Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Woman stocking bread shelf

Salvation Army Service Extension provides much in rural areas

Added on Friday, August 2, 2013

A single mom in rural North Dakota, we’ll call her Jane, works two part-time jobs to make ends meet. Having no health insurance and an old car with high mileage, Jane is continually burdened with choosing which bills absolutely must get paid: doctor, car expenses, rent, daycare, clothes, and food.

Jane wishes there was someplace to turn for help, but she thinks that kind of support exists only in the big city.

She’s wrong.

What people like Jane don’t know is The Salvation Army offers services in every single county of Minnesota and North Dakota. Outside of the Salvation Army Worship and Service Centers that exist in most big cities, staff and volunteers operate a rural network called The Salvation Army Service Extension Program.

“Service Extension is an arm of The Salvation Army that reaches into all corners of both states,” said Joanne Johnson Lee, Service Extension Director. “Most of the people who come to us have had a crisis.”

Unlike a worship and service center where a Salvation Army officer is in charge, a “service unit” is run by qualified volunteers supporting The Salvation Army’s mission. It’s a job that requires in-depth training and a deep passion for serving people in need.

“Each service unit is responsible for their own fundraising,” said Lee. “The volunteers do it all – schedule meetings, pick up money, bring it to the bank, work with people who need help, and more.”

Volunteers are residents of the county in which they serve and help determine how dollars are allocated, customizing to the specific needs of that county.

Although the leadership of a service unit is unique, the services are similar to those offered at worship and service centers. Example: If someone needs spiritual guidance, they are sent to a local church providing for that need. If someone needs food assistance, they are sent to a local food shelf, assuming that particular service unit doesn’t already have one. Since service units don’t have a Salvation Army building to use, meetings are held at a volunteer’s place of employment, a nearby Salvation Army store or other public place.

Remember the example of Jane in North Dakota? If Jane knew about the Salvation Army Service Extension in her county, she could meet with a volunteer representative when money is tight. Jane may be sent to the local Salvation Army food shelf to receive help with her family’s food needs, or there may be another solution. One thing is for sure: There is Salvation Army help for Jane or anyone in Minnesota or North Dakota, whether living among skyscrapers or corn fields.

To see what help is available in rural areas of Minnesota and North Dakota, visit our Service Extension Program page.  To learn about becoming a Service Extension volunteer, call Sandy Aydt at 800-456-4483.

Read more stories, blog posts and testimonials on our News page.