Drop in donations forces Salvation Army to move, suspend program

TUPELO – The cuts that Maj. Sue Dorman feared would come to the local Salvation Army have finally come, and as the organization moves out of its spacious thrift store and into a more economical space, more belt-tightening looms.
“We just can’t afford the overhead on the building,” said Dorman, adding that the 10,000-square-foot store on Robert E. Lee Drive has to take in nearly $900 a day to meet its operating costs, and it hasn’t been doing that for some time.
Two weeks ago the Army began slashing prices on merchandise in the store. The cash-strapped organization doesn’t want to move anything when it relocates the store to its previous facility on Daybrite Drive.
“We own that building on Daybrite, and it’s served as our dropoff center since we moved four years ago,” said Dorman.
She hopes to open the new store in September.
On Friday bargain hunters sifted through clothing, household items and furniture discounted 25 percent, and Dorman estimated total receipts for the day at $1,100.
Last month the Army reported a $60,000-$80,000 decline in yearly donations to date.
Unfortunately, moving the thrift store into more modest accommodations isn’t the only cost-cutting measure the Army is being forced to take.
The organization relies on its four area thrift stores to pump $160,000 into its social services programs each year, and since the store can’t pay its own bills, something else has to go.
Right now that means suspending the after-school program, which was set to start in about a week. Fifty-two children from 10 Tupelo schools were signed up to receive help with reading, math and other academic skills five days a week.
The Army had been absorbing a lot of the $150,000 yearly cost of the program, which included mortgage payments on the building on Douglas Street. The organization’s current financial predicament leaves officers and the board of directors little choice other than suspending the program and possibly selling the building.
“We’re always thinking of the kids and the community, and we hate to see the program go,” said a visibly saddened Dorman.
“Right now, we just don’t have the money to sustain it.”
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.

Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal