This year, the nonprofit hopes to match last year’s Red Kettle total of $40,000. If successful, the campaign’s proceeds will account for about 20 percent of the local Salvation Army’s operating budget, which also includes providing Christmas gifts to nearly 1,000 children.

“So far the kettles are doing very well this season, compared to last year,” Lee Wilson said. “But we still haven’t reached our goal and we’ve got a little bit of ways to get there to do that. Due to the increased need that we’re seeing, we hope to break what we did last year. Every dollar counts. Every dollar above the goal would be added resources to help those in need.”

For more information about the local Salvation Army, contact the Cartersville Corps at 770-387-9955.