Orange County Salvation Army welcomes new captain, still in desperate need for donations

The month of June brought a pretty significant change for the Orange County Salvation Army. Major John Queener, who has been with the Salvation Army for over 51 years, and his wife, Linda were transferred to a Salvation Army in Fort Worth. Captains Michael and Laura Cox came to Orange from that same Salvation Army in Fort Worth.

Michael and Laura, who have been married for 17 years and have three sons (15, 12, and 10 years of age), have been officers with the Salvation Army for the last four to five years.

“As officers, we are first off ministers for the Salvation Army and then we provide services or programs,” Cox said. “We are administrators as well. We have several employees that are responsible for social services, finances, the family store, our after school Boys and Girls club. We oversee all of the programs, but they oversee the programs they are responsible for in effect in Orange County.”

Given that Fort Worth is much bigger than Orange, Michael and Laura are very excited to be part of the community.

“I grew up in a big city, so every time I end up in a smaller city I get excited about it,” Cox said. “It’s a little slower, a little calmer. My wife is from a small city, so she misses the big city [from time to time]. Orange has it’s blessings. People here are a lot nicer. Southern hospitality has really shown through.”

They do face a pretty significant challenge: the financial situation of the Orange County Salvation Army.

In November 2010, The Record Newspapers spoke with Major Queener about the financial situation at the Orange County facility. He said “”Our donations over the past twelve months have really dropped off. We really think it’s because of the economy. We are in desperate need for just about any kind of assistance people can afford to give.”

It cost between $500,000 and $600,000 per year to operate the Salvation Army facility in Orange. They do receive a grant from the U.S. government, which is less than $10,000, to help with general operations. The United Way and the food bank in Beaumont lend a helping hand to help feed the families that come in. The Orange facility is not a licensed shelter, so the assistance they offer comes in the form of food, utility payments, rent assistance, etc.

This facility is currently running at a deficit and is having an extremely hard time helping those in the community that so desperately need it. Prior to his transfer, Major Queener said that new requests have jumped from 50 percent to 60 percent in the last few months and that number is expected to rise dramatically due to the intense heat wave across Southeast Texas. Major Queener was hesistant to leave such a burden on Michael and Laura, but when the Salvation Army needs you to move, what other option do you have?

Even though the deficit can be a strenuous burden to bear, the Cox’s are fully prepared to do what they need to do to help the community.

“We walked into a financial situation where we’re not as financially stable as we need to be,” Cox said. “My first day here, I started a campaign for the month of July with the Orange County Car Crew.”

If anyone drives by the Salvation Army, they can see a few vehicles parked there. The Orange County Car Crew (David Self Ford, Cecil Atkission Toyota, Granger Chevrolet and Cecil Atkission Chrysler Jeep Dodge) have answered the call for assistance by starting the “Orange County Car Crew Challenge.”

This group of automobile dealerships are pledging to donate $25 per vehicle for everyone sold in the month of July. Although generous, the dealer principals felt more could be done for this charity so they are challenging local businesses to match the amount that this dealer group has agreed to pledge. The Orange County Car Crew expects to sell enough vehicles to donate $5,000 to the Salvation Army at the end of this drive but would like to at least double that with local business’ joining in with a match pledge.

This drive will run through the end of July and the check will be given to the Salvation Army shortly thereafter to help meet the high demand.

For more information on this campaign, please visit the Orange County Car Crew website, Pledges can be made on their website as well. All donations are tax deductible.

While the Orange County Car Crew has a goal of $5,000, Cox said his ultimate goal is $10,000 for the month of July.

The Salvation Army helps any who need it year around, not just during the holiday season. With the way the economy has been, many who didn’t need assistance last year find themselves walking in the doors of the Salvation Army.

“We’re going through a slump right now, as far as being able to help people,” Cox said. “The last thing we want to do is tell people ‘I’m sorry, we can’t help you.'”

However, there are times where Cox and the staff at the Salvation Army has had to turn people away.

“We are still serving the people in the community,” Cox said.

The Orange facility helps, on average, ten families per day, but has seen as many as 25 families a day for food. Their pantry is currently partially stocked and they give a little bit of whatever they many have on hand. Food donations are always welcome, but monetary donations are needed as well.

They also offer a summer day camp as well as an after school program during the school year.

“Right now we are offering the summer day camp program where they come in and spend the day with us. That way their parents don’t have to worry about them during the day while they’re at work. They go on two field trips a week (movies, museums, swimming pool).”

There is still plenty of room if parents are interested in signing their kids up for summer day camp.

“We’ll take them all the way up until school starts. There are plenty of openings left.”

There is a charge. Those interested need to contact the Salvation Army. Ages four years to 13 years of age can join.

Church services are Sundays: 9:45 Sunday School Class, 11 a.m. Worship Service and they offer a Wednesday night Bible study.

Those wishing to donate are encouraged to do so and can contact the Orange County Salvation Army at 409-883-4232.

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers