Posted on Dec 30 2011
By Clarissa David

CNMI Salvation Army ministry leaders Wayne and Annie Gillespie believe that 2011 has been a "year of explosive growth" for the local chapter of the worldwide Christian social services organization. (Clarissa V. David) Notwithstanding setbacks in the delivery of social services that were prevalent in 2011, the Salvation Army still considers the year as “a year of explosive growth.”

“It was an important year for us,” said Wayne and Annie Gillespie, ministry leaders of the worldwide Christian social services organization.

Highlighting the year was the opening of the soup kitchen, called Guma Yo’ Ase’, which officially opened its doors to the CNMI in May, complementing the group’s food and homeless assistance programs.

Located across Hopwood Jr. High School, the soup kitchen’s two-story facility also houses a rummage sale area that is also a means to raise more funds to support Salvation Army’s community programs.

A $70,000 donation from Bank of Hawaii was instrumental in the creation of the homeless drop-in center where homeless clients can get hot meals, have access to a shower or do laundry.

It was also this year when the Salvation Army hosted for the first time a public Thanksgiving dinner for the less fortunate members of the island community. The event, which involved businesses and individuals that made in-kind donations and attracted volunteers from all walks of life, provided a nice holiday meal to over 200 individuals.

Salvation Army’s iconic Donut Girls were also unveiled to the public in June as another service program, in support of the Commonwealth’s efforts to maintain its good reputation as the choice destination for morale, welfare, and recreation among military ships.

Their annual Toy Drive and Angel Tree programs also drew support from businesses and individuals alike, accumulating more than enough toys to bring holiday cheers to Salvation Army’s young clients and including those at the Commonwealth Health Center.

“It was a good year. We did more service. It was a year of explosive growth,” said Wayne Gillespie.

Hundreds of cases of in-kind donations came their way from regular corporate sponsors like the Tan Siu Lin Foundation and D&Q, which help take care of the food needs at the soup kitchen and the food assistance program.

Keeping their overhead at a minimum level is crucial, noted Wayne. “Having a food assistance program and the soup kitchen is a very difficult thing and that providing the services and making sure that everybody gets fed is really difficult. But what makes you really lose sleep at night is if we’re able to continue. If we don’t, that means a lot of people are going to get hungry.”

He disclosed that it is actually the coming year that gets them worried. They are going to be intensifying their efforts to get more corporate sponsors and donors in 2012 to get them going. Wayne Gillespie anticipates another “explosive growth” in terms of the increase in the number of people who will avail of their services.

“It’s fairly obvious. With the economy the way it is, we’re going to have another challenging year that’s why we need to raise the money to pay the overhead,” he added.

At the moment, Wayne Gillespie said their board is trying to come up with ideas of fun, unique and exciting events that can encourage the public to give monetary support to Salvation Army. “Our focus right now is to look for unpaid or volunteer fundraisers; somebody who has the experience doing fundraising. We really need folks who are experienced in doing fundraising especially at the local level.”

Regardless of the difficulties that they encounter, the Salvation Army never forgets to count their blessings: all those who have helped them one way or another, by donating or volunteering, despite the economic downturn.

“Praise the Lord for that,” said Annie Gillespie. “It’s amazing every time we get a donation. Our hope is that whatever business they’re in, that it would prosper and be blessed. The Lord will provide for them.”

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