Men's Breakfast Report, November 2007
The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, November 10 with Guy Nickum, Captain of the local Salvation Army.
The local Salvation Army is a church with about twenty members. It is also well known as a social service agency. They have a thrift shop to provide inexpensive goods to people and employment. They run a daycare center and a shelter for people without a place to live. They also provide emergency assistance with rent and utilities.
The daycare center and thrift shop pay their employees slightly above minimum wage, but provide health and other insurance benefits. This raises their effective compensation to well above average for this type of job. The daycare center, because of subsidies, is able to provide daycare at the lowest rates in southern Brazoria County. Since Guy has a background in business, he has been able to make these operations more efficient and reduce the subsidies.
Guy believes that the primary job of a Salvation Army officer is as a pastor, but most of his time is spent in administrative and fundraising duties.
The shelter has a few clients most nights. A few of their clients are long term where someone is trying to get back to being a productive member of society after some setback. Some are basically transients that are trying to avoid responsibility. They try to get these people to also look for a job and manage their money wisely.
Guy said that homelessness is not a major problem in Brazoria County. Since he runs the shelter, he is able to see the extent first hand. This has led to conflicts with the Brazoria Council on the Homeless, which believes that the problem is much greater. The difference is probably matters of definition and agenda. The Council using a very broad definition to make the problem appear worse than it actually is.
The rent and utilities assistance program will help a family only once per year, as it is supposed to be for emergency use only. However, some families reappear exactly twelve months after their last use of the program.
Many churches in Freeport refuse to give handouts to people requesting assistance, sending them to the Salvation Army instead. The churches, unlike the Army, are unable to separate the deserving from the con artists. In spite of the Army performing a function of the churches, few make regular donations to the Army. Guy said that our church and four in Lake Jackson are the only ones to be regular contributors. Guy was asked if there was cooperation between the Army and the local Catholic Church. He said that the local Catholic Church did not make a regular contribution, but Saint Michael’s in Lake Jackson has manned a donation kettle full time.
The kettle program is a primary fund raiser for the Army. The local Army unit is one of the few in the nation that relies entirely on volunteers to work the kettles, instead of paid bell ringers. This means that all the money collected goes to programs. Also, volunteer ringers are more successful than paid ringers. There is one kettle planned for Freeport this year, in front of Kroger. There will be several in Lake Jackson. The mall will again allow the Buell Memorial Kettle to be set up and now will even allow it to be set up in the food court.
A complaint about the kettles was that they have been covered with a small hole in the cover. Covering the kettles is a requirement from the national Army. The cover prevents an opportunistic thief from sticking his hand in the kettle and grabbing money. Although this has not been a major problem here, attempts at theft have been made locally. The covers also prevent wind from blowing the money out of the kettle. Last year a volunteer removed a cover and took it home. The next volunteer had to work during a wind storm which blew the money out of the kettle. Fortunately most of the money was recovered by bystanders and more was added. Guy said that this year new lids are being provided for the kettles with larger holes to make donations easier. He will be sending signup sheets to the churches for people to volunteer as bell ringers.
As usual, the men enjoyed an informative discussion and a good breakfast. All men are invited to the next breakfast on Saturday, December 8.