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Salvation Army Rings Twice

Appreciation dinner honors volunteers.

Every time Judy Brittle rings the Salvation Army kettle bell, she knows something will happen to her.

Of course, change will go in and change will go out, as the army’s slogan says.

And need will know no season, as another slogan states.

What the Sterling resident is talking about is the stories she will collect, the kind that cannot jingle in pockets. Last holiday season, Brittle was ringing the bell when she saw a woman looking at her as if she might know her.

"You look cold," the woman had said and returned with a cup of coffee from the grocery store. "I don’t have any money to put in the kettle, but I make sure the kettle person has coffee," the woman told Brittle.

Brittle suggested the woman put her children’s names on the angel tree, so that they could have Christmas gifts provided by residents of the community, and that she and her children help out with the ringing. "She was so grateful. She was doing the work," Brittle said about a woman who changed from "a needy person to someone who helped the needy."

CHANGE defines the Salvation Army. Those who effect change were honored at the 2002 Annual Appreciation Dinner on March 20, which was attended by more than 130 people.

"We believe we have a heavenly mandate to serve people," said Lt. Col. Thomas Jones, national community relations and development secretary for the Salvation Army and guest speaker for the three-hour program.

The Army’s mandate carries with it a cost of money and time. To explain, Jones referred to Michelangelo’s biography "The Agony and the Ecstasy," which depicts the four years of agony the artisan spent painting the Sistine Chapel frescoes. "He knew agony all right. Because he experienced it, we have known the ecstasy of the marvel he created," he said. "If we are to make a difference, we need to know agony. … The Army needs to pay a price."

The Army’s price is maintaining competence in the procedures it uses and up-to-date with the services it provides, while operating efficiently and effectively. The cost is commitment, "of staying with it, not giving up," Jones said. "It’s caring for people even though no one else cares for them."

The Salvation Army helps an average of one in 10 Americans. In Loudoun, the Army helped 20,000 people last year.

"The ecstasy that comes is with changed lives, " Jones said. "The question is how do you do it. It can’t be done with miracles. … I want people to stop thinking the Army is a band-aid. The Army is in the business of change."

THE SALVATION ARMY of Loudoun County helps county residents with rent and housing payments, medical bills and utilities, along with providing counseling, clothing, furniture and food. The Army offers daily emergency assistance and operates the Salvation Army Thrift Stores in Leesburg and Purcellville to sell clothing and furniture at reduced costs and to generate revenue for other emergency needs programs. The Army provides several children’s programs, including crafts, summer day camps and play activities; English as a Second Language (ESL) programs; and women’s and men’s ministries, along with food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In 2002, 1,014 volunteers helped carry out the Army’s programs and services, compared to 1,010 volunteers in 2001. The volunteers worked 4,924 hours last year and 4,863 hours the year before.

"Like the captain says, because of all these people, we can help the needy. Not one person can do it alone," said Brittle, a bookkeeper for the Salvation Army.

David Tong, vice-chairman of the advisory board, agreed. "Everyone helps out. We do events to help ourselves out to help Loudoun County out," he said.

The Salvation Army holds golf tournaments, car shows and guest appearance fund-raisers every year to generate additional support for its programs. The Army plans to use $2.8 million in donated funds to build a new facility that will house the Army’s various functions in one building and reduce overhead costs spent on leasing three facilities for the administrative offices, the Thrift Store and the warehouse.

The Army, which is under contract to purchase five acres on Route 7 just east of Leesburg, plans to pay for the project within five years. Construction is expected to commence in one year to 15 months with another eight to 10 months to build.

"I see people ringing bells hours on end, working in the warehouse … and in the store," said Bruce Griffin, chairman of the advisory board. "People don’t do it for the praise, but they do it because they feel committed to the community."