More than Red Kettles: The Salvation Army

Most people think of red kettles and bell ringers at Christmas when they think of The Salvation Army, but Captain Kenny Igleheart and his wife, Julie, know that’s just a tiny piece of what the organization does. 

The Iglehearts are responsible for the Salvation Army operations in eight counties in Northeastern North Carolina from Hertford to the Dare beaches. Their services run the gamut of emergency financial assistance and disaster relief to youth services.

All of the services offered have a faith component because The Salvation Army was established, first and foremost, to bring the Gospel to the poor, homeless, hungry, and destitute in London. William Booth, a Methodist minister, founded the organization in 1865 because he realized that the spiritual and physical needs of the poor were not being met in other, more traditional, church settings. 

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Captains Kenny and Julie Igleheart. Photo Jane Elfring.

In Elizabeth City, the Iglehearts offer two Sunday worship services, Bible Study and Men and Women’s Group meetings on Mondays, and a Christian-based youth program on Thursdays. 

The annual budget for this division is $1.4 million, most of which comes from their thrift store and local donors. Only about $97,000 comes from the red kettles. The money is handled very efficiently, Kenny says, with 88 cents of every dollar donated going to assist the people who need it.

In Northeastern North Carolina, the primary needs are emergency financial assistance, disaster services, and aid to families. In 2015, the organization assisted more than 10,000 people. During one month this summer, the Salvation Army assisted 1,402 people in five counties and distributed $7,789.96 in cash assistance, primarily for food, clothing, and utilities. 

Helping them accomplish this Herculean task are board members from each of the counties they serve, 13 paid staff in their store and administrative offices, and scores of volunteers. Kenny says the organization also enters into agreements with other agencies and churches in the region, that help share the load.

He points to a new outreach program on the Outer Banks which developed as a result of networking with the Interfaith Coalition in Dare County and a generous donor who earmarked money for distribution in Dare County. Outer Banks Presbyterian Church in Kill Devil Hills worked with Julie to purchase school supplies and clothes for needy children in Dare County. She and other volunteers spent $100 each on 35 children to help them get ready for the new school year. 

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The Salvation Army Thrift Store window lets customers know the spiritual mission of the facility. Photo Jane Elfring.

Another outreach program that is very much in keeping with Booth’s original vision is the monthly meal the organization prepares for the poor in Elizabeth City. The organization prepares and serves the meals on the first Sunday of the month. SOULS (Serving Others Under Love and Sharing) is an ecumenical effort of churches in Elizabeth City that provides evening meals for the homeless and poor. Congregations commit to preparing at least one meal per month for the approximately 60 to 70 people who come each evening. 

The biggest requests in the area are for food, clothing, and utility assistance. Kenny’s goal is to help holistically rather than enable people to continue going from crisis to crisis. The faith component is also present when they meet with clients because they pray with them before discussing their needs, Julie says.

Life skills classes will be offered in Elizabeth City and the other seven counties the division serves beginning in January because “my goal is to help people who continually knock on my door [become self-sufficient] so I can help the next person,” Kenny says. These classes will cover handling finances, health issues, parenting skills, and job readiness. When people come in for Christmas baskets this year, they must agree to attend classes in order to be eligible for assistance next year. Julie adds that they have offered these classes in other areas and received positive feedback about their effectiveness.

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Serving a SOULS meal from left to right, are Cody Baker (boy in red shirt), a student at Pasquotank High School and member of the Corps Cadets group, Julie Igleheart, Becky Shapiro (red top), Michele Perkins (Salvation Army jacket). Photo Jane Elfring.

Each Salvation Army division is a little different and works to meet the specific needs of the area. At his last position in Goldsboro, Kenny was responsible for a men’s shelter. In Elizabeth City, the latest needs assessment identified a need for youth programs in this area so the Inglehearts began developing ways to meet this goal. 

This past summer, the organization received a $10,000 grant from the Elizabeth City Foundation to operate a summer camp for 15 to 20 kids each day. The division partnered with the Pasquotank Ministers’ Council for Education to adopt Sheep-Harney Elementary School and provided school supplies and a staff meal to kick off the school year.

