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Salvation Army battles back

A grand opening for the Salvation Army? But it has been open for years, folks driving past the huge sign on the front of the store may have pondered late last month.

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Salvation Army staff members and volunteers pose in front of the building during their grand opening on Wednesday June 2. Tyler Utter (from left), Mariah Wepcek, Chad Erickson, manager Deanna Eggebraaten and regional manager Sara Pirkl are all smiles for the big day. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

A grand opening for the Salvation Army? But it has been open for years, folks driving past the huge sign on the front of the store may have pondered late last month.

After a two-week closure, the Cloquet Salvation Army at 316 Carlton Ave. reopened its doors June 24.

“We kinda just ran out of staff members,” said Sara Pirkl, regional manager, explaining that they were down to basically one staff member and that wasn’t enough.

So, for two weeks, there was no staff and no services. All that remained was the support of local volunteers who kept the food shelf open every Tuesday. During the two-week closure, applications were processed and new employees were trained in.

On the day of the grand “re-opening,” new staff members were happily greeting and serving cookies and coffee to the customers.

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“We are very excited to serve our community,” Pirkl said.

The opening marks a new start for the Cloquet Salvation Army, she said. Now equipped with an eager and supportive new staff, the Salvation Army will continue to be a part of Cloquet.

It seems to be a part of the continuing evolution of the religious service organization. Two years ago the local Salvation Army moved from a Corps to service extension department, which meant it carried out all the traditional services, but no longer had a captain - or officer - stationed in Cloquet. There are still no current plans to fill this position, but all the social services will remain the same, Pirkl said.

While the most visible Salvation Army activity is the bell-ringing at Christmastime, the organization does a lot more behind the scenes.

The food shelf is one of the services offered by the Salvation Army, and is Cloquet’s only food shelf. Every Tuesday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m. the Salvation Army hands out food. This program does not require registration. However, people can only go to the food shelf every four weeks. Participants sign in, take a number and wait their turn - only seven people are allowed inside for safety reasons.

“My cupboards are empty right now and I’ve been waiting for Tuesday to come so I can stock up,” Cloquet’s Cynthia Clark said Tuesday morning as she waited in line. “It’s helpful. I depend on the food shelf.”

A Second Harvest food truck delivers perishable produce to the Salvation Army every week that the Cloquet store cannot usually stock.

Both the Salvation Army and Ruby’s Pantry (which comes to the Cloquet Armory the fourth Wednesday of each month) help form a safety net for people who are struggling to find enough to eat.

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“I do refer people who need assistance,” said Father Justin Fish of Queen of Peace Catholic Church. “We collect food and funds around Thanksgiving for [the Salvation Army], so we do support the cause.”

Not only does the Salvation Army provide food for those in need, it also provides rehabilitation for those who need it. The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers and Harbor Lights programs provide spiritual, social and emotional assistance for men and women who have lost their ability to cope with their problems. These programs offer residential housing, work, and group and individual therapy.

All of this is made possible by local donations and the funds brought in from the thrift store.

Pirkl said when people donate clothes, the staff sorts through them and decides what to put on display in the store and what to send elsewhere.

“The stuff we’re putting out is top notch,” Pirkl said. “We don’t want spots, stains, holes and stuff like that,” adding that she highly encouraged donors to use the garage door around the back of the store to keep the main floor for shopping.

With that said, if donors do have ripped-up jeans or parts and pieces of clothes, they will still gladly accept them. Just write “ARC” on a bag of clothes that aren’t usable, but recyclable. This allows no waste to be produced and gives people in rehab a chance to offset their cost of the program.

They also benefit the local Salvation Army.

“Everything we send to the ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center), we get paid for it locally,” said Pirkl. This money, in turn, is used to support other programs.”

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The Cloquet Salvation Army also provides emergency assistance, energy and utility assistance, back-to-school supplies, and seasonal assistance.

“We don’t do everything that’s on the back-to-school list like the Kleenex and Clorox wipes,” said David Westerberg, case manager for the Cloquet Salvation Army. Despite this, families who don’t have the means to access back-to-school supplies still can get what they need.

“We do backpacks. So each kid gets a backpack with notebooks, pens, and pencils,” added Westerberg.

Emergency assistance from the Salvation Army is “kind of the last resort,” Westerberg said.

People in need will first apply to Carlton County assistance. If denied, they will apply to Lakes and Pines. Then, if that doesn’t work out, they go to the Salvation Army for help.

Energy and utility assistance can cover a variety of payments: electricity, heat, water, rent on the verge of eviction,and security deposits for people moving in.

The Salvation Army also has a heating program in the winter called “Heat Share,” in cooperation with area heating, oil and gas companies. These companies’ donations allow the Salvation Army help residents with up to $200 for heating bills.

The Cloquet Salvation Army offerings can be broken up into social services, a food shelf, and a store. The Cloquet organization previously had a church as well, but after the last captain left they no longer had anyone to lead religious services. However, the Duluth church still has services every week for those who can attend.

“God has it all under control and he knows exactly where this place is going,” said Pirkl.

The Salvation Army tries to help as many people as they can.

“Sometimes it’s just offering a smile and a warm welcome to a customer who comes in and maybe doesn’t have that otherwise,” Pirkl said.

For questions, contact the store, food shelf, or social services at 218-879-1693. The Salvation Army is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

Joey Gotchnik and Lucas Tomhave are summer interns for the Pine Journal. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for them, they may be reached at ltomhave@pinejournal.com or jgotchnik@pinejournal.com or by calling the office at 218-879-1950.

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