• Safe taken containing money used to help those in need
By Carey Restino
The irony of the situation is not lost on Lt. Jeff Josephson, officer of the Homer Salvation Army. After years of helping hundreds of Homer residents through crisis that put them in financial straights, a robbery at the Homer store last week has put the local charity organization in a financial pinch of its own.
Josephson said staff discovered the break-in when they showed up to work last Wednesday morning. The store had been broken into for the second time this year. But this time, they didn’t just bust a bunch of donations and make a mess of the store. This time, the thieves stole the Salvation Army’s safe, which held the funds it uses to help those in need.
Josephson said if someone came to them needing help this week, the church would do everything it could to help, but its resources are seriously diminished by the theft.
“We would move heaven and earth to figure out a way to do it, but it would be very difficult,” he said. “Our financial future has been impacted. What they destroyed in the process of taking that safe was our ability to help others in need.”
Police have made no arrests in the case, said Josephson. Homer Police reported no progress in the case, at this time, and said the increased vandalism experienced at the Salvation Army hasn’t been seen elsewhere in town.
Josephson said in 2012, the Homer Salvation Army gave out $63,100 in financial assistance in the form of food, emergency lodging, vouchers through its store on Pioneer Avenue, Christmas boxes, Thanksgiving boxes, heating and energy assistance funding, rental assistance and other efforts to help people get through a bump in the road. The assistance helped some 746 households and more than 3,000 people.
“We do whatever we can to keep people on their feet so they can continue to work and live here and be contributing members of our society,” he said.
Income from the store makes up the lion’s share of the funding for Homer’s Salvation Army, though financial donations, either made to the kettles seen at major storefronts over the holiday or directly to the church, account for close to $15,000 each year, Josephson said.
Need has increased in recent years, with all the social agencies and charitable organizations finding it difficult to meet the needs of those struggling in the community.
“We actually talk to people, all the time, that have been donors in the past and just find themselves with an event in their lives that they can’t recover from without help,” Josephson said. “For the most part, everybody’s capable of doing what they need to do to make ends meet. But then a car gets broken into or some other event happens, that’s where we step in and help get them back on their feet. Then they are right back at it again.”
Josephson said the Salvation Army’s storefront drop-off area for donations attracts some late-night visitors typically, but of late, the store has been experiencing more and more vandalism. On Monday morning, staff found donations of clothing and goods spread out into the parking lot, where the rain had ruined them.
He said police are looking at surveillance video from nearby stores to see if it caught anyone moving around, but the store is considering having to invest in its own cameras. They would rather use money from the store to help those in need, they said.
“We would like people to keep their ears open,” Josephson said. “We would really appreciate help with the vandalism and theft.”
In addition, the Salvation Army needs help more than ever to help others – either with donations of goods to the store or through cash donations.
“We could use some help to financially recoup from this,” Josephson said. “We just need to get past this event in our life. We don’t want to turn people away that are in need.”
Donations to the Homer Salvation Army can be sent to Salvation Army, 3784 Homer, Alaska 99603, brought to the store or made at First National Bank in Homer.
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