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MODESTO — Red kettle bell ringers stationed at storefronts during the holidays are a trademark Salvation Army tradition, but the nonprofit organization runs a multi-faceted church-centered operation aimed at helping struggling families throughout the year.
Founded in 1865, the Salvation Army is an evangelical arm of the universal Christian church.
“We are a church, so our primary mission is to teach the gospel. The second is to serve suffering humanity without discrimination,” said Stanislaus County Coordinator for the Salvation Army Captain Dwaine Breazeale.
As a Salvation Army officer, Breazeale is an ordained minister. He is pastor of the Modesto Citadel on I Street, one of four Salvation Army relief locations in Stanislaus County.
His wife, Deborah, is also ordained.
The Modesto Citadel holds Sunday and midweek church services at the onsite chapel with Breazeale at the pulpit. When not preaching, Breazeale and his Citadel staff assist families in need.
A large percentage of the emergency services the Citadel provides is aimed at keeping families in their homes. The Salvation Army helps people navigate between stocking their refrigerators or paying bills, choices Breazeale says families with marginal incomes are forced to make daily.
The Citadel steps in with emergency food and utility or rent relief whenever possible.
Partnering with PG&E, the Salvation Army acts as the fiscal agent for donated funds from the utility’s customers.
The Salvation Army does not handle the funds but qualifies families in need based on PG&E’s criteria.
“We fax the information in. It is flagged in their computer system and then PG&E transfers from this fund — it’s their money — to your account,” said Breazeale.
MID has a similar program.
For families that cannot pay rent, the Salvation Army helps make emergency payments to prevent eviction or works to place those families in more affordable housing.
The Citadel also offers a respite for families short on food. Between 4,000 and 5,000 meals are served every month in the facility’s dining room. During the week, a noonday meal is offered and three Saturday breakfasts a month are served with the help of outside organizations such as the Rotary Club.
The Stanislaus County Salvation Army has three additional locations, all considered church sites.
The Modesto Red Shield Center focuses on young people in the community. Located near two schools in southwest Modesto, the facility has a gymnasium, basketball court, baseball diamond and swimming pool that provide a safe environment where children can play. A $1.1 million renovation of the center was completed in November.
The Turlock Core, located on Lander Avenue, offers a chapel, gymnasium and 80 apartments for low income seniors.
“So, we have a great mixture there of young people and seniors to do that cross-cultural pollination, each group learning from the other,” Breazeale said.
The Stanislaus County Salvation Army also operates the Berberian Shelter, a homeless and transitional living center at a former Modesto walnut processing plant donated by the Berberian family.
The shelter is located at 9th and D Streets and has room for 156 people each night. The facility offers bedding, shower facilities and meals from an onsite kitchen.
The shelter serves both overnight guests who must check daily at 7 a.m. and longer term residents.
“We have a two-year program for veterans that currently have no home and are looking for permanent housing,” said Breazeale. “They’re looking for continued education, and they’re looking for jobs. So we have a case manager that works with them.”
Currently 16 veterans and 20 non-veterans are enrolled in the program.
The Modesto Salvation Army also runs the food bank for the county. From a 9th Street distribution center, the organization distributes food from USDA and disaster and emergency food assistance programs. The nonprofit also provides food to about 55 different agencies with food pantries of their own.
Last year 3.9 million pounds of food was distributed within Stanislaus County.
The Salvation Army depends primarily on donations and hundreds of volunteers to operate its facilities. About $9.3 million is required to run its four county church sites.
The bulk of donations come from individual checks written for $5 to $20.
“We don’t count on the big check. No one sends us a million dollars. That’s why we do a number of events each year,” Breazeale said.
Fund raisers such as the Kettle Kickoff and a new upcoming golf tournament, along with direct mail drives are relied upon to bring in much needed funds.
“Our needs are not going to decrease. The cost of doing business is going up, minimum wage is going up Jan. 1, and that’s a 5 percent increase,” said Breazeale. “The money has to come from somewhere. We can’t depend on yesterday’s dollar to do what we need to do today and tomorrow.”
Learn more about ways to volunteer or donate on the Salvation Army’s website.