The Times West Virginian

January 24, 2014

Salvation Army there to offer help to the needy

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Sometimes you just need some help.

Your hours at work have been cut. You’ve been laid off. Or, worse, fired.

You may have to choose between paying your bills and feeding your family.

You can turn to the food pantry of the Salvation Army at 1512 Locust Ave., Fairmont.

“We respond to the needs of every community,” said Danitza Porras.

She and her husband, Lt. Alvaro Porras, are corps officers at the Morgantown office, which includes Fairmont, Morgantown and Kingwood.

Those needs may differ from place to place, she said.

Maybe a shelter for abused women is needed. Or a homeless shelter. Or after-school programs.

In Fairmont, the greatest need is food, she said.

“There has been an increase over the last year,” she said.

Natives of Costa Rica, both moved here just a few months ago after serving in Winchester, Va., for several years.

“People depend on food pantries to eat, to supplement food stamps, whatever,” she said.

You can go to the Salvation Army once a month for a box of nonperishable food items. Meat is provided when available.

The Fairmont site is open from 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 1-3 p.m. Tuesday and thursday.

“You need to show ID and proof of income for our records,” she said. “Our programs are always intended to help the needy, but we know sometimes income does not reflect the home situation. Emergencies happen. Households have unavoidable situations.

“We don’t turn anybody away. We go on a case-by-case basis. Everybody has a different situation. ”

Food is obtained through food banks, the government, donations and sometimes local grocery stores, she said.

And food drives like the Gift of Love.

She knows that many people may be reluctant to ask for and accept hand-outs.

“Some people feel embarrassed to be there. But that’s why we’re there.

“This happens in Morgantown, Fairmont, Winchester ... everywhere. We have a food pantry in pretty much every place we have a Salvation Army.”

The Fairmont Salvation Army is a member agency of the United Way of Marion County.

From October 2011 to June 2012, the Fairmont branch served 557 families in Marion County, and 879 from October 2012-June 2013.

“That’s almost double,” Porras said.

• First-time cases: 332 in 2012 and 638 in 2013

• Food orders in Marion County: 384 in 2012 and 916 in 2013

“It makes you sad,” she said.

“Food pantries serve a real purpose. I’ve heard people say, ‘There are so many food pantries.’ But we all try to provide a meal for families.

“When you do your grocery shopping, you probably get one or two carts full. We cannot provide that. We have to be realistic. We can give out two, three boxes of food at the most.

“Families may go to more than one food pantry to make it through the month. We are all trying to provide help for a few days.”

To help the Salvation Army and all the other food pantries the Times West Virginian is collecting food for, here’s what you can do:

• Individuals are encouraged to bring boxes or bags of canned goods or nonperishable food items to our business office at 300 Quincy St. We will be collecting these items Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Thursday, Feb. 13.

• Businesses, schools or offices can set up satellite donation locations to collect items through Thursday, Feb. 13. We’ll even come and pick up all items collected.

• Community-service organizations, schools, school programs, churches or civic groups can take this on as a project. Again, anything you collect, we’ll pick up to be distributed with the other donations.

For more information on the Gift of Love, call the Times West Virginian’s newsroom at 304-367-2540.

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.