It’s the calm before the storm at the Salvation Army of Cortland. The hallways are quiet now, but when the clock ticks closer to dinner time, the main dining room will be filled with boisterous children with eager stomachs. At the heart of the organization is the kitchen at its South Main Street location.
“We are all about serving the community,” said Salvation Army Lieutenant Rebecca March. “Feeding people is central to what we do. We want to make sure they don’t go hungry when they go home at night and that we are doing everything to help them.”
In the city of Cortland, nearly 24 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The majority of those are considered food insecure — meaning that they lack access to enough nutritionally balanced food sources to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This past spring, the Salvation Army was one of nine nonprofits to receive $5,000 through our Cortland County Bright Ideas pilot program. The grant will be used to purchase a commercial stove with a standard oven and stainless steel sink as part of its kitchen renovation.
“We’ve had our current stove for more than 10 years,” said March. “It’s seen its share of use and is no longer functioning at full capacity. The new stove is going to cut down preparation time.”
As the children file in, March begins to guide each child to an empty seat and helps them bring out the coloring books, colored pencils and board games. Moments later, she joins in on the fun and converses with them about their day until it’s time to eat their hearty meal of chicken nuggets, french fries, corn and fruit salad.
This evening is dedicated to the youth. Aside from providing a meal, the organization introduces them to activities that they may not be able to experience on a regular basis. Some sing, some dance, some blow off steam in the gym. It’s all about encouraging the children to learn and try new things.
“There is a great need for these kinds of grants,” March said. “For an organization like us that doesn’t have a large source of income, they make a huge difference in our ability to help people. We are just so grateful that the Community Foundation chose our organization as one of the first Bright Ideas recipients. It will make a huge difference.”