Edith Miles' warm smile welcomed me when I wandered into the Mooresville/Troutman Salvation Army.
As I asked directions to a business, we began to chat. Soon I was seated across from Miles, learning about the faith-based organization. Our conversation prompted me to contact Capt. Glenda Priest.
Since arriving with her husband, Capt. Phillip Priest, in 2007, Glenda Priest has worked to increase the organization's visibility. She has worked with Mooresville Christian Mission, the Soup Kitchen, the Winnie Hooper Center and churches to assist people.
While headquarters are in Statesville, she moved the Mooresville/Troutman branch from N.C. 150 into a new office at 470 N. Broad St., Mooresville. It has a waiting area and a separate room for confidentiality when caseworkers confer with clients.
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Each day the organization aids men and women who need help with bills because of changes in circumstances. Priest said higher gas prices in 2008 and a rise in unemployment led to more requests.
"More middle-class people are coming in," she said.
Applicants must show that an emergency exists. If work hours have been cut, you must show two pay vouchers: one to reflect previous wages and one showing current pay.
"We have to be good stewards of money that's been entrusted to us," Priest said. "We want to be able to say to the public that the money is truly being used for emergencies and people who really need money."
The major source of revenue is donations. Additional money comes from the United Way and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
At Christmas, people gave generously to kettles in six locations, and sponsors helped with increased requests for toys and the angel tree. Mooresville Girl Scouts filled almost 500 stockings.
Priest would like to see more volunteers in 2010. She doesn't want to have to hire bell ringers.
"I want to thank the community for supporting the Salvation Army. We have donors who support us during the year," Priest said.
One program is designed specifically for local residents. Outraged over the death of a homeless man who froze one winter, Dave Harrison, chairman of the Mooresville advisory committee, and his wife, Susan, led a campaign to raise money for cold-weather assistance.
The Salvation Army partners with Days Inn to provide housing when temperatures dip to freezing in winter or rise to extremes in summer. Agencies or churches can refer people to the motel for three stays, and a maximum of three nights each stay.
The Salvation Army pays the bill with money collected for weather assistance, not from the budget.
Priest is pleased with the motel project's success. "This is something that no one else is doing," she said.
In partnership with Lowes Foods, the organization also offers emergency help to travelers passing through the area who experience difficulties. They are sent to the grocery store with a food voucher.
Miles and Priest reminded me that helping people in our community is an ongoing commitment, not just a donation at Christmas.