The Fort Frances Salvation Army opened Monday in their new location at 242 Scott St. in the former Tagg’s Source For Sports location, next door to Flint House. All local Salvation Army services will now run from the new location.
Arthur Heathcote is the Corps Officer for Fort Frances and the Rainy River District. He says the move was brought on by reduced revenue, stemming from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“The Thrift Store was closed for 20 weeks last year,” Heathcote said. “The Thrift Store provides our funds. Without that operating fund it makes it very difficult to stay sustainable. Any of the donations that [people] give me go directly into our client services. We don’t use those for operations. That’s why [people] gave it to us. It’s not to sustain my office, but to help people in the community.”
Heathcote says 20 weeks worth of revenue missing from the coffers made it very hard to stay financially sustainable. Adding that he has moved into an apartment and the house that he used to live in will also be sold.
“So that was able to basically provide some necessary stability,” he said. “A foundation that we can build on.”
The transition to the new space seems to have gone well, despite not having a place to move until recently and wanting to move before winter set in. Volunteers were busy on Thursday putting the final touches on the new space, while the old one is being prepared for sale.
“This was not the time of year to be moving, with our Christmas campaign happening,” Heathcote said. “The challenge we had was we weren’t able to find lease space in town. As of September first we had nowhere to go. We had to be out of there before the snow flew.”
In the new location, the overhead is significantly less, and easier to manage at the new location Heathcote says.
“We have no utilities to pay any longer,” he said. “We’re leasing in this spot so we just need to look after the lease month after month.”
With the new location Heathcote hopes that programming will continue in much the same way as in the old one.
“It still provides the opportunity for the community to be able to recycle stuff that doesn’t need to necessarily go to the landfill,” He said. “Without this operation people have no choice, we are the only place that they can recycle with here.”
That said, Heathcote does think people could be a little bit more judicious about the things they donate. He says about 60 per cent of what comes in ends up in a dumpster anyway, which means it takes time for volunteers to sort.
There is a small space at the front of the store for the small local Salvation Army congregation to meet but Heathcote says the group is not likely to meet together until the spring now anyway. He does weekly MP3 audio recordings for the congregation right now.
At the back of the store there is a work space for the Community and Family Services Coordinator but they were not able to build an office as they couldn’t find anyone to do the work until the new year.
The other services to run from the new location will be the community pantry and food bank. The Salvation Army is the only food bank in the area registered with Feed Ontario, which allows it to access food distributions from the province-wide body. The Salvation Army also partners with the United Native Friendship Centre, to share some of the food they receive from Feed Ontario.
Heathcote says the pandemic has shown the need for programs like the food bank in the community.
The pantry offers community members in need the opportunity to come in and pick out food that their family will eat and enjoy, rather than prescribed food hampers being handed out. There are even gluten free options for those who need them.
“Our food bank itself increased by a little over 10 per cent last year,” Heathcote said. “And all of those people are working people. It’s not people that are unemployed or have nothing to do, it’s not homeless people that made the increase. It’s all working people just trying to make ends meet. With food costs going up like they have, it’s just taking a real chunk out of people’s wallets. So we’re seeing more and more people coming here saying ‘can you help us out with food?’”