By John Veasey
Times West Virginian
The new Salvation Army leaders for Marion County want to make their agency No. 1 when it comes to helping people.
Lts. Alvaro and Danitza Porras oversee the Salvation Army in Fairmont, Morgantown and Kingwood. They believe they know and understand the situation here and are anxious to get started with that assistance.
They are natives of Costa Rica. They served in Winchester, Va., prior to being assigned to this area, and they have been here for three months.
They say there is no set amount of time that officers are assigned to an area. “But if you are doing a good job, you may be promoted more quickly. Or when your objective is accomplished.”
They say they understand the financial situation here.
“This isn’t the best time for the people,” Alvaro Porras said. “There are people who are suffering and who are in need. We want to be the No.1 agency in town in helping people.”
“In our hearts, that’s part of our mission,” his wife responded. “In our hearts, when someone has a need, now they can come to us and their needs are going to be met there.”
He said “we wish we could be self-sustaining, but at this point that is very difficult.”
“When people are buying in our stores, he said, “you are helping a family in need.”
The Salvation Army has a big Christmas season coming up.
And that’s where volunteers and the Kettle Drive come into play.
“Our Kettle Drive goal this year is $52,000,” he said. “That is the amount we are seeking from our kettles.
“We really need volunteers for the kettles. They are the key for the season.”
Alvaro Porras noted that the Kettle Drive would extend until 9 p.m. during this holiday season instead of closing at 7 p.m.
The need is quite evident during the holidays
“At Christmas time the need is more evident because children are involved,” Danitza Porras said. “They are looking for the new toy ... the new outfit ... to see what other children have gotten. There are many things for the children. But some have high expectations. Some of their parents do not have a job. They have been laid off or are unemployed.”
Alvaro Porras then made a very true statement.
“Need has no season. But the expectations are different from children. You cannot say ‘no’ to someone expecting to get something from Jesus or Santa Claus.
Danitza Porras explained that the Savation Army’s Angel Tree program attempts to fill that need for families. And this is where volunteers enter the picture.
“Sometimes people want to help us, but they don’t know how to do it. But they can come to us, fill out an application and volunteers then can ‘adopt’ a child and fulfill some of his needs. The volunteers can buy whatever they want for their child.
“We give them teddy bears, food boxes, stockings. Everything is part of the community effort. There are people who adopt angel trees, or take stockings to fill them. It’s a community effort.”
Her husband explained a challenge the Salvation Army faces every Christmas
“There is a challenge every Christmas. It’s always easier to find toys for younger kids. We know it’s easier to buy a Barbie doll or something like that for a girl. But it’s kind of complicated to find toys for the older kids — those that are 12, 13 and 14. That’s always been a challenge for us,” he said.
“Those kids may not be pleased with a soccer ball, but they can get other things,” his wife explained. “An outfit or a coat. The girls like jewelry and makeup. We know it’s easy to buy for the little girls, but the older ones are more aware of the need.”
The Salvation Army couple stressed the fact that the Salvation Army is in operation all year long.
“Many people just think of us at Christmas time. Our work extends throughout the entire year. But probably Christmas time is when we are at our busiest,” Alvaro Porras said.
“We want to improve our social services here,” Danitza Porras said. “Now we are giving out food once a month. We give out clothing vouchers, help people with electric and water bills when we have the funds, but we want to give more. That is one of our goals.”
She emphasized that more sales are needed at the Thrift Store on Locust Avenue, across from Wendy’s.
“More sales would also give us more revenue for the year, and that helps us give back to the community.”
Email John Veasey at firstname.lastname@example.org.