As the holiday season draws near, The Greenwood Salvation Army is preparing to launch its annual Red Kettle Campaign.

Salvation Army officers are hoping people will donate to ensure it can still help those in need in a year of financial devastation brought on by the COVBID-19 pandemic.

As in past years, Greenwood’s Salvation Army will have 12 red kettles outside several stores in Greenwood, as well as the Walmart in Grenada and a grocery store in Winona.

This year’s goal for the kettle campaign is to raise $80,000. A kickoff will be held Nov. 19 at Greenwood Market Place starting at 10 a.m.

Last year, the organization raised $67,000 during its kettle campaign, which allowed it to assist 3,142 people throughout the year with 21,302 meals and 11,409 nights of shelter, according to a press release.

The pandemic already has forced The Salvation Army to halt its plans for a local homeless shelter and temporarily delay its other social services.

“The need has always been there, but right now the need is a whole lot greater than it was,” Capt. Keisha McMullin said. “The calls have not stopped coming in.”

Donations may be made in person or online at GreenwoodKettle.org.

The Salvation Army runs a church on Stone Avenue and a thrift store on Mississippi 7 and also provides financial assistance for those in need. Through its social services department, it helps people pay their utility bills or rent, buy groceries or get a motel room for a night or two.

Due to job losses and other financial hardships as a result of COVID-19 in Leflore County, an increasing number of people have called seeking assistance with bills or getting motel rooms, Capt. Jason McMullin said.

From March 18 to May 22, The Salvation Army’s thrift store was closed due to the coronavirus. The  store has since reopened, but Jason McMullin said fewer people are shopping. Money made from the store’s sales funds The Salvation Army’s social services. From about mid-September to mid-October, The Salvation’s Army social services component was frozen due to a lack of money, he said.

Social services is now back in operation, but all The Salvation Army can do for those in need right now is chip in $75 toward utility bills, Keisha McMullin said.

Plans for a local homeless shelter also have been put on hold because of COVID-19.

The Salvation Army was identified as an organization to manage a shelter out of the former Community Work Center on Baldwin Road, which the city of Greenwood and Leflore County co-own.

Both the city and county have agreed to lease the building as a homeless shelter for $1 a year. The annual cost to run the shelter has been estimated at  $200,000.

“The funding on our end just isn’t there,” Jason McMullin said. “It takes a lot right now to even open a shelter, especially during COVID.”

He added that he had received word from The Salvation Army’s headquarters to not take any further steps with the homeless shelter until the pandemic passes and the organization’s finances can be reassessed.

The plan that had been in the works for the shelter would allow up to 25 people to sleep in the building overnight, Jason McMullin said.

In the morning, those staying at the shelter would have breakfast and then leave the shelter to find work. A case worker would be stationed at the shelter in order to assist people with finding jobs as well as permanent places to live, Jason McMullin added.

Because of the shelter’s isolated location along Baldwin Road, he and other organizers were working out pickup and drop-off locations for residents. The issue of transportation never got to a conclusion, though, since COVID-19 occurred.

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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