The mutual cooperation extends beyond the holidays, but during the Christmas season The Refuge and the Salvation Army Cleveland Corps are joining hands by supporting the other’s campaigns targeting area families most in need.
Last Friday, staff and volunteers representing The Refuge — a third-year nonprofit that seeks to empower families in low-income neighborhoods of East Cleveland — staffed the Salvation Army’s Bell Ringer station in front of Hobby Lobby on Stuart Road.
And before the bell ringing, the Salvation Army donated a load of colorful Christmas stockings filled with small toys, candy and hygiene items for distribution to The Refuge Community Christmas that took place Dec. 15. The Refuge provided gifts to more than 200 families representing 460 children in East Cleveland on this date.
In return, The Refuge donated leftover toys from its Community Christmas to the Salvation Army for use in the agency’s own Christmas programming such as the Angel Tree.
“The Refuge and the Salvation Army are teaming together to show our community that we do work together and partner in our programming,” according to Kelli Kyle, director of Community Involvement for The Refuge which is located in the Family Support Center on Blythe Avenue.
“I love the idea of doing this because at The Refuge we always say, ‘We can do far more together than we could ever do alone.’”
Kyle said serving as bell ringers for the widely respected Salvation Army is a strong show of the cooperative attitude between the organizations, as well as others.
Ruthie Forgey, Salvation Army corps administrator, agreed.
“The Salvation Army believes that we work better together,” Forgey stated. “That’s why we took this opportunity with The Refuge to help in the distribution in their Christmas program. It’s also why The Refuge took the opportunity to ring bells for us ... as we understand that we work together as a body of Christ and that, when we work in harmony, we can do so much more to help area families and individuals who need this type of help the most.”
She added, “We are very grateful to be friends with The Refuge and other nonprofit agencies such as United Way of Bradley County and Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland. Each has partnered with us before in our bell ringing, as well as in other endeavors.”
Forgey said a strength of nonprofit organizations working together is it will lead the community as a whole to copy the model.
The partnership between the two, as well as with United Way, Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofits, originated long before the Christmas season.
“We conduct projects with other agencies, churches and people regularly, but not this noticeable,” Kyle said. “Everyone knows about the Salvation Army and the work their staff and volunteers do. The bell ringers are an established part of the Salvation Army’s outreach. We were honored to be asked to help and we are just as honored to serve in this role.”
Kyle said the philosophy at The Refuge isn’t about who helps those in need just so those in need get the help. She projected the same attitude is strong in the missions of other nonprofits whether it’s the Salvation Army, United Way, Habitat for Humanity or others.
“As long as the help is improving people’s lives in our community, it doesn’t matter who is providing it,” she said. “It takes many organizations working together to help families and we all do. Nonprofits and other organizations in Cleveland are so great and are open to working together.”
Other than offers to help one another with Christmas program distributions, Kyle said The Refuge received nothing in return for their staff’s and volunteers’ bell ringing services; plus, all donations placed in the Red Kettle at Hobby Lobby went to the Salvation Army, and not to The Refuge.
“We did the bell ringing out of support for a partner and to show how we as nonprofit organizations should work together,” Kyle stressed. “I just think this partnership is awesome and we at The Refuge are so very honored to be a part of it.”
Agencies like The Refuge and the Salvation Army also serve as referrals for one another. When one can’t provide for a family’s need, its staff and volunteers will pick up the telephone to find the help at another nonprofit organization.
A pre-existing partnership, and deep respect for one another’s community mission, led The Refuge and the Salvation Army to reach out to each other at Christmastime.
By gifting The Refuge with Christmas stockings, the Salvation Army made it possible for the East Cleveland nonprofit to add to The Refuge Community Christmas. The distribution was hosted in the gymnasium of the Family Support Center, which formerly housed the old Blythe Avenue Elementary School.
At the event, The Refuge volunteers and staff — using a host or hostess per family — provided two gifts and gift-wrapping for each child. Also, parents were allowed to purchase a third gift for each child in a tent sale in which all merchandise was marked down by 90 percent.
“Our parents want to make these purchases,” Kyle said. “They don’t want to just be given presents that will then be given to the children. They want to be an active part in the selection and in being able to see the children find them under the tree on Christmas morning.”
She added, “Our parents would buy these types of gifts at the stores if they could afford them.”
As Kyle has explained before, The Refuge mission is to empower, to inform and to educate, and both are powerful in raising self-esteem.
Although community donations to The Refuge Community Christmas started slowly, they picked up the week before the Saturday distribution, Kyle explained.
“That final week before our event, we received all kinds of donations — both in gifts and toys, and monetarily, from the community,” Kyle noted. “This town has always been so supportive. The residents here, the churches, the businesses and other organizations like the Salvation Army made this possible. We could never have done it alone.”
In a changing world where family needs are a constant, organizations like The Refuge, the Salvation Army, United Way and Habitat for Humanity — among others — are rediscovering commonality while embracing the progressive ideal of working together and not apart.