The Clovis chapter of the Salvation Army Corps is in danger of closing this spring.
While the local corps fundraising efforts actually brought in an increase in donations last holiday season during the Salvation Army’s annual bell-ringing Red Kettle campaign, the organization’s northern California division, headquartered in San Francisco, has experienced declining donations overall. This has led the division to consider closing the Clovis branch and instead merge it with the corps in Fresno.
The Clovis Corps closure, tentatively scheduled to occur in February, is not something Shonna Halterman, the city’s general services director and avid supporter of the Salvation Army, wants to see.
“Combining the Clovis Corps with Fresno would be complicated,” Halterman said. “Right now, everything that is raised in Clovis goes back into the Clovis community, helping the people of Clovis, and that is huge because there are no other service organizations like the Salvation Army in Clovis.”
Jennie Onitsuka-Adams, a captain of the Clovis Corps, said funds raised during the current Red Kettle fundraiser and other, smaller, fundraisers in Clovis throughout the year, go directly toward helping residents in Clovis in need of food assistance and general assistance, particularly during the Christmas holiday.
Donations also support local youth programs put on by the corps, including character building classes and classes in extracurriculars like sewing, automotive mechanics, music, art, drama, dance and leadership.
“We offer a variety of youth activities at our location that are accessible to the kids in the Clovis community and if we were to merge with Fresno, these kids and teens in Clovis would have to go to Fresno if they want to continue participating in the activities,” Onitsuka-Adams said.
Though the Clovis Corps is already on the chopping block, Halterman and Onitsuka-Adams said there is hope for a Christmas miracle.
Division wide, the goal this bell-ringing season is to increase donations by 25 percent. Over the 2016 holiday season, Onitsuka-Adams said the Clovis Corps raised $37,000, so to meet the 25 percent goal, the local chapter would need to raise an additional $9,250 or so this season for a total closer to $47,000. That bump, she said, could keep the Clovis Corps doors open.
Additionally, the Salvation Army Corps divisional headquarters is offering an extra incentive—the chapter that experiences the highest percentage increase in donations will receive $10,000.
“Increasing donations by 25 percent is possible since this is the main fundraiser for the Salvation Army,” Halterman said. “If the Clovis Corps can raise that the doors could stay open. If we earned the $10,000 bonus that would be huge for Clovis.”
But before the local corps can receive donations, it first needs more bell-ringing volunteers willing to donate a couple hours of their time.
Onitsuka-Adams said the Salvation Army relies solely on volunteers to ring the bells drawing attention to the red kettles shoppers see outside their local retail stores, and the more volunteers, the merrier.
“Clovis really needs more volunteers this holiday season,” Halterman said.
To sign up as a bell ringer, visit www.registertoring.com and select Clovis as your city to be assigned to serve at a nearby post. Volunteers can take on as little as one shift, which lasts two hours. Organizations, businesses and families are encouraged to volunteer for a day with multiple people taking on different shifts throughout the day.