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story.lead_photo.caption Richard Champion with The Salvation Army seasons a batch of fish fry for a catfish dinner at the Red Shield Cafe on Wednesday. - Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record

Despite "nonessential business" closures due to COVID-19, The Salvation Army Captain Bradley Hargis said the biggest message to the community is that it will continue to offer financial and food assistance to anyone in need, as it's considered an "essential business."

As the funds are available, Hargis said The Salvation Army wants to inform the community they are available for rent, utility and mortgage assistance, as well as food assistance.

"Financial assistance is pretty much open to anyone because we know that it is going to affect some families who have tested positive (for COVID-19)," He said. "We've actually already had three reach out to us locally, who are quarantined in their homes and they're looking for someone to help them with rent or other things."

He noted financial assistance is being conducted electronically and remotely to minimize contact.

The Salvation Army holds a food pantry from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a daily feeding program from 5-6 p.m. at its main building located at 115 Crescent Ave.

The Salvation Army is "practicing social distancing as well as extensive cleaning of our property and building, that way we're making sure that we're protecting our staff employees, as well as the clients who come and visit us," Hargis said. " ... All services are actually being handled through our food service window at the rear of the building, but still clients can come and get whatever they need through that window."

The Salvation Army is aware of the numerous permanent and temporary layoffs those in Hot Springs' hospitality industries are facing due to the pandemic, Hargis said, so the assistance is not just for those who have been infected and quarantined.

"It's available for basically anyone who needs it, and we'll kind of do it on a case-by-case situation," he said. "But I do know that the clients already calling us for assistance, that's been happening a little over a week now, and it's much more than it ever has been in the past."

Hargis said this increase in clients will mean The Salvation Army will require an increase in monetary donations from the community, or else they "will not have the resources to meet this need at all."

"Really, this (pandemic) has been kind of difficult to judge, just because these are kind of unprecedented days and we've never been here before, so as the needs day-to-day are actually changing, (monetary donations) would allow us the flexibility to get what we need at the time," he said.

Hargis said COVID-19 has the "capacity" to affect the homeless population more, so The Salvation Army is also making an effort to educate that part of the community.

"We are giving them information from the CDC and the World Health Organization, as well as other things, just to make sure they are aware and are practicing some of the things that maybe the rest of us are seeing on the news and they don't have the capacity to watch," he said.

All-in-all, Hargis said The Salvation Army is excited to be able to continue serving its community.

"Even though these are wild days, (and), unfortunately, on the news and other things (we) don't see all the good things going on, and there's plenty of good things going on right now, and we just want to be part of that equation," he said.

For more information on financial or food assistance, call 623-1628.

Local on 03/26/2020

Print Headline: Salvation Army considered 'essential' during pandemic

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