"When we come together to work for the common good, we can get a lot done, as you all know," said Lt. Col. Renee P. Lance, Salvation Army divisional director of women's ministries.
Lance spoke to the volunteers gathered at the organization's open house and volunteer appreciation night. In addition to thanking volunteers, the night served as an introduction to auxiliary Capts. Chas and Debbie Engel, who began serving at the Williamsport branch three months ago.
The open house gave attendees a chance to find out: "What does the Salvation Army do?"
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Capt. Chas Engel, commanding officer of the Williamsport Corps of the Salvation Army, speaks during Tuesday night’s open house.
While many people associate the organization with the red kettles at Christmas and thrift stores, Chas explained Salvation Army is a worldwide Protestant denomination that serves in 124 countries around the world, with 2 million members and more than 30 million lives touched.
In the 2011-12 year, there were 5,112 food closet orders, with more than 20,000 people served, an average of 33 orders a day. More than 2,000 people received Christmas food orders.
The Salvation Army provides basic needs assistance with seasonal clothing, Christmas assistance, utilities and housing assistance, clothing vouchers and back-to-school supplies.
Volunteers visit hospitals and nursing homes for spiritual guidance, Bible studies and memorial programs.
"It's not some anonymous person you're trying to help," Chas said. "This is your neighbor."
The Salvation Army has been there in times of disaster, arriving 30 minutes after the planes struck in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Some of the players in the Tuesday night's brass band personally were there to help.
Canteens have delivered food during Tropical Storm Lee throughout the state and Hurricane Katrina in the south.
Chas's job was to dispatch the canteens during Tropical Storm Lee, and he said when he sent them out the volunteers had a smile on their face. And even after they returned hours later, they still had smiles on their faces and asked if there was anything else they could do.
"Through this little shield," Chas said, pointing to the red logo of the Salvation Army. "We can match up people who want to help with people who need help."
Those volunteers help in a variety of ways, by helping out in the food closet or in the music ministry outreach.
"Something is actively going on every day of the week," said board Chairman Dan Watson.
Even though Autumn has just begun, bell ringers soon will be needed to stand outside stores, wish people a "Merry Christmas" and raise money to make sure that every child receives something this holiday season.
"I don't want, if I can help it, any kid to go without anything for Christmas," Chas said.
Watson said the organization is looking for help now as the volunteers will begin their red kettle work starting Nov. 2.
"You can volunteer today," Watson said.