STATE COLLEGE— It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the Salvation Army runs in Lt. Staci Ferreira’s blood.
The new head of The Salvation Army of State College is the seventh generation of Salvationists in her family. Her parents are Salvation Army ministers, her grandparents are retired Salvation Army ministers, and Ferreira has been a fully ordained minister for the Salvation Army for five years. In June, Ferreira was appointed as administrator and lead pastor of the State College Corps.
“I grew up in the Salvation Army,” Ferreira said. “I just can’t see myself doing anything else.
“I remember as a kid riding along with my dad in the van and giving kettle workers breaks, or just visiting the kettle workers, or standing there ringing the bell. … That was just always Christmas for me — to do this, to help out.”
The kettle workers she referred to are the volunteers who help with perhaps the most familiar Salvation Army program, the Red Kettle campaign, which happens every year during the holiday season.
“Our annual Red Kettle campaign is our major fundraiser. It accounts for the majority of our budget each year. That’s the money we use to help people with their utility bills, rent or whatever it is that we can assist with,” Ferreira explained.
“The money that goes into those kettles stays in Centre County. That money helps provide Christmas, helps provide housing, helps provide heat, helps provide food. And a lot of people don’t think that’s an issue here. But it is.”
The Red Kettle campaign is currently in full swing, and the Salvation Army is in need of help.
“We definitely need more volunteers,” she said. “It’s an easy way to give back. Stand there for a couple hours, say hi to people, and ring a bell – you can’t find any easier way than that to give back to your community.”
At this time of year, the Salvation Army is also busy with its annual Angel Tree ministry, which Ferreira estimated will help more than 100 local low-income families this year.
“Parents who qualify can sign up for the Angel Tree program starting in October,” she said. “They give us some basic information, and we get a wish list for each child. Each child gets four wishes: something to read, something they want, something they need, and something to wear. We put the wishes on tags and take them to different stores and businesses, where people can choose a tag and shop for them. Then we make sure the gifts get to the family so that the parents can provide their kids with a good Christmas.”
While the Salvation Army may seem to be most visible during the Christmas season, Ferreira wants the public to know that the organization continues its work all year long.
“Year-round, we offer utility assistance and rent assistance on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “We always do our best to help.”
In the summer, they collect school supplies and clothing for their Back-to-School program. As with the Angel Tree program, parents sign up and qualify based on income.
“The kids get a backpack, they get school supplies and they get new clothes for school,” said Ferreira. “School supplies are expensive, and so are new clothes. This is something to help kids get off to a good start at the beginning of the school year.”
A relatively new program for the State College Corps is their homework help program.
“We’re working with a Penn State sorority (Phi Sigma Sigma), who come in and help with homework and tutoring. The sorority ladies are very good at checking homework, working on sight words or math problems, and helping with whatever other subject the kids may need help with.”
The program is available to all students in grades 1-12, and it is free to participate. It takes place on Tuesday evenings at 5 p.m. The program is on hiatus for the month of December, but will resume in January.
In addition to the services it provides to the community, the Salvation Army holds Sunday school and worship services every Sunday, as well as weekly Bible studies and other activities found in most churches.
“A lot of people don’t realize it, but we are a church, first and foremost,” Ferreira said. “Everything we do, every service we provide, is because of our love for God – because God loves us and he wants us to love other people. The way we love other people is through the services we provide.”
Ferreira served as an assistant corps officer in Pottsville and in Philadelphia before being assigned to the State College Corps.
“I’m told I will be here for at least three years,” she said. “I hope so, because I really like this community and I think there is a lot of potential for us to really grow – not just as a church, but in what services we can provide for people. I want us to become more visible and active in the community so we can help more people. … I’m excited to move forward here.”
The Salvation Army of State College is located at 2603 E. College Ave., Suite G. For more information, visit facebook.com/SalArmyStateCollege or call (814) 861-1785. To sign up as a volunteer bell-ringer with the Red Kettle campaign, visit redkettlevolunteer.org.