Almost three years after closing its thrift store and shuttering its food bank, Salvation Army has maintained a presence in Laramie thanks to a core of volunteers and numerous seasonal bell-ringers.
About 100 volunteers rang bells during the holiday season, collecting donations in bright red kettles from passers-by. They raised about $12,400, 90 percent of which will stay in Laramie and make up the bulk of the organization’s budget in 2019.
For the Pasman family, volunteering for Salvation Army is an annual Christmas tradition. Six-year-old Palmer Pasman has been a bell-ringer every year since he was a baby, according to his mother, Delilah.
“We just try to impart on him how important it is to give back,” she said. “It doesn’t always mean that you have to write a check. You can volunteer your time. You can give your energy and effort.”
This year, the Pasmans rang a bell and collected donations in front of the U.S. Post Office on Fifth Street, with Palmer able to practice making eye contact with pedestrians and saying “Merry Christmas” as they entered and left the building.
“He begs to do it,” Delilah said.
A volunteer appreciation party is scheduled for 5:15-7 p.m. Friday at Laramie Soup Kitchen, 104 S. Fourth St. The party will include heavy hors d’oeuvres, and everyone who rang a bell or otherwise supported the organization last year is invited, said Marian Paxton, the Laramie committee chair.
“We want all of those people to come,” she said.
In early 2016, Salvation Army closed its Laramie office, downtown thrift store and food bank. Paxton, who was involved with the organization at the time, said a handful of volunteers revived it about six months later.
Paxton remembers watching her mother volunteer for Salvation Army during her childhood and cited the organization’s long history of service around the world as one reason it has a positive reputation.
Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by William Booth as the East London Christian Mission. Today, it operates thrift stores and shelters and provides disaster relief in 130 countries.
In Laramie, Salvation Army works mainly in collaboration with Interfaith-Good Samaritan to help people with utility bills, rent payments and stays in hotel rooms.
A volunteer social worker is available to meet with the public from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. every Friday at the Soup Kitchen. The organization can also be reached at 399-8750.
Mike Vercauteren, executive director of Interfaith-Good Samaritan, said the two groups often make referrals to each other and work together to help local families.
“We work with each other to make sure that people get what they need,” he said.
Utility bills are the third-largest line item in the Interfaith budget when it comes to helping families in need, he said, behind rent and lodging. Interfaith writes grants specifically to fund utility bill payments, and even with that funding, it can’t help everyone. That’s why the partnership with Salvation Army is important.
“We do everything we can to keep people in their home,” Vercauteren said. “Sometimes, keeping the utility bill paid can make or break it for them.”
Paxton said Salvation Army is always seeking volunteers and donations. Donations can be delivered in person or mailed to P.O. Box 1064, Laramie, WY 82073.
“We’re here, and we’re doing the best job we can with what we have,” she said.