WESTMINSTER - Despite advancing waves of increasing need, the Salvation Army stands fast during the holidays and throughout the year.
The Salvation Army has helped 650 county families so far this year with fuel and rent assistance, medical aid and clothing, provided shelter for the homeless, and assisted travelers stranded in Carroll. In 1989, the organization assisted 400 needy families here.
"It's really a community effort," said John Green, 68, of Westminster, director of the county unit for nearly seven years. He said the Salvation Army, Northeast Social Action Project, and Human Services Programs have combined through Neighbors in Need to spend about $34,000 to make this Christmas brighter for Carroll families.
Green said aid recipients might include a family of four barely getting by with rent and medical expenses, or a low-income senior on a fixed income.
"It's a great help at Christmas," Green said. "It gives them a lift and allows them to enjoy the holidays like everyone else. Families with children get a better Christmas than they might get otherwise.
"I try to help everyone in Carroll," Green said. "It's very rewarding, but there are always more out there to be helped."
The non-sectarian religious and charitable organization will distribute from $15,000 to $17,000 in toys, clothing, food and cash to those in need this holiday season, Green said. By year's end, the Salvation Army will have distributed about $65,000 in aid this year, donated by generous Carroll residents and businesses.
"We receive enough to care for the needs in Carroll County," Green said.
However, he said his tiny, four-man "army" can always use additional money and volunteers.
Colder weather and the holiday season keep Green, his assistant Doyle Barnes, 41, and several workers especially busy this time of year, stuffing and distributing boxes filled with necessities and Christmas presents.
"I thank the Salvation Army," said Darcel Harris, 35, of Westminster, who earlier this month was doing typing in her second week of community service. "It's made me feel better about myself. I see people that don't have as much as I do."
Green said "practically all" of the organization's work for the last eight years has been done by men and women sentenced to community service.
"We have about three a week," Green said. "They do typing, cleaning, run errands. They've been a great help.
"We work from 8 a.m. to whenever we finish," said Green, who, besides being the chief officer for the Salvation Army, has served two years as chairman of the board for the Department of Social Services, was on the NESAP board of directors for 10 years and is an original member of the Carroll County Fuel and Energy Fund.
At the request of Modern Ideal Cleaners of Westminster, the Salvation Army has taken over the Coats for Kids project, donating winter clothing to Carroll children in need. Last year, Green's unit distributed about a thousand garments; in 1990, Carroll residents and schools sent about 1,300 coats to Modern Ideal Cleaners for free cleaning and minor repairs and eventual distribution by Salvation Army workers.
Salvation Army's biggest Carroll project, now in its fifth year, is donating gift certificates for the county's foster children. Eighty-nine boys and girls whose names were supplied by the Department of Social Services received gift certificates redeemable at K mart.
Salvation Army also assists DSS, NESAP and Carroll County Food Sunday with the Neighbors in Need program, packing a turkey, canned food, clothing and children's stockings for 400 Carroll families before the holidays last year.
"With the economy off, there is more need this year," said Green.
Salvation Army also distributes government surplus food in Westminster.
The religious and charitable organization was founded by William Booth, a Methodist evangelist, in London in 1865 to provide spiritual, moral and physical comfort to criminals, the sick and the poor. The "mission" took the name Salvation Army in 1878 and was established in the United States in 1880. Worldwide, 8 million volunteers serve in 90 countries.
To better establish the group's identity here, Carroll's Salvation Army unit moved from Distillery Drive to new headquarters at 178 E. Main St. in August.
"It was something I wanted to see," Green said. "It's paid off. More stuff is coming in."
The space contains a front office and two storage rooms filled with clothing, coats, toys, blankets, canned food, and a stocked freezer. Items dropped off at the back door are inspected, stored and distributed as needed.
"We keep the best and send the rest to Baltimore," said Barnes.
Donations of toys, clothes, food, and money are accepted from the public, civic clubs and community organizations. The thousands of dollars collected annually result mainly from appeal letters sent to businesses and individuals from Salvation Army's East Coast headquarters in Atlanta.
"This has been a very good year. That's the reason we're able to do what we're doing. The response has been tremendous," Green said.
The Carroll unit, one of 22 in the Maryland region, sent 50 underprivileged children to Salvation Army's Camp Tomahawk this year, and supplied the West Virginia camp with a freezer, air conditioner and TV equipment.
Twenty-eight children of parents on assistance will go Christmas caroling at Timber Ridge, where they will receive hot chocolate, cookies and gifts from Santa.
The organization's familiar red kettles manned by holiday bell-ringers at Westminster's K mart, Woolworth, and Ames stores offer shoppers an opportunity to help less-fortunate neighbors. All the money stays in Carroll County, said Green.
"I like to hear the bell. I remember them ringing it in front of Shunk's Hardware (near what is now Locust Mall) in the early '20s after World War I. Six years ago, I asked for the kettles to come back," he said.
Numerous certificates and awards line the retired Black & Decker employee's office walls. One, a citation of "special recognition for faithful service to others as a dedicated volunteer," was presented to Green by Art Howard, Maryland Regent, commander of the state units.
Green, who already marches 50 to 60 hours a week in service to others, has a grander vision for the Salvation Army here.
"I'm working on a corps for Carroll County. There would be an officer, a clergyman, his wife paid by the region. They'd be able to do more, such as operating a soup kitchen, church and shelter.
"I like to help people. I was raised that way," Green said. "At Salvation Army, we never say no."
Jane Lippy contributed to this story