The Salvation Army provides help for today, hope for tomorrow

By Michelle Pape

The holiday season is back and with it the familiar sounds of festive carols, Santa’s jolly laugh, and the ringing of bells as you dash in and out of stores. Chances are you’ve stopped to drop spare change into that bell ringer’s red kettle, but have you ever really thought about the impact your donation has on our local community?

For The Salvation Army – the organization behind those red kettles – the Christmas season is a time of great need and opportunity. According to Major Steven Merritt, divisional commander for The Salvation Army’s Wisconsin and Upper Michigan division, roughly 40 percent of their annual budget comes through the red kettle campaign and helps fund a wide variety of programs and ministries provided throughout the year.

Meeting the community’s most basic needs
In the Milwaukee area, a majority of the funding is directed to the Emergency Lodge, a 120-bed shelter for homeless individuals and families. The only 24-hour shelter in town, it provides residents with three meals a day, as well as access to medical care and assistance in obtaining employment. The Emergency Lodge is constantly at capacity, with an average stay of 90 days. Residents can stay as long as needed while making progress toward self-sufficiency. More than 82 percent of residents move from the shelter to safe, affordable housing each year.

The Salvation Army also provides nourishment to the hungry through its food pantry and Feed the Kids summer meal program. During the summer months, Salvation Army vans deliver nutritious meals made by volunteers to Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods. The lunches are often the only meal those kids will eat that day. This year marks the 28th Annual Christmas Family Feast where local chefs and volunteers will serve nearly 10,000 families and individuals at The Wisconsin Center on Christmas Day. All are welcome to enjoy a delicious meal and the spirit of the season.

Providing hope, stability for kids
With one in four Milwaukee children living in poverty, The Salvation Army is working hard to provide stability and hope in the face of hardship.

“A lot of the children we work with come from homes in chaos,” said Major Merritt. “Providing a future and hope for these kids in our community is so important.”

The Salvation Army has numerous programs to ensure that kids receive the essentials, as well as extras that foster the joy of being a kid. Through the Coats for Kids and Back to School Backpack Distribution programs children are given a warm coat and the supplies necessary to feel confident and ready to meet the academic challenges of the school year. The annual Toy Shop allows parents to “shop” for a gift from toys donated by the community to help struggling families make Christmas a little brighter. In summer, the 240-acre Army Lake Camp in East Troy offers the traditional camp experience to children from all over the division with boating, fishing, and hiking.

A rich history of serving others
A Christian-based organization, The Salvation Army has been serving Wisconsin and Upper Michigan since 1888. For more than 130 years, they’ve provided critical social service assistance, including addiction rehabilitation and disaster relief services, to those with the greatest need without discrimination.

“There’s no criteria or caveats to receiving our services,” said Major Merritt. “We believe you help all the poor and disadvantaged in your community. The need is always great and continues to grow.”

Salvation Army: By the Numbers

45,450 nights of lodging provided in 2016 at the Emergency Lodge
136,350 meals provided at the Emergency Lodge in 2016
2,143 individuals served by the Emergency Lodge in 2016
275 individuals were served in 2016 through the Employment Assistance Program (82 secured employment)
9,507 individuals served by the Food Pantry program in 2016
67,462 meals served to children through the Feed the Kids program during summer 2017
$67,338 raised through WISN’s Class Act Phone Bank/Stuff the Bus to provide backpacks and school supplies for MPS students in 2017
$269,026 raised through CBS58 and FOX6 Hurricane relief phone banks

Help Wanted: Five Ways You Can Make a Difference

  1. Financial support: Your monetary donation helps support social service programs that meet the basic needs of homeless and low income individuals and families.
  2. Donate your gently used items: Clothes, furniture, appliances, and other household items are sold in The Salvation Army’s Family Stores. To schedule a pick up, call 1-800-SA-TRUCK or visit
  3. Volunteer your time: Volunteers are needed year-round, but especially during the holiday season. Contact volunteer administrator Nancy Zompolas, to learn more.
  4. Donate your vehicle: Support The Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation programs by donating your car, truck, boat, or RV. To schedule a pick up, call 1-800-SA-TRUCK or visit
  5. Host a food drive: Collect food, snacks, or even personal hygiene items to help stock the food pantry and Emergency Lodge.

More information on all of these opportunities can be found by visiting or calling 414-302-4300.

You’re Invited!

Attend the “Red Kettle on the Red Carpet” Gala
Saturday, December 16, 2017
The Wisconsin Club

Join co-chairs Melinda Davenport of WISN 12 News and Alex Lasry of the Milwaukee Bucks at this black tie affair featuring a gourmet dinner and special auction with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as auctioneer. Rub elbows with some of Wisconsin’s most recognizable athletes and dance the evening away to the sounds of Paul Shaffer of the David Letterman Show and CBS Orchestra. Find more information at

Fact: From fulfilling basic needs on a daily basis to providing disaster relief services, The Salvation Army helps nearly 33 million Americans each year. That’s roughly one person per second.