Keeping The Focus On Children In A Tough Economy

Commissioner William Roberts, National Commander of The Salvation Army, was a recent contributor to the Huffington Post’s Impact Blog. We are so appreciative of this opportunity to share about our recent report titled “Growing Up in a Downturn” - an internal study that we conducted to better understand how our youth programs have been affected by the economic recession. Here’s what he had to say in his post “Keeping the Focus On Children In a Tough Economy.”


Sometimes people ask me what kind of work I would have done if I had not become a Salvation Army officer. I have been a Salvation Army officer for almost 41 years, and I truly relish how I am able to work for the Lord in this way. But if things had been different, I might have enjoyed being a teacher.

What I would find the most rewarding would be teaching children and preparing them for the rigors of life. In fact, through my work as a pastor I find opportunities to do that, which I treasure. Some of those opportunities came as my wife and I were parenting our four children or now, as we get to be grandparents to our 11 grandchildren.

And, through our many different youth programs, bringing up children and preparing them for their lives as adults is something we do quite a bit of at The Salvation Army. I remember in the late 1960s, my wife, a young Salvation Army officer, spent a very rewarding summer teaching a girl who was both deaf and blind to swim.

There has been a lot written about child poverty, and we know from our own numbers that more and more people are coming to us for help. Indeed, in 2010, The Salvation Army provided assistance to 30.2 million people in the U.S., compared with 28.9 million in 2007.

We wanted to look at our youth programs and see what kind of impact the recession was having on them. So, The Salvation Army National Headquarters commissioned a survey of more than 100 youth programs in cities across the country including major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco and smaller cities like Oak Creek, WI and Peoria, Ill.

Participants were asked to answer questions related to service demand and giving to their programs during 2011 and since the recession began in 2008. The survey also looked at the impact of the recession, first hand, from the youths who are living through it every day.

The results were alarming but not unexpected. Approximately 81 percent of Salvation Army youth programs saw an increase in demand over the last 12 months, while 41 percent of Salvation Army youth programs have been forced to cut back on services provided, ranging from reduced hours of service, laying off staff or even closing their doors.

These results highlight the fact that throughout America, parents are facing daily questions about how to provide for their families, spend their money and share their time. Should they spend their latest pay check on food or rent? How can they spend time with their children while working two jobs? How can they provide their children with a childhood?

Some Salvation Army programs were able to accommodate the increased demand from families and youths coming through their doors. Some saw donations grow and were able to expand programs and services, grow staff and increase volunteer levels to meet the growing need.

However, not all programs could keep up. Some Salvation Army youth programs had to make hard decisions and figure out where to best direct donations and resources. With great regret, many programs were forced to make cutbacks or even close their doors due to loss of funding from private, public and government donations and grants.

But The Salvation Army is committed on being there to help families and children when times are at their darkest.

Because the Bible tells us children are a gift from God, The Salvation Army treats the children who come into its care with love and kindness. We are reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14.

In some areas, this is expected to continue throughout 2012. The Salvation Army looks to the American donor and volunteer to help young Americans who may not be able to help themselves. No child deserves to grow up without hope for a better tomorrow.

6 Comments on “Keeping The Focus On Children In A Tough Economy

  1. someone needs to check on the store on stone drive,in kingsport tenn. drive,there is lots of rude employes,and the prices are awful,trid to buy a coner shelf,priced at 200.00 well to high,so much for the poor people

  2. Hi Darlene, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience and I appreciate your feedback. Since each store is managed by your local Salvation Army, I’ll certainly pass on your comments to the managers in the area to follow up on this situation.

    We try to keep our prices as low as possible for shoppers in need while also taking into consideration the needs of our Adult Rehabilitation Centers which are funded by the sales in our family stores.

    We really appreciate your patronage and hope that this experience does not deter you from shopping with us in the future. Please know that I’m passing on your comments to the store.

    Thanks again,

  3. Darlene, I cannot agree with you more. Here in Michigan it is much the same, and I saw this first hand working for the Salvation Army here…I actually worked for a retail store here in Michigan and saw much the same thing, part of the reason I quit working for this company this past week after working for it for almost a year. Trying to keep prices low is not true…if it has a name brand tag on it or looks “collectible” it is looked up on the computer to see how much you can get for it. It is all about the mighty number…how much more can you make on that day as apposed to the year before. for a non profit organization it sure is all about profit. $5.99 or $6.99 for a plain top…please and lets be honest with exception to a handful of employees who go above and beyond most of the others are very rude and don’t give a squat about the company or its purpose. Hard to focus on dressing your kids in this tough economy at the salvation army when its cheaper in most cases to dress them from the clearance and sales rack at most other retail stores. and i really love it when i see an item from the dollar store down the road at our salvation army store with a $2.99 or $3.99 price tag on it. Seriously???

  4. Commissioner Roberts was my pastor as a teenager in Kansas City, Missouri. He and his wife, Nancy, did an excellent job of “teaching and training” the many young people in our church. They even trusted me enough to babysit their own children. What great kids they have and “Lt. and Mrs. Roberts”, made a huge impact in my life. Thanks a MILLION!
    Sandy (Smith) Strop

  5. Just a note to say thanks after all the years my sibling and I spent every morning through the week going to our local Salvacation Army for a warm breackfast. They had warm foods, ceral, donuts, bagels and much more. The hot foods were plentyful and we even had some of the local doctors who would come and eat with us and check us over now and then.
    Our family was greatful and sill to this day talk about the twelve blocks all nine of us walked each morning to the Salvation Army and our school was just across the street. Back in the later sixties we had a true organization/church that were centered around the children and their families who were poverty stricken. I came across this site doing research for a college paper and had to leave feedback.. Thanks to all who made my life bearable in those tuff days.

  6. Helen,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and support with us. It is truly the honor of our officers, volunteers, employees and donors to serve individuals in need, as you were at one time, and we’re so happy to hear that you are doing well now.

    Good luck on your paper and hope to hear from you again!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>