For Community Conversations this week, our host ST Billingsley sat down with Major George Hackbarth, to talk about the work that the Salvation Army is doing in Prince William County.
Hackbarth was recently promoted from Captain to Major.
Q: What is the mission of the Salvation Army here [in] Prince William County?
A: Well, the Salvation Army is a church but we’re also a nonprofit social agency as well, and what we try to do is help people spiritually and physically, and we try to help those that have emergency financial needs. Some of the things we help people out [with] in Prince William County are with utility bills that may be cut off – could be water, electric, or gas – and we also help people with rent if they are behind on their rent bill, and have an eviction notice.
We try to help people pay their rent and get caught up, and each person that comes into our office that receives help is interviewed by a case manager. They have to bring proof of their income and expenses, and then the case manager determines how much we can help them out with. Often times we partner with other agencies like ACTS and SERVE and other churches to ensure that we can cover the bill, because a lot of times people have large rent bills or large utility bills, so we pull together to help in those situations.
We also have a food pantry and people can come once a month for food from the food pantry. They can come only once a year for the emergency financial assistance for the rent or utility bills because we just don’t have the funding for help more than once a year, but they can come for food and then we also do a large free produce giveaway, the fourth Thursday of every month at Cokesbury United Methodist Church.
Volunteers from Old Bridge United Methodist come to help out with our volunteers from the Salvation Army and we host a free produce giveaway once a month, so those are some of the things that we do for financial assistance.
Q: What is one of the biggest issues that people face here in Prince William that you see as one of the biggest needs?
A: Well the cost of living is extremely expensive here, especially with rent. A lot of our clients come in with over $1500 a month rent, and so that’s very difficult if you’re making minimum wage to pay that amount of rent, and also it seems like utility bills are a little more expensive in this area. Food is also more expensive than it would be say in other parts of the United States down in the south – Deep South.
So a lot of people are not able to meet their needs financially because of the cost the food, utilities, and the rent is so expensive, and often times people share houses with other individuals and still can’t cover the cost of their rent. So I think that is probably the biggest issue that people face here in Prince William County is the cost of living is extremely high here.
I have actually been able to help with the Salvation Army for some of the food programs just by actually being there to help hand out.
Q: What are some of the organizations you partner with on that?
A: We partner with ACTS and they do the eastern part of the county and SERVE does more of the western part and the middle part of the county – also with some other churches, we partner with them.
We purchase a lot of our food at the Capital Area Food Bank in Lorton – and we do get it at the discounted rate – and then I also have restaurants that donate to me as well, and some grocery stores that give us food and help us with our food pantry. So we try and partner with as many different agencies as we can, because sometimes the need is far greater than any one of us can handle by ourselves.
Q: What are a couple of the programs during the Christmas season that the Salvation Army is involved with?
A: Well of course we do the Angel Tree Program where we have various angel trees and different businesses and different companies [involved, and] people can take a child’s name off of the Angel Tree and it lists three of their wishes that their parents would like for them to get. Again each child – well each parent is interviewed – and they have to bring proof of income and expenses, and all that information is entered into a computer program and they have to qualify financially.
Then they have to bring proof that the children belong to them by bringing their birth certificates, and we help any child twelve years old or under in Prince William County, Manassas Park, and [the] City of Manassas, and this past year we helped over 1,200 children with toys and clothing.
Q: What kind of youth and women programs do you have?
A: Well on Tuesday nights we have guitar lessons, a singing program, drama and thing called timbrels – which is like a tambourine that they do dance, dance to – s and my wife teaches that. Then we also have a tutoring program, people can come that are having problems at school, we have a person that comes and tutors then from 6 to 7 [p.m.] on Tuesday night.
We have our own scouting programs based on Salvation Army curriculum for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from first grade to high school students. So they come on Tuesday nights, and then my wife does a women’s program on Wednesday morning and it’s just where women get together and learn things, they have somebody going to teach them how to decorate cakes in a few weeks, somebody teach[ing] them how to do couponing, and so we have different programs like that.
We also have church services on Sunday, Sunday morning and them we have a bible study on Wednesday night, and both my wife and I are ordained ministers, so we both had to go to the Salvation Army Seminary to learn how to do this.
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