Continuing a Pioneering Tradition
Extending Army Service Everywhere
by Denny L. Strand – , Director
Service Extension & Emergency Services
Russell Prince –
Executive Director of Development
Southern California division
Service Extension–What Do We Really Do?
The Salvation Army Service Extension units are guided by the biblical command,
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength and all thy mind; and they neighbor as thyself.” (Luke 10:27)
The unit is designed to assist The Salvation Army in meeting emergency, brief service and special needs of individuals and families in local communities not served by a corps program. This is provided in accordance with Army policies and procedures by local volunteers.
Ever since the days of the pioneer, neighborliness has been part of the American way of life. In sparsely settled areas, neighbor helped neighbor when trouble and adversity were present. Today, The Salvation Army Service Unit continues this wonderful pioneer tradition.
The Service Extension unit is a service arm of The Salvation Army. It functions in communities where there is no Salvation Army corps building directed by a resident officer. There are approximately 6,700 Service Units across the United States, involving more than 31,000 volunteers.
Each unit is administered by a volunteer committee, usually comprised of seven to twelve members from the community. It often includes individuals from such walks of life as visiting nurses, school nurses, health department officials, probation officers, social workers, ministers and members of law enforcement. Their compensation is the satisfaction they receive in helping to meet human need within their own communities.
Service units were formed in the mid 1900s to make available to total resources of the Army to all communities in the state. They began in the northeastern states and quickly spread across the country.
Typically, when individuals or families are in or near a Service Extension area, they can apply for Salvation Army assistance through their local police department or ministerial association.
The service units functions in many ways according to the specific needs of particular areas. They provide a year round program designed to assist families and individuals in meet emergencies, and they also provide for supplementary needs within the limitations of budget constraints. In addition, the units become a nucleus for the distribution of information about The Salvation Army and its wide variety of ministries. Because The Salvation Army exists to meet human need “at the point of need,” the objective is to help the “whole person,” ministering to spiritual needs as well as the physical, to every race and creed, swiftly, compassionately and with kindness and understanding.
In the early 1970s a regionalization of many of the service units began which caused many metropolitan areas to change the way the units operated. Units were clustered around an administrative and fund raising center which made it simpler to address needs in the areas of concern. Divisional offices provided full time coordinators to assist in developing the networking necessary to assess needs, organize programs and develop a funding base.
In the late ’80s and into the ’90s the Army has experienced a continuing erosion of a number of United Way funding sources which caused the Army to re-think its funding network. In addition, corps expansion and planting programs began to bear fruit and provide service from a corps program to various areas once served by a Service Extension unit. Many former Service Extension Committee members now serve on newly opened corps’ Community Advisory Boards.
The need for Service Extension units continues to exist. Once very rural areas are now becoming larger communities, and the Army’s program of social outreach will continue to meet needs wherever they exist. One of the most positive parts of developing the Service Extension network has been the availability of volunteers. Building strong volunteer networks in communities of any size allows the Army quickly to meet whatever emergency situation presents itself in any location.
The Service Extension Unit is a link of love to those people who are hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually. An individual in trouble may respond to a local Service Extension unit in town or be discovered by a local Service Unit committee. They would be screened for the level of assistance requested (based upon Service Extension guidelines) and given a voucher that could be traded with specified local merchants in the community. The merchants would then send the vouchers back to a local bank account for reimbursement. This obviously involves a chain of committed volunteers who love the work of The Salvation Army and their community, and share a common bond toward humanitarian need.
Highly flexible, The Salvation Army Service Extension Department has working relationships with other community agencies. Together, the other agency and the unit cooperate to fill the gap in meeting various levels of need that are beyond the ability of any single agency to meet. The service units are also careful not to duplicate the assistance other agencies may give. They can adapt to suit any special requirements of time and place in an emergency mode without time-consuming “red tape.”
Levels of Service Administered
by Service Extension
The Salvation Army provides medical assistance through prescriptions, wheelchairs, hearing aids and eye examinations. In addition, there are camperships for low income children at Salvation Army camps, various scholarships, playground and sports equipment, food, toys for Christmas, articles of clothing, furniture and homeless meals. Lodging is also available, plus Bibles, books, magazines, spiritual counseling, prayer support, prison and follow-up ministry, speaking for churches and service clubs, teaching seminars and overall emergency disaster assistance in the event of fires, floods, earthquakes and various storms.
The list can be as varied as the needs themselves. But in every case The Salvation Army is there through its Service Extension Program, teaching touching and assisting people everywhere with a heart toward God and a hand toward mankind!
Service Extension work remains exciting as The Salvation Army moves forward into the 21st century with accelerated vision, renewed expectancy and a determination as never before to be God’s hand extended to a hurting world.