Salvation Army to close its church

Published 8:19 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Majors Steve and Mary Welch will be reassigned to Vicksburg, Mississippi as The Salvation Army closes its church in Selma.

Majors Steve and Mary Welch will be reassigned to Vicksburg, Mississippi as The Salvation Army closes its church in Selma.

The local Salvation Army will close its church in Selma but continue to offer social services to local residents.

The decision was made after years of low attendance and fewer available financial resources, according to Jon Kalahar, communications director for The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“Attendance for services had gotten so low, we felt like it was better to stop that and focus more on the ways that The Salvation Army was helping people in Selma,” Kalahar said.

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Major Steve Welch said in a press release most of what The Salvation Army does in Selma will stay the same and most people will not notice a difference. Welch declined further comment on this story.

The Salvation Army will continue to provide basic social services and disaster relief through its service center, and the thrift store on Broad Street will continue to operate as usual.

“The thrift store is a big part of how any Salvation Army makes its money. That goes directly into our programs and how we help people,” Kalahar said.

By June 20, Majors Steve and Mary Welch will be reassigned to a post in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

“This decision was definitely a difficult one. We met with the leadership from the divisional level and with the Welches, and we all agree this is what’s best for our community,” said Shaudonna Minor, chairwoman of the Selma Corps Advisory Board.

The Salvation Army will depend more on volunteers, but plans to hire a layperson to be director of the service center.

The nonprofit will continue to operate its Angel Tree and Red Kettle campaigns around Christmas.

“We usually try to help the local folks handle [those campaigns], but we will be there to help them out if needed,” Kalahar said.

The United Way of Selma and Dallas County donates $20,000 to local The Salvation Army local annually. United Way executive director Jeff Cothran said he met with local and regional Salvation Army officers and was assured their work will continue in the community.

“That’s money that is exclusively to be used to help people with mortgage assistance, food, power, family emergencies … our concern will be that those services continue to be delivered,” Cothran said. “I’ve been assured by the officers that those services will continue. Their advisory board will stay active, and they have some very dedicated volunteers.”

The United Way contributes about $1,600 a month to The Salvation Army. Cothran said he and his board would be monitoring the situation in the months to come.

“We are to be good stewards of the donors’ dollars,” Cothran said.

The Salvation Army was first established in Selma in 1903. In 1918, the Corps closed but reopened five years later.

“Selma has a proud history within The Salvation Army,” said Divisional Commander Major Ronnie Raymer. “We know there are still many who need our help in this community, and we plan to take care of those who need our services.”

The 32 local corps across the Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi Division, served over $1.2 million meals in 2014 and sheltered more than 1,000 people per night.

All social services will continue to be run out of the current church location at 2104 Franklin Street. The Salvation Army Family Store is located at 524 Broad Street.

The Salvation Army is considering consolidating into a single location in the future.