OSWEGO, NY – Serving the needs of hundreds of people in the city of Oswego and outlying areas, captains Kenneth and Corinne Hayes head the Oswego Salvation Army with one part-time employee and a literal ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œarmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â of dozens of dedicated volunteers.
Without those volunteers, they say the task would be impossible.
Capt. Kenneth Hayes said that the Army logged approximately 10,000 volunteer hours this past year, and thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s before including services provided during the Christmas season.
For some, Hayes said volunteer service has become a way of life.
Paul Kraeger, for example, has been overseeing the maintenance at the Salvation Army for approximately 10 years.
“He started helping during a Christmas season and has been volunteering ever since,” Hayes said. “He is literally in the building seven days a week. He knows a lot of the people who come here and genuinely cares about them. He would bend over backward to help anyone.”
Hayes said Kraeger, who is 75-years-young, has become the “jack of all trades” at the Army.
In addition to maintenance, he oversees supplies, unloads trucks, sets up for meals, cooks, and manages the numerous volunteers who are referred to the Salvation Army.
“I couldn’t afford to hire someone as dedicated as Paul,” Hayes said. “We are so lucky to have such great volunteers.”
Longtime cook Lucy Wheeler volunteered her time at the Oswego Salvation Army for 25 years, Hayes said.
In her late 80s, Wheeler stepped down from her post about a year ago.
Peter Ardizzone, one of the current volunteer cooks, worked with Wheeler for several years before she left.
Ardizzone has volunteered for approximately five years and spends almost every day at the Army for approximately eight hours each day.
“I like to help people,” he said.
Ardizzone and his wife volunteered for the Salvation Army on Long Island several years ago, before coming to Oswego County.
“When we came here in 2003, I found the Salvation Army and started volunteering,” he said. “I have been on one side of the fence and I have been on the other. It makes you think about life and how important it is to help out when you can.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Ardizzone finds his volunteer service very rewarding.
“A lot of people here only eat one meal a day,” he said. “I give them a good lunch; a full belly.”
Ardizzone pointed out that there is a social element involved, as well.
“This is a community place,” he said. “Sometimes all you can do is sit and listen to someone’s problems and try to help. That’s rewarding, too.”
Often times, Hayes said that his base of volunteers go above and beyond expectations.
“We serve an average of 2,200 meals per month,” Hayes said. “Without these tremendously generous and giving people we would be able to manage.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Last winter, during a snowstorm, it was impossible for the captains to get into the office themselves.
Hayes noted, however, that the Army was open.
A group of volunteers who could come in were there to provide assistance.
“Clients still made their way in for meals,” Hayes said. “I couldn’t get here but the volunteers sure did. It was amazing.”
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDecember is a special time for volunteer support,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Hayes said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œMany community groups help out with a variety of activities. Student groups from SUNY Oswego are especially helpful. There are fraternities, sororities and classes that volunteer for us to fill a community service requirement. It is a fairly easy way to get those hours in. We always have things to do.”
Hayes also noted that members of the Army church, regular volunteers and clients who rely on Salvation Army services and the soup kitchen often step forward to help during the holidays.
“We can always use the extra help,” he said. “In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more families come out at Christmas time to support us through the kettle drive. The children love to ring the bell.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
For some, it is becoming a family tradition.
“ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a way for kids to learn that Christmas is about so much more than giving someone a toy. In these economic times we hope that the volunteer support will continue. We may need additional helpers this holiday season,” noted Hayes.
Anyone interested in serving as a volunteer at the Oswego Salvation Army can call (315) 343-6491 or stop by the office at 85 W. Third St., Oswego.
The Oswego Salvation Army is part of the International Salvation Army organization, which is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.
The local citadel provides food, education, services and spiritual support to the local community.
The Oswego Salvation ArmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“s ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI BelieveÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â campaign will help with renovations and expanded services at the new building, the former New York State Labor Department on West Second Street.
Information about the Oswego Salvation Army and progress updates on the new facility are available at http://oswegosa.com or by calling (315) 343-6491.