The success of these programs has been a blessing, but it also points to the need for a larger facility because the Salvation Army’s facility currently used for the camp and evening programs is only 6,000 square feet. The Iglehearts and the board are actively looking for a larger space to house the youth program and the Disaster Response unit that works in this area – which is currently located in Greenville, several hours away from the most likely disaster locations. Space in Elizabeth City would enable them to keep their equipment more centrally located.

The board is in the process of negotiating the purchase of a large 16,000-square-foot building in Elizabeth City that could be used for different program needs in the area. The space includes more room for storage, which can be used to store disaster relief supplies. At a recent board meeting, Kenny told members that if this purchase is approved, the organization would need to begin an area-wide fundraising effort to raise $310,000.

Called to Service

The Igleheart’s journey to this ministry wasn’t instantaneous. Both Iglehearts were raised in Kentucky where they attended Southern Baptist churches. Their first contact with The Salvation Army came when they went to Atlanta for Kenny’s brother and sister-in-law’s commissioning in 2005. 

Up until that point in their lives, Kenny had worked in soybean processing, a chicken factory, and a computer paper mill, and Julie had been a health care worker. Both were involved informally in their ministry while they raised their two children because Kenny told Julie he wasn’t going to be a “pew warmer.” Kenny was head of the deacons and Julie worked with their Sunday school program. 

Kenny remembers when his father leaned over to him during his brother’s ceremony and said, “I can see you here someday.” He says that was the first hint he had of his calling to the ministry. Later, after a period of struggle, he knew that he had to speak to Julie about the calling he had to commit to a full-time ministry with The Salvation Army. 

“I told her we needed to talk,” he recalls. After he told her what he was thinking about, she revealed that she had also been having similar experiences. She described her experiences as “God throwing bricks.” Her father-in-law’s comment had been the first brick.

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The Iglehearts used the Salvation Army’s mobile kitchen to deliver food to SOULS. Photo Jane Elfring.

“For several months I had a dream that he and I and our youngest child were going into a church, but I didn’t know what it was,” Julie recalls. That was the second brick. When Kenny approached her and told her about his calling, she said that was the third brick. 

They went back to The Salvation Army to speak to the officers and were surprised when everyone they talked to said they knew why they were there. “God works in good ways,” Julie says. It was important that Julie felt this call just as strongly as Kenny did because The Salvation Army commissions both spouses for their ministry.

They began the process of becoming Salvation Army officers. In 2006, they sold their four-bedroom home and everything they owned and moved to Atlanta for two years of ministry training. One thing that is unique about The Salvation Army is the military structure established by Booth. “We are both ordained ministers and commissioned officers,” Kenny says.

They were commissioned in June 2009 and sent to Rock Hill, South Carolina for two years. Kenny was familiar with the area because of his prior employment in the paper industry. They were then moved to Goldsboro for four years prior to their transfer to Elizabeth City just last year. Assignments are normally for three to five years, depending on the needs of the organization. If the Ingleheart’s first year in Elizabeth City is any indication, their time in this region will be well spent.

Hurricane Matthew Response

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Providing disaster relief and hot meals in Hatteras after Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Daniel Pullen Photography

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction on the Outer Banks, the Salvation Army provided meals and emotional assistance to the residents of Hatteras Island. Kenny Igleheart said the Emergency Management office in Dare County contacted him several days after the Oct. 8 storm seeking his assistance.

The Salvation Army dispatched two mobile kitchen units and two crews from Virginia to the island. Igleheart and his wife traveled from Elizabeth City early each day for the nearly three-hour drive down to deliver food supplies and water for more than a week. Crews prepared between 300 and 500 meals each day for residents of Hatteras and Frisco.

“These meals weren’t already prepared,” Igleheart explained. “They were cooked each day.”

These communities also sustained damage in September from Hurricane Hermine. Temporary housing for residents after that storm was wiped out when Matthew arrived less than a month later. The Iglehearts worked with emergency management officials to assist those families who found themselves without shelter for the second time in two months.♦

Jane Elfring

Jane Elfring, a freelance writer and photographer, lives in Elizabeth City. She writes about the history and life in Northeastern North Carolina. 

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