For 100 years, Salvation Army follows tradition of soup, soap, salvation
By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY – People in need look to today’s Salvation Army of Rowan County for food, clothing, furniture, utility assistance and spiritual guidance through its evangelical Christian mission.
But the Salvation Army’s history here – the organization’s stamp on Rowan County is 100 years old this week – has encompassed a lot more.
The non-profit organization’s three-S tradition of soup, soap and salvation became part of the community’s DNA a long time ago.
Historian Elizabeth Smith, a local board member, probably said it best: “Sometimes we’re underrated because people are just used to seeing us here.”
Smith reviewed some of Salvation Army’s century-long history in Rowan County Thursday night during a kickoff service for an anniversary celebration, which also takes in events today, Saturday and Sunday.
A block party will be held from 3-6 p.m. today at the Salvation Army headquarters, 620 Bringle Ferry Road. It includes an open house and cookout for visitors.
Saturday will feature an 11 a.m. open-air sermon at City Park, reminiscent of Salvation Army founder William Booth’s relentless efforts to save the souls of the homeless, poor and outcasts. His wife, Catherine, often commented that it was easier to save the soul of a man who wasn’t hungry.
A birthday celebration will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the F&M Bank Trolley Barn off Easy Street.
On Sunday, a service will be conducted at the Salvation Army Chapel on Bringle Ferry Road, with the theme: “What God Will Do in the Future through the Work in Salisbury.” Guest speaker will be Willis Howell, Salvation Army divisional commander for North and South Carolina.
Salvation Army has strong partnerships with Food Lion, Rowan Helping Ministries, the United Way, local churches and schools – all reflective of its importance to the community over the past century.
“It has been a great 100 years,” Smith said, “and the Salvation Army is a big part of Rowan County.”
Lts. Joshua and Chasy Morse head the Salvation Army efforts in Salisbury, and David Aycoth serves as chairman of the local advisory board.
A retired Air Force officer, Aycoth said no matter where he was sent around the world during his career, in times when people of a country needed help, the Salvation Army often seemed to be the first organization there.
As a kid growing up in Rowan County, Aycoth also associated Christmas with the Salvation Army’s red kettles and the volunteers who were ringing bells beside them.
When his parents gave him coins to place in the kettle, “It seemed to me the right thing to do,” Aycoth said.
The Salvation Army, founded by Booth as the North London Christian Ministry in 1865, soon changed its name to Salvation Army and was set up in a military style with soldiers and officers.
With no fixed home, early Salvation Army services often were held outdoors in parks or on street corners. But by 1880, the Salvation Army spread as an organization to Australia, Ireland and the United States.
Today it is located in 124 countries.
In 1912, a Salvation Army “hall” opened Oct. 1, 1912 in the 100 block of West Innes Street next to the present-day Salisbury Post. Envoy Talbert and his wife served as the first leaders.
Smith, who depended largely on newspaper clippings for much of the history she found, said she learned a lot from her research but was surprised at what had not been documented, too.
The Government Census of Religious Bodies of 1916 listed Thomas Flowers as head of the Salvation Army’s Rowan post. He was 25, and his congregation consisted of nine men, five women and no children.
Capt. Walter Sawyer moved the Salvation Army to the 100 block of North Main Street in 1941, for the purpose of creating a “Soldiers’ Club” to accommodate military men who were training in the area between Charlotte and Greensboro.
The Grimes Building was renovated for the Salvation Army headquarters and as a place for soldiers on leave.
“The large part of the building was devoted to the club room, showers, toilets and recreational areas,” Smith said Thursday.
Places for soldiers to sleep also were made available. Smith said once the United States entered World War II, the Salvation Army kept using the facility for soldiers passing through Salisbury on their way home or their next deployments.
“Close to the railroad station made it convenient for soldiers who had to spend a night,” Smith said.
A Salvation Army youth club formed in 1959. Smith said boys and girls from 9 to 14 participated in photography, art, music, sewing and radio classes.
The Salvation Army held the groundbreaking for its present-day citadel and headquarters on Bringle Ferry Road in July 1962. John Hartledge was the architect; J.H. Elmore, the contractor.
To give you an idea of how things seemed to get done much faster in those days, the dedication for the completed, $85,000 building was held in November 1962.
Smith said the building had been in the planning stages for eight years. At the time, Miles Smith served as chairman of the local advisory board; Fred Stanback Jr., vice chairman; John Fisher, secretary; and Don Clement Jr., treasurer.
Fisher remains an advisory board member today.
The Salvation Army’s local thrift store opened in May 1989 to provide low-cost clothing and household items to the public and raise additional funds for the ministry. It is now located on Jake Alexander Boulevard.The closing of textile mills, including all the Cannon Mills plants, and layoffs in other industries led to a much bigger demand for assistance from organizations such as the Salvation Army since the late 1990s, Smith noted.
“The Salvation Army today provides not just food and clothing but also assists with utility bills, medicine and rent or mortgages,” Smith said.
It’s interesting, she noted, how today’s technology allows for people to contribute at the red kettles of Christmas by downloading a smart-phone app or swiping a card.
The fellowship hall, where a reception was held after the Thursday service, contained several Salvation Army photographs from the past, plus numerous artifacts.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.
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