New Program Center Opens in San Francisco

Edwards, Love Dedicate Downtown Service Center

A CARING GIFT–(l-r) Commissioner David Edwards, Ray Velkers, John Connolly, and Lt. Colonels Richard and Bettie Love pause after the announcement of Sears Roebuck and Company ‘s generous donation of clothing to the Army and the dedication of the Army’s new downtown multiple service center where the clothes will be distributed.

by Judy Vaughn – 

Sears Roebuck and Company has donated 1 million pieces of children’s clothing to charity–the largest single donation in Sears history. A third of it will come to The Salvation Army in San Francisco, the only agency on the West Coast it has designated.

To acknowledge the remarkable contribution and dedicate the new downtown multiple service center where it will be distributed, Territorial Commander, Commissioner David Edwards recently traveled to San Francisco.

In a room filled with supporters, media and friends, Golden State Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Richard Love officially welcomed District General Manager Ray Velkers and Community Relations Director John Connolly from Sears Corporate Office in Chicago. Lt. Colonel Bettie Love, divisional director of women’s services and driving force behind the center, described what she calls the miracle that made it happen.

When the San Francisco Advisory Board first determined the need for a convenient, highly visible, centralized distribution location, everyone assumed it would be almost impossible in San Francisco’s tight real estate market. Yet board member/realtor Bob Whitman made sure the Army had the opportunity to see this building the first day it went on the market.

Ironically, San Francisco Administrator Larry Hostetler took the first call about the Sears clothing donation that same morning. The new 2-story building–formerly owned by Jeanne-Marc Fashions–has built-in shelves and clothes racks, plus extensive storage and work space. Major public transportation is just a block away. The low-income neighborhood, long underserved, is an area much in need of social services. It soon became apparent that this was indeed a building, and a neighborhood, where The Salvation Army can provide major service.

Developing a sense of client pride and validation is an important part of the building’s theme. In every way possible, the Army is trying to build an atmosphere of dignity into Christmas food and toy distribution. Recognizing that giveaways tend to be demeaning even under the best of circumstances, volunteers and staff will offer low-income parents the opportunity to select toys for their children in a setting similar to retail. The Sears donation of clothing adds to the retail feeling. The racks and shelves are already filling up.

Sears prepared a short video for the dedication, featuring a child from Gateway House for Homeless Families and the logistics coordinator for the center, a former resident of Gateway. Corporate partners present included the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program; K101 Secret Santa Giving Trees (in Sears, Mail Boxes Etc., and Totally Wireless stores); and KFRC’s Charity of the Month program.

“We intend to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Lt. Colonel Bettie Love, director of the project. “And that starts with pride. This building will not be about handouts. It’s about building pride.”

Future plans include a summer camp program to distribute sleeping bags and swim suits, a back-to-school program for new clothes, school supplies and haircuts, plus computer training for children who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance.

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