Salvation Army halfway to goal

Published 9:01 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009

Even before the official kickoff of the Salvation Army’s capital campaign for a new community center, the ledger reveals the organization is already more than halfway toward the goal.

But, as Bobby Harrell says, “That last $400,000 is always the hardest to raise.”

Members of the Salvation Army Suffolk Corps board of directors gathered Tuesday to welcome their honorary chairmen for the capital campaign — George Birdsong and Dr. L.D. Britt.

“This has been a long time getting to this point,” said Suffolk Corps Maj. Cal Clatterbuck. “The work you put in now will touch lives way down the road.”

The organization’s planned community center, to be located next to the current building at 400 Bank St., will provide more than 22,500 square feet of space for youth and senior programs, such as organized physical health programs, after-school tutoring, day camps, crafts and classes.

“To have something like this will curtail a lot of problems,” Britt said. A Suffolk native and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Britt recalled how in his youth the children went to Birdsong Recreation Center for constructive activities.

“I was a kid when they had Birdsong,” Britt said. “I know what this sort of building can mean.”

Harrell said the idea for the building was inspired by Sammy Copeland, chairman of the advisory board for the Suffolk Corps.

“This evolved from Sammy’s vision,” Harrell said in Tuesday’s meeting. “This is all about the kids and the seniors in the community.”

Copeland, however, said the project never could have gotten off the ground without the input of numerous others.

“It never could have happened” without them, Copeland said.

Members of the board have begun soliciting donations throughout the community, Copeland said. The organization needs about $1.3 million to get the building off the ground, and leaders hope to raise an additional $650,000 in Phase 2 for operating expenses. The organization already received a donation of more than $191,000 from the estate of Gertie Cleo Butler, and members immediately voted that the money should be moved into the capital campaign fund.

Britt doesn’t anticipate any problems getting the rest of the money the organization needs.

“The most valued brand of charity would have to be the Salvation Army,” Britt said. “It’s the favored charity of a lot of people.”

Harrell also predicted a surge of support from the community.

“We’ll be at a million dollars by Christmas — I guarantee it,” he said.

To donate to the Salvation Army’s capital campaign, call 539-5201.