Things change and things end, but this one could have been a lot cleaner.
The announcement that Elkhart Salvation Army is ending its partnership with REAL Services at the end of May is sad, but it makes sense.
The two have worked together for 20 years to feed a hot lunch on weekdays, now at 300 N. Main St. Numbers had dwindled to five to eight people, and Salvation Army officials said they were feeding more volunteers than walk-ins with the federally funded program.
The breakfast program at the Salvation Army is thriving, but lunch isn’t. Meanwhile, a few blocks away, Susanna’s Kitchen serves 80 to 90 people a day. Other sites are in walking distance as well.
REAL Services officials didn’t have all the info they needed after the Salvation Army opted to stop hosting lunch. The agencies didn’t communicate as well as they should have. That led to a public relations problem.
It might have looked like the Salvation Army was being inhospitable. It might have looked like it wasn’t doing what it could to support those in need in this community. That wasn’t the case. It was making a decision to try to use resources — its own and the federal dollars that paid for lunch — more wisely. That’s what every nonprofit board and the heads of every agency should be doing.
After the story appeared about REAL Services looking for a new home for the meal, Joan Rhoade, advisory board chairwoman for the Salvation Army, said in a letter to the editor that the board was concerned about duplication of resources and that led to the decision.
That’s smart. That’s the story that should win out over the agency looking uncompassionate or dismissive.
The Salvation Army will continue to care for the hungry and the elderly in this community, Rhoade said. It’s starting a new program called Mobile Manna to deliver fresh food to homebound seniors. These are indications of the Salvation Army doing what it should.
REAL Services is looking for another location. It needs a kitchen that meets health codes, and a building that is ADA-compliant and has parking and a dining area.
In the last 20 years, Elkhart County demographics have changed. Perhaps there’s an area that’s underserved. Maybe one of the outlying cities or towns in Elkhart County needs a lunch program for its seniors more than Elkhart. That’s the kind of work REAL Services now gets to do — and should do — to assure that it’s maximizing its use of federal dollars to help those in need.
Change can be difficult, but it can also be a good thing. This move should result in more people being fed and better use of the funds available. The community will benefit if that happens