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Johnson City Salvation Army weathering series of setbacks

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Jul 23, 2019 at 11:26 PM

Hit with the loss of $77,000 in local funding, a $12,000 emergency shelter grant and approximately half the revenue generated at its previous thrift store location, the Johnson City Salvation Army is weathering a series of financial setbacks with the potential to affect services including its Center of Hope shelter and emergency kitchen.

Lt. Antwann Yocum, who took command of the Johnson City corps on June 24, told the Johnson City Press this week that getting the store operating at the level it was before its move from the South Roan Street storefront it occupied for nearly a decade is a first priority.

With the store’s move from South Roan to the former Food Lion location at 1420 E. Main St., daily sales have fallen by about half for a total decline of about $15,000 per month.

“If we get can the store (sales and donations) back where it was, it may weather this storm,” he said.

A daylong grand opening celebration will be held Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Salvation Army Family Store’s new location.

Hamburgers and hotdogs will be served and prizes will be awarded to the first 100 customers who make a purchase. Door prizes will be awarded hourly, a large door prize will be given away and other fun attractions are being planned, all to help raise awareness of the store’s new location and the key role it plays in local Salvation Army services.

“It’s going to be a good time,” Yocum said. “Once people know where the store is and how important is, we think the rest will take care of itself.”

Yocum said he knew before his and his wife Bethany’s arrival in Johnson City for their new assignment that store’s sales and donations had declined since the move and that the move itself had cost the corps about $20,000.

The local funding and grant losses, coupled with an approximate $20,000 decline in last year’s Red Kettle collections at Christmas, were unexpected discoveries for the Yocums and together compounded their urgency to get the store back up to its full potential.

“If not,” Yocum said, “we’ll come down to the question of ‘how do we continue all these services?’ We’re not there yet. The store has only been open a little more than a month so we still have time to turn it around.”

For shoppers, he said, the new store is one of the cleanest, brightest, most spacious thrift stores they will find.

The services it helps make possible include three meals a day for anyone in need at the Salvation Army Center of Hope kitchen on Ashe Street, a large emergency shelter for men and women, a transitional shelter program for veterans, a mobile food program for people in need in the region’s rural communities, social services including assistance with rent and utilities to prevent people from becoming homeless, and free clothing and household furnishings for victims of fires, floods and other disasters.

For those who wish to help, donations of good used clothing, furniture, appliances and housewares can be dropped off at the thrift store from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or pickup may be arranged by calling 423-926-2101.

Monetary donations to help the Johnson City Salvation Army may be made online at give.salvationarmykentuckyandtennessee.org, or by mail to Johnson City Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1715, Johnson City, TN 37605.

On the local funding loss, Kristan Ginnings, president and CEO of the United Way of Washington County, confirmed the Salvation Army’s United Way allocation fell $77,000 in 2019 as a result of a more than $188,000 decline in giving to United Way’s 2018 campaign compared to 2017.

Ginnings said all of the United Way’s 17 longtime partner agencies were impacted by the cuts in allocations while allocations to five new United Way partner agencies brought on board in 2018 together totaled only about $25,000.

She attributed the fall in local United Way giving to a combination of a decrease in corporate tax credits for charitable contributions that impacted United Way giving nationwide, the merger of some large corporate United Way supporters in the local area and the loss of other corporate contributors who left the area.

As a result of the decline, Ginnings said the local United Way will be focused on bringing new companies who have never before taken part in United Way giving on board in its 2019 campaign which kicks off in early August. 

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