A Fresh Approach
The Red Shield Center has been a fixture on Greenwood’s Main Street for years, offering area residents a well-stocked food pantry and access to social services through a variety of Salvation Army programs. Johnson County’s growth in recent decades has been remarkable, and in 2020 The Salvation Army determined that it was time for the Red Shield Center to take on a bigger role in the community. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, all the center’s programs became contactless, offering the perfect opportunity to give the inside of the building the reevaluation and redesign it needed.
Captains Vinal and Brenna Lee took over operations of the Red Shield Center in October with the intention of expanding its services. “Our first thought was, ‘How do we take the vision we have currently and fit it into this existing footprint?’” recalled Captain Vinal. Limited floor space meant getting creative, but the Lees were up to the challenge.
With the help of volunteers, they reconfigured the food pantry, making it possible to add new spaces in which the public could gather. This spring, families who come to pick up food boxes or apply for emergency assistance will now wait and socialize in Cozy Corner. Soft furniture, puzzles, games, and a hot coffee and tea station are designed to make the visitors feel more like welcomed guests.
“There is a great need for direct services like financial assistance,” explained Captain Brenna. “For many people, their utility and rent bills are unmanageable right now. The Salvation Army can provide direct assistance and set up budgeting classes to help out. We can also help with networking so our families can connect with other services that are offered within the community.”
Not far from Cozy Corner is the new Learning Center, a space open to the public for meetings, trainings, and other learning opportunities. The Lees are also planning to use the space for Salvation Army classes to teach core skills like parenting, cooking, and budgeting. Captain Brenna recognizes that areas like the Learning Center are in high demand right now. “We are offering the space to other community partners who are looking to host in multiple spaces so they can limit the capacity, especially as we’re still navigating through the pandemic.”
The “new” Red Shield Center has volunteers delighted, too. One local resident, Wayne, has been a volunteer since the location opened decades ago. “He just celebrated his ninety-third birthday and he’s incredibly excited for what’s happening,” Captain Vinal shared. “Just the other day he brought back some old volunteers so they could see what’s happening and hopefully start volunteering again.”
In a year when so many places had to take a step back, we know what a blessing it was to be able to expand The Salvation Army’s services to our neighbors in need. Thank you for sharing your blessings and making ministries like those offered by the Red Shield Center possible.