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Strength in numbers

Salvation Army's vast programming counts on corps of helpful locals

Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 10:03 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:47 a.m. CST

ST. CHARLES - As any community service organization will tell you, volunteers are the lifeblood to its success.

That’s particularly true at the Salvation Army Tri-City Corps, whose programs – focusing on children, community, education and literacy, health and medicine and sports and recreation – serve residents of St. Charles-Geneva-Batavia and neighboring areas. Programs range from a food pantry to line dancing and Bible study classes.

“On staff we have only about 10 full-timers, so to keep something like this going we depend heavily on volunteers,” said Angel Ayala, office administrator and volunteer coordinator. “We never have too many.”

Ayala said those who share their time and energy vary widely by age and skills. High school and college students help with after-school programs such as tutoring in the homework room at the Tri-City Corps community center, 1710 S. 7th Ave., St. Charles. Those in Boy Scout or Girl Scout programs earn credit toward merit badges, while college-bound students reference the extra-curricular activity in their admission applications.

Volunteers average about two hours a week, though some – like Pam Ward – help almost daily. It all depends on their status and schedule. Would-be volunteers can call the St. Charles office (630) 377-2769 or visit the Salvation Army website. Drop-ins also are welcome.

Ayala said she is seeking anyone interested in lending a hand with meal service on Wednesdays from 5:30-6:30 p.m. “when we have our character-building programs for elementary-age kids.”

A registered dietician conducts a recently initiated healthy foods class on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. “It’s ideal for those with health concerns and who require a special diet involving healthy meals that they don’t know how to prepare,” Ayala said. Monday through Friday hot lunch is served to those 60 and older for a modest fee by the Salvation Army Golden Diners. The meals are served in the snack room, and participants are asked to provide a one-day notice.

The Tri-Cities Corps is accepting $12 donations for Easter gift bags for distribution to local children.

Cathy Williams, health and education coordinator, said computer classes for beginners and advanced beginners are regularly scheduled, while Excel and other programs are taught when sufficient interest is shown. “We have an instructor who teaches basic computer skills for job seekers, but we could use more trainers to lighten the load of existing volunteers.”

She said plans are in development for a budgeting class in June to be directed by a certified financial planner.

A representative from Delnor Hospital in Geneva teaches seated exercises for seniors, and starting in April a low-impact aerobic class will be offered. Williams said she also would like to get more exercise classes, such as yoga or core strengthening, on the schedule.

Summer day camp will offer children Bible class along with sports, reading and art. Ayala said “all are welcome, no matter their financial status, relationship status or faith.”

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