There’s a lot more to the Salvation Army than brass bands – although you will still hear the West Hunslet band out on the streets on Sunday afternoon.
At a national level the organisation runs safe houses to help victims escape human traffickers. In South Leeds they offer hot lunches and run a busy charity shop on Hunslet Hall Road in Beeston (or is it West Hunslet?).
The services are run by Andrew and Jackie Jarrold together with a team of twenty dedicated volunteers. The volunteers, who range in age from 9 to 90 are critical to providing the friendly services.
The Jarrolds moved from Harwich in Essex a year ago. Beeston has different issues and is much more multicultural, but they are enjoying getting to know the community. The community work stems from an old Salvation Army adage ‘faith in action’.
“We try to live out the gospel and build relationships,” says Andrew. “We currently serve 20-25 meals each day, Monday to Thursday. We would like to double that number and help more people.”
At £3 per head, the meals offer affordable nutrition as well as social interaction and friendship.
The Corps (church) raises funds to subsidise the meals and they also have links to Costco to take food items that are approacing their Use By date.
As a church the Salvation holds two services every Sunday plus a monthly family service. “Messy Church” is an informal event for parents, carers and young children that includes songs, craft activities and a meal.
Through in the ‘community care and share’ shop I met manager Vanessa and volunteer Kay. The shop is full of clothes and bric-a-brac and Vanessa is full of energy, she describes her role as “my dream job”. As in everything at the centre, the focus is on relationships. She is proud of the customer feedback that the shop is the friendliest, cheapest charity shop in Beeston.
“Not everyone comes in to buy things, sometimes it’s just for a chat and that’s fine. Although the money we raise in the shop is important, sometimes people have nothing and we give them what they need. That’s important to us.”
“Everything in the shop is donated,” continues Vanessa. “I call it Bagpuss-land. People come in and ask for something unusual and within days it turns up in a donation – it’s like magic!”
The Salvation Army does give out emergency help in the form of food parcels, but usually to people referred from Social Services.
They are also involved in the community in other ways. The South Leeds Youth Project funds two workers, Ed and Mark, to run youth activities in the area. They are also active members of Churches Together in LS11and volunteered their services at last year’s Beeston Festival. The band played carols at December’s Lantern Festival in Cross Flatt’s Park.
Recently the church has got involved with the Leeds2Iraq project and when I visted a van was parked outside, stuffed to the gunwales with warm clothes to take to St Luke’s for sorting.
Vanessa sums up the ethos of the work the Salvation Army are doing when she says it feels good to be able to do something to help:
“Giving love’s a right good payback!”