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Opportunities abound at the Salvation Army in Santa Maria

Opportunities abound at the Salvation Army in Santa Maria

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The Salvation Army’s Santa Maria Corps opened its doors Thursday and invited the community to learn about the opportunities available there.

“We think that it is important that the community really know what the Salvation Army does," said Lt. Patty Torres, who runs the Santa Maria facility with her husband, Juan. "A lot of people think that it is just a social service, that we just help with lunch or with rent or with our food pantry."

She added, “We wanted to open our doors to have people come in and see all of the different programs that we offer, and it’s a great opportunity for anybody that is interested in doing volunteer work or if they are interested in donating.”

The Salvation Army’s motto is "Heart to God and hand to man." The Torreses and everyone at the Santa Maria facility work to live up to those words by providing a host of different services to the community.

Located at 200 W. Cook St. in Santa Maria, the organization's offerings include a hot lunch, a food pantry, specialized recovery programs, housing assistance, summer camps and more.

“Our hot lunch program is one of the biggest programs here in Santa Maria," Patty Torres said. "We can serve up to 180 persons a day. It is for the homeless, low-income families, anybody really that wants to come in for a hot lunch.”

The Corps relies heavily on donations and the creativity of its staff to make many of its programs work.

“I really don’t know any other agency that offers what we offer: a hot, nutritious, sit-down meal," Torres said. "We have a wonderful chef that prepares types of foods.” 

Many of the donations come in the form of food from local restaurants.

“Pasta, linguini, we have even had shrimp and lobster, (the chef) is really creative," Torres said. "There are times when are donations are low and we have rice and beans.”

The Santa Maria Salvation Army Corp’s food pantry helps a lot of families in Santa Maria survive.

“Our food pantry has a lot of local fresh produce that is donated," Torres said. "We have canned goods, things like that. We have served up to 80 families a day with our food pantry.”

In addition to feeding the hungry, the Salvation Army also provides emergency utilities, rental assistance and hygiene kits. 

To make all its programs possible, the Salvation Army needs support from the community.

“Monetary donations are always welcome. We always need stuff for our kitchen, our summer programs, everything we do,” Torres said.

The Salvation Army is not just a social service agency.

“One thing that most people are not aware of is that the Salvation Army is a Christian church,” Torres said. “Aside from the material needs, we also offer spiritual guidance, prayer. We have a lot of people that come in and need so much more. We are here to offer any kind of spiritual counseling that they need.”

Juan and Patty Torres began their life in the Salvation Army working with young people in Los Angeles.

“We started as youth counselors in downtown Los Angeles. We were there for five years. The army is unique in that it sends you where there is need,” Torres said.

In 2010, she and her husband were sent to work San Luis Obispo to reopen the core church there. After a couple of years, they went back to L.A. before being stationed in Santa Maria in 2014.

“Santa Maria is wonderful," Torres said. "It is a great community. My husband and I are from Los Angeles. Los Angeles is so big. You can get lost in the shuffle. Here, it is wonderful to be able to have one-on-one with the community.”

She added, “We just want to express to the community that there are opportunities here.”

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

“We think that it is important that the community really know what the Salvation Army does.”

-- Lt. Patty Torres

Lt. Patty Torres
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