November 25, 2014 (Chester, Pa) – Boys and girls in Chester are faced with challenging urban situations, but over the past several months the Salvation Army – Chester Corps (151 West 15th Street, Chester, Pa, 19013) has seen many smiles on kids faces due to their youth programming. Specifically, their Sports Fellowship Program and Music Programs have been highlights for an average of over 100 kids each week as the Salvation Army staff and volunteers are helping more than just seniors, veterans, and the homeless as the community has come to expect. The annual tradition of the red kettle with ringing bells outside of retail establishments is upon us, and this year the Chester community now has more reasons to give locally to the organization that is doing the most good.
This past March, the husband and wife Corps leadership team of Major Ervin McKoy, Jr. and Major Anna McKoy started their Sports Fellowship Program to the delight of local parents and caregivers. The first Saturday of the program saw their gymnasium filled with young basketball players and cheerleaders between the ages of 6 to 13, and family and friends were in attendance to watch for hours. The excitement has continued as the seasons have changed with soccer introduced over the summer and into the fall, and basketball recently returning. The interest level continues to grow as a result of the program’s goals and the passions of the Corps leadership.
Goals for the Sports Fellowship program include encouraging all interested children to participate regardless of prior knowledge or ability, and to provide an outlet for children’s physical and creative abilities, while helping them to develop a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It is also a stated goal of the program to encourage parents and caregivers to become further involved in the lives of their children by offering volunteer opportunities to help out with the program (i.e. sell concessions, coach, organize, etc..) and thus creating an environment of encouragement coming from the sidelines of the games. This value-based initiative is rooted in a commitment to teach Sunday school and offer worship services to the children and their family members each week as part of their participation in the program. Major Ervin McKoy, Jr. comments, “Our primary goal of this program has been to encourage kids to get good grades in school which will create future opportunity and success in their lives. We are thrilled that the kids and their families have responded so favorably to the structure and entertainment offered, and with the help of the regional community we know that we can offer even greater opportunities.”
A similar level of interest and passion occurs each week on Thursday evenings as boys and girls, also between the ages of 6-13, show up to the Salvation Army – Chester Corps for a meal at 4 p.m. and music lessons at 5 p.m. As a result of donated instruments from compassionate members of the community, these students are offered an opportunity to develop their musical interest and foster an education through volunteer led classes. The children are learning percussion, bass, vocal instruction and theory. With schools not able to offer musical education as they had in the past, the pleasant and sometimes unique sounds of a child’s musical development can now be heard along 15th Street as you walk or drive past the Salvation Army.
This youth programming has been a welcome addition for the local community, and the staff and volunteers must also maintain the other diverse services for the members of the community that face poverty and difficult circumstances. These daily efforts include the management of an onsite emergency shelter that can house up to 35 people per night. In addition, the Corps also provides housing and homelessness services, elderly services to support seniors, supportive services to help people with disabilities and people seeking drug and alcohol recovery. Somehow they also recently found the time to develop a partnership with the Community Action Agency of Delaware County with the successful Supportive Services for Veterans Families that has just completed their first year of providing needed resources for over 100 local Veterans.
During the holiday season, the “miracle” of Christmas is repeated over and over again through the joy of caring and sharing. The traditional red kettle is an integral part of the Christmas scene with donations directed locally to needy families, seniors and the homeless. Donations and financial assistance provide Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need. Major Anna McKoy comments, “The Salvation Army is uniquely positioned to help those less fortunate in our communities due in large part to the generosity of our supporters, friends, and anonymous donors. We have the desire to grow more and to help more people because we recognize the need that is outside of our doors, and we are asking for your help.”
To learn more about the Salvation Army programming and to identify the closest red kettle location, please call (610) 874-4266.