OSWEGO, NY – Each day, the Oswego Salvation Army opens the doors of its soup kitchen to offer daily meals at breakfast and lunchtime.
Recently, officers at the Army reported that the number of young people using that service has increased dramatically.
Captain Kenneth Hayes said he has seen a significant increase in the numbers of young adults who come in for the 11 a.m. lunch hour.
With the local Salvation Army home scheduled to move to West Second Street in the near future, new space will be available to accommodate the increasing numbers of those in need of services.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOver the past year or more, there has been a big increase in people in their early to mid-20s coming in to have lunch,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Captain Hayes said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œActually, it has been very noticeable.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Hayes said he doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t know the reasons why he is seeing the shift in that age group.
The Salvation Army does not ask the reasons why, he said.
Rather, it serves lunch with a smile to anyone who asks for it.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThere are probably a few people receiving some help at our food pantry once in a while, as well,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Hayes said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBut the most dramatic change has been in the soup kitchen.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The soup kitchen is open Monday through Saturday from 8-9 a.m. for breakfast and from 11 a.m.- noon for lunch.
On Sundays, lunch and a devotional are held at 12:30 p.m. following the Salvation ArmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s regular church service.
Hayes said while there hasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t been a noticeable difference in the age demographics of people attending church services at the Salvation Army, several people tell him that they regard the Sunday devotional that is intertwined with the lunch meal as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œtheir church.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI guess you could say that means we have more people attending church, as well,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
To those who have come to rely on the soup kitchen, the service is invaluable.
Will (who asked that his last name not be used), 26, of Oswego said he has been coming to the Salvation Army for about five or six years.
He said he relies on the soup kitchen as part of his daily routine.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI think this program is great for people who need help when they are on a low budget,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Will said.
The food and fellowship he has with others who use the soup kitchen have become an important part of his day, he said.
Will noted, too, that he attends church services at the Salvation Army and tries to help out when he is needed.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI help them take things over to the new building or help set up tables,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI do whatever they need me to do.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
With more people coming to the Army for services, space is becoming an issue that is being addressed.
The ArmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“I BelieveÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Capital Campaign is under way to help fund its new facility that will allow it to provide service to more people.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œPrograms geared toward younger people are in great need,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said Jeff Wallace, a consultant representing Step One Strategic Giving, a division of Step One Communications. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe main reason why OswegoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Salvation Army is moving into a larger building is because it will give them the room they need to add programs. The Soup Kitchen and dining area are good examples of the growing needs.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Step One Strategic Giving is managing the Salvation ArmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s $1.5 million Capital Campaign.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThis community understands that the Salvation Army meets a very important need in our community,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe Army takes care of issues that no one else will or wants to tackle.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
While many young adults are coming to the Salvation Army for meals, others are also donating their time as volunteers.
Jill Masuicca, 27, of Oswego said she has been volunteering for the soup kitchen since March.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is a really good program,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Masuicca said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI come in almost every day to help out. I would definitely recommend it to people.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Masuicca noted that she gets a good feeling from helping at the Salvation Army.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is good to lend an extra hand and try to brighten someoneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s day,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said.
Carol Hayes, 28, daughter of Captain Ken and Corrine Hayes, grew up in the Salvation Army.
Since she moved back home in June, she works part-time at a local daycare and part-time helping out in the soup kitchen.
When her family first came to the Salvation Army in Oswego, Carol said that very few young people came to the soup kitchen.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSince IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve come back, I have seen a major increase in the people in their 20s and even younger coming in,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œMany of those young adults are also parents. They usually bring their children in, too. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m seeing a lot of babies.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Carol noted that the Salvation ArmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s youth programming has also seen a modest increase in participation recently.
The programs are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m., at the Salvation ArmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s new building on West Second Street.
The program is designed for children from fifth grade and up.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have had a few more children coming to that who have been attending the church,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSome kids bring in their homework for help, but most of them are there for recreation.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The children taking part in the program do craft activities, board games and other activities, she said.
There is a computer available with programs like an encyclopedia to help with homework if needed.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is really a safe haven for the kids,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Carol said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey are having a good time while they are away from home and they are not out on the street.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Anyone interested in information about programs or 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 ArmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“s ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI BelieveÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â campaign also continues to raise funds for renovations for the ArmyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s new facility.
Progress updates on that project are available at http://oswegosa.com