A time of giving

How to meet the needs of two charitable organizations when stores are disappearing

During challenging times at the Lycoming Mall in Pennsdale, volunteers of The Salvation Army and American Rescue Workers, both of Williamsport, will again be ringing bells this year to remind the public there are many in need this holiday season.

With two of the mall’s anchor stores having closed doors and Gander Mountain on Mall Parkway also temporarily closed, there is a third anchor store, Sears, slated to close in January. Both of these non-profits are pursuing the mission of meeting the spiritual and material needs of humanity. What also is clear is they need help from those in the public who are charitable.

The Salvation Army was founded in 1852 in England by William Booth. The Christian ministry came to the United States in 1880 and proceeded to carry on Booth’s work of converting what many in polite society deemed undesirable and those who were unwelcomed in regular churches. As their kettle symbolizes the feeding of the hungry among us, it always has been their mission to provide social aid to those in need as well.

Similarly, the American Rescue Workers describe themselves as a “faith based non-profit organization that gives spiritual and material aid to those in need.” They have been operating in Williamsport since 1934, and one that is “majoring in hunger and homelessness prevention.”

Major Donald G. Spencer, Williamsport, PA Corps Officer and New York Staff Band Chaplain of The Salvation Army said, “The closing of Gander Mountain is one less opportunity to stand at a retailer meaning the loss of funds during our Christmas effort. We do not know yet if the closing of the store will affect us. We are very grateful to the mall for their continued support. We are hopeful that store closings do not put on a great burden in future years. We are hopeful that this year will be a good year.”

These circumstances have left those in the effort of providing charity to the needy looking for additional ways of raising much needed funding.

The store closings have impacted the seasonal donations outlook for the American Rescue Workers as well. Business administrator, Dawn Astin said, “We will know more at the end of December, but I’m sure it will affect our donations. We were at the Macys end of the mall, and last year our donations were smaller than years before at Lycoming Mall. This year they have moved our location to the other end of the mall, she said.”

Last year they had good foot traffic at the Macys, Dicks and BAM location, and their donations were lower. This year, with a new location in the Sears wing, Astin is glad for the move. “I don’t think Dicks and BAM will command the amount of foot traffic as the three stores did,” she said.

In a proactive move to help them, Lycoming Mall general manager, Deanna M. Miller, said, “we did take into consideration the loss of extra Macy’s traffic however and decided to try them in the Sear’s wing. They used to have a location there as well and thought it may be beneficial to go back to that location.”

Major Spencer said, “We are looking at other ‘non-traditional’ places to stand this year and in years to come. We will be having Christmas kettles at the Pajama Factory during their craft fair. We also are looking at counter kettles at Turkey Hill markets, etc. We inaugurated the Kettle Kickoff Breakfast, and the Red Kettle Challenge race as fund raising events this past month and have a great support.”

Kaylin Kane, marketing director and community service coordinator of the American Rescue Workers said that while they do not have planned events, they do their Christmas Solicitation.

“Our needs are all year long; we have clients consistently in our shelters all year. This year in particular our shelters have been consistently full of the homeless. But we do have our Christmas Solicitation. For the holidays we do two public holiday meals, and during the season of giving people are more willing to be involved in what we do with our shelter programs. So it’s a good opportunity to share what we’re doing. People are homeless all year long,” she said.

“Christmas time and Thanksgiving are a time for family, a time for eating together so we prioritize those things through food donations, food drives, and our Christmas meal baskets. Those things are a priority for us this time of year,” she said.

The American Rescue Workers’ dining room serves meals three times a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year to their residents and guests as needed, but on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter they are open to the public from noon to 3 p.m.

Astin said the American Rescue Workers chimney is symbolic of Santa Claus coming down the chimney, to those that can afford Santa.

“My eyes were really opened when I first started working here. Santa Claus is for those who have money, he is not for the poor. But children that are poor have dreams, and they dream of Christmases, perfect Christmases too, and the chimney symbolizes the season of giving. Disappointed and hurt children grow up to be disappointed and hurt adults,” she said.

Regarding these charities, Miller said the Lycoming Mall always has strived to work with charities to the fullest opportunity available, especially at the holiday season. “Providing them space in the mall for the past 30 plus years is something we are proud of being able to do and look forward to continuing this tradition. So whether they are ringing the bells, collecting toys, or hosting the Annual Festival of Trees Auction it all comes down to people helping people,” she said.

Both charities receive donations through websites, phone ins, social media, PayPal, or their thrift stores. Their kettles and chimney ringers will be stationed at various locations throughout the region. For more information, visit their websites at pa.salvation ­army.org/williamsport-pa and arwwilliamsport.org/.