Q & A with Captain Derrick Purvis

Head of Herkimer Salvation Army explains the help the nonprofit provides to people (it’s not just food)

David L. Podos

Q: As soon as you mention the name Salvation Army, many people immediately conjure up an image of a person on a cold windy wintry day ringing a bell for donations in front of a Salvation Army money kettle. While that image is essentially true, the Salvation Army is much more than that, isn’t it?

A: Absolutely. First and foremost, our mission is to preach the gospel and meet human needs without discrimination.

Q:  Along with preaching the gospel what other services does your Salvation Army offer to the community?

A: For this facility we have a community meal we offer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. at no cost. We have our gleaning services every Monday and Wednesday at 10:30. We have been offering gleaning services for approximately three years. In that program anyone can come to our facility and get a free bag of food. For example, if you have four people in your house hold you will receive four bags of food, again at no cost.

Q: That is quite incredible. Where does this food come from?

A: We get donations from our local Hannaford, then out by the Thruway we receive food donations from Burger King, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes and Apple Green.

Q: All these vendors give you this food for free?

A: Amazing as it sounds, yes, free.

Q: Who actually are the people you serve? Are they from families that are in financial distress, are they homeless etc.?

A: We find out that the majority of the people we serve are financially between the middle- and lower-class incomes. However, we do not ask for their financial records but rather rely on trust when they say they are in need. We do however ask where they live and how many people are in their households.

Q: Does your center offer a food pantry?

A: Yes, we do. In that capacity we serve the towns of Mohawk and right here in Herkimer.

Q: Talk a bit about your spiritual services that you provide. Is it for anyone who may be interested in attending?

A: We obviously have church service on Sunday. Those services are from 11 to 12. We also offer Sunday school starting at 10 on Sundays as well; it is a small group of bible study. Services are open to all.  Every Tuesday at 6 p.m. is women’s group. In this group sometimes the women make crafts, sometimes they play games and or cook, and work on service projects. On Wednesday at 11 we have bible study which is open to everyone.

Q:  It is evident that many people in this community rely on your programs. Does anyone come to mind whom you worked with who was having a really bad time but were turned around in a positive way from receiving your services?

A: Yes, this one gentleman comes to mind. He volunteered for us from time to time. He was addicted to drugs. Our community meal cook, Paul, took this person in to his own home. There was a program we could get him into but he had to detox first. The last time I heard how he was doing he was cleaned up and been off of drugs. I truly believe that by his relationship with us and meeting our cook, Paul, it was perfect timing to help this person and the Lord made it so.

Q: How does the organization support itself?

A: Well, our biggest fundraising that helps keep our lights on so we can provide all these services would be our bell ringing during the holiday Christmas season. We have other fundraisers as well. Another big one for us is held in January. That is our chicken barbecue. We also receive funding from the Food Bank of Central New York and a number of federal grants as well as support from our local United Way.

Q: Do you accept personal checks from people and if someone wanted to leave you an endowment how is that handled?

A: Yes, we do accept personal checks and throughout the year we do receive those donations. In regards to someone who may want to set up an endowment we do have personnel in our Syracuse headquarters who are trained to handle those kinds of financial transactions.

I also want to mention that this year we are starting a brand-new fundraiser at the kettle stand. At Walmart on both ends of the store we will have a system set up for donations called tip tap. All you have to do is take your credit card like you would do for other purchases and tap. It would be a set donation of $5. Of course, people can still drop their coins and or dollars into the kettle if they prefer.

Q: How does someone contact you and learn more about the Herkimer Salvation Army?

A: More information can be found on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheSalvationArmyHerkimer or call us at 315-866-1240.