ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- People often associate The Salvation Army with the December holidays, when bell ringers collect donations for the organization’s charitable programs.
Marcus Jugenheimer, the Rockland County Coordinator for the Salvation Army, says collecting donations only scratches the surface of the organization’s community involvement. The Salvation Army offers weekly church services, and provides food, heating, housing and rent assistance to needy families, among other services. The Salvation Army offers its support without any government funding and relies on donations from people throughout Rockland County.
The foundation of The Salvation Army is rooted in the church, and services are held in English and Spanish in Spring Valley. “We provide what every church would,’’ said Jugenheimer, who conducts the English language services in Spring Valley along with his wife, Joy, who also serves as a Salvation Army coordinator. “The Salvation Army’s work is done in 126 countries around the world, and we’re predominantly known as a Christian church. Our social services and fundraising efforts sometimes overshadow the identity of who we are in the United States. The services we provide flow out of what God would have us do.”
Joy and Marcus deliver the sermons and provide pastoral care and visitation. The church has approximately 200 members, with an average attendance of 150 every week. They also have experience lay leaders to help run the church.
“We have a very diverse congregation, from highly educated ministry professionals to people from a neighboring group home,’’ Marcus said. “The common bond is we’re all worshipping God together.”
The Salvation Army has 40 churches in the area that includes New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley. Congregation sizes vary, as do the languages and cultures within each congregation.
“Outside The Salvation Army, we’re mostly known for the Red Kettle, the bell ringers, and furniture donations,’’ Jugenheimer said. “That’s what comes to mind first, and people also know all about the great services we provide. I think who we are as a church in the United States has not gotten a lot of attention. That may be our fault, and not sharing the reason why we do what we do.”
The Jugenheimers came to Spring Valley after working for six years in Ohio. They met as students at The Salvation Army’s School for Officer Training in Suffern in 1993. Marcus earned a bachelor’s degree at Nyack College and became an ordained as an officer, or minister, in The Salvation Army in 1994. Joy earned a bachelor’s degree at Houghton College and earned a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary. She became an ordained officer for The Salvation Army in 1995.
Jugenheimer says The Salvation Army provides the basic needs of today -- food, shelter, heat, clothing -- while also helping for the needs of tomorrow. For instance, The Salvation Army sponsored a back-to-school shopping spree at Target for nearly 100 children, each of whom received $75 to spend on school supplies. It also funds a summer day camp, Christmas assistance, and even developed an elementary music program in the financially-strapped school district in East Ramapo.
The organization accomplishes its mission with a mostly volunteer staff. Its mobile food pantry, which delivers food every Saturday, is staffed by 30 volunteers. Another 40-45 volunteers lead many educational and congregational programs.
Jugenheimer has been part of The Salvation Army for 22 years and enjoys serving the residents of Rockland County.
“The demands are great,’’ he said. “Every day is a new adventure. What I enjoy is knowing that through what I’m doing, I’m demonstrating the love of God that I’ve been the recipient of. We’re not just talking about God's love, but showing it through practical ways and supporting people in their time of need.”
For more information about The Salvation Army, click here to visit its website.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.