GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - With the coldest temps of the winter season headed to South Mississippi on Monday night, the Salvation Army of South Mississippi is already getting into gear ahead of a usually busy time of year.
“We will have our cold-weather shelter in Pascagoula, and here in Gulfport open,” said Salvation Army Major Bradley Caldwell. “We’re anticipating just one night based on the weather conditions. We open at general sheltering at 35 degrees and lower. If there’s precipitation, if it’s raining, then it’s 40 degrees and lower. We have volunteers who prepare food and staff the place throughout the night.”
Caldwell also said that they have breathalyzers just to make sure that they don’t have any arrant behavior coming in unnecessarily. They also will follow the basic COVID-19 precautions by asking for temperatures, health conditions, and making sure everyone is six feet apart so no one is sleeping head-to-head.
One of the more well-known projects facilitated by the Salvation Army is the angel tree, and this year will be no different.
“The numbers of children who have signed up for angel tree is lower than it was last year, where we expected it to be higher, frankly, because COVID and employment issues,” said Caldwell. “It may be that people have their supplement checks, unemployment checks, and those issues are still changing how people handle their business at home.”
The Salvation Army Red Kettles are also a large part of the success of the organization, but this year has been difficult for the bell-ringers.
“The dollar count is at least $20,000 down. More importantly, it’s about 60% off of what we had last year and we’re not expecting that to improve much throughout the season just because we don’t have the people,” said Caldwell. “Folks don’t have as much change in their pockets. Stores are limiting where the traffic goes. There’s less access to the kettle by customers. All of those things are combining, not in a conspiracy against us, but just to make things difficult to raise those funds. We’re focusing online at mscoastkettle.org is a way that people can go online and either give to a kettle virtually or start one of their own for the Salvation Army.”
As angels are removed from the tree, often times the “forgotten angels” are left. Despite COVID-19 and the economic downturn, those angels will not be forgotten.
“We do have some toys set aside for that eventuality,” said Caldwell. “We also have forgotten angels that get adopted after the fact by people who still want to help but didn’t get around to doing it earlier. So, we never have a child that doesn’t get toys.”
If you would like to adopt an angel or would like to offer financial assistance to the Salvation Army of South Mississippi, more information can be found by clicking here